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Contracting war in West Africa: cohesion and the business of war in Charles Taylor's Liberia
Swedish Defence University, Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership (ISSL), Division of Strategy. Uppsala universitet, Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Resource type
Text
Abstract [en]

In the existing literature, compensation is often understood to be an inferior source of cohesion in military organizations. At the same time, African conflicts have especially been described as being driven by material factors. Through an investigation of the militia forces that fought for Charles Taylor’s Government of Liberia, this paper seeks to nuance these views. More specifically, it makes three claims. Firstly, the organization of these forces was looser than is often claimed in previous literature, which assumes tight and often coercive military patrimonialism. Resultantly, the militias did not enjoy the interpersonal bonds of solidarity that has dominated cohesion literature since the Second World War. Secondly, since Taylor chose to suppress attempts to build cohesion around ethnicity, it played a subordinate role in unifying the militias. Thirdly, Taylor instead relied on compensation, which allowed for the broad mobilization of forces. The combination of militias’ hopes of inclusion into the state patrimony and insufficient resources to realize this, left the cohesion of the militias fragile. Ultimately, this paper questions both whether Taylor had any choice but to resort to compensation in a context with weak state and fragmented social organization, but also whether the strategy is as inefficient as often thought.

Keyword [en]
Civil war, cohesion, compensation, Liberia, militia, strategy
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Krigsvetenskap
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-6137OAI: oai:DiVA.org:fhs-6137DiVA: diva2:930895
Available from: 2016-04-11 Created: 2016-05-25 Last updated: 2017-01-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Bush generals and small boy battalions: military cohesion in Liberia and beyond
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bush generals and small boy battalions: military cohesion in Liberia and beyond
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

All organizations involved in war are concerned with military cohesion. Yet previous studies have only investigated cohesion in a very narrow manner, focusing almost solely on Western state militaries or on micro-level explanations. This dissertation argues for the need to broaden this perspective. It focuses on three classic sources of cohesion – coercion, compensation and constructs (such as identity and ideology) – and investigates their relevance in the Second Liberian Civil War (1999-2003). More specifically, this dissertation consists of an inquiry of how the conflict's three main military organizations – Charles Taylor’s Government of Liberia (GoL), the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) – drew on these three sources to foster cohesion. Based on thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork with former combatants, this dissertation contains five parts: an introduction, which focuses on issues of theory and method, and four essays that investigate the three sources of cohesion in the three organizations. Essay I focuses on the LURD rebels, and provides an insider account of their strategy. It shows that even decentralized movements like the LURD can execute strategy, and contends that the LURD fought its fiercest battles not against the government, but to keep itself together. Essay II focuses on coercion, and counters the prevailing view of African rebels’ extensive use of coercion to keep themselves together. Since extreme coercion in particular remained illegitimate, its use would have decreased, rather than increased, cohesion. Essay III investigates the government militias to whom warfighting was subcontracted. In a context characterized by a weak state and fragmented social organization, compensation may have remained the only available source of cohesion. Essay IV investigates identities as sources of cohesion. It argues that while identities are a powerful cohesive source, they must be both created and maintained to remain relevant. Taken together, this dissertation argues for a more comprehensive approach to the investigation of cohesion, and one that also takes into account mezzo- and macro-level factors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Uppsala universitet, 2016. 83 p.
Series
Report / Department of Peace and Conflict Research, ISSN 0566-8808 ; 109
Keyword
Coercion, cohesion, compensation, ethnography, identity, ideology, Liberia, micro-dynamics of civil war, military sociology, strategy
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Krigsvetenskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-6135 (URN)978-91-506-2545-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-06-03, Borgen, Orphei Drängars plats 1, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-05-25 Created: 2016-05-25 Last updated: 2017-01-13Bibliographically approved

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