Networks of Rebellion

Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse

Paul Staniland
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    Networks of Rebellion
    Book Description:

    The organizational cohesion of insurgent groups is central to explaining patterns of violence, the effectiveness of counterinsurgency, and civil war outcomes. Cohesive insurgent groups produce more effective war-fighting forces and are more credible negotiators; organizational cohesion shapes both the duration of wars and their ultimate resolution. In Networks of Rebellion, Paul Staniland explains why insurgent leaders differ so radically in their ability to build strong organizations and why the cohesion of armed groups changes over time during conflicts. He outlines a new way of thinking about the sources and structure of insurgent groups, distinguishing among integrated, vanguard, parochial, and fragmented groups.

    Staniland compares insurgent groups, their differing social bases, and how the nature of the coalitions and networks within which these armed groups were built has determined their discipline and internal control. He examines insurgent groups in Afghanistan, 1975 to the present day, Kashmir (1988-2003), Sri Lanka from the 1970s to the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009, and several communist uprisings in Southeast Asia during the Cold War. The initial organization of an insurgent group depends on the position of its leaders in prewar political networks. These social bases shape what leaders can and cannot do when they build a new insurgent group. Counterinsurgency, insurgent strategy, and international intervention can cause organizational change. During war, insurgent groups are embedded in social ties that determine they how they organize, fight, and negotiate; as these ties shift, organizational structure changes as well.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7103-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1 Organizing Insurgency
    (pp. 1-14)

    Several times in the spring of 2008 I made my way through a set of checkpoints into a Sri Lankan military base in the heart of Colombo. After a motorcycle ride with a security guard, I entered a block of rundown apartments ensconced in barriers, barbed wire, and heavily armed security personnel. Each time I had come to interview a member of one of the Tamil political parties that had opposed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and that now sheltered behind the simultaneously protective and repressive arms of the Sri Lankan state. Ironically, several of these political parties...

  6. Part I. Theorizing Rebellion

    • 2 Insurgent Origins
      (pp. 17-34)

      Where do insurgent groups come from? This chapter argues that preexisting networks provide the underpinnings for new insurgent groups. Prewar political parties, students’ and veterans’ groups, and religious organizations, among others, are repurposed for rebellion. Nonviolent prewar bases can create integrated and effective insurgent groups. The trust, information, and shared political beliefs embedded in these networks help organizers construct new institutions and convert old organizations to new purposes in the chaos of an escalating war. But these social bases also place constraints on insurgent leaders. Integrated, vanguard, parochial, and fragmented groups emerge from different combinations of horizontal ties between organizers...

    • 3 Insurgent Change
      (pp. 35-56)

      Change is integral to conflict. Vanguard organizations try to reach into localities, parochial organizations attempt to reform their central institutions, and integrated organizations seek to expand without fragmenting. New strategic challenges arise when insurgents need to incorporate allies, to manage influxes of illicit resources, or to deal with local power struggles in areas they control. In turn, counterinsurgent states try to break and fracture insurgents. They deploy soldiers and police to blanket geographic spaces, attempt to recruit agents within the insurgency, monitor and control the civilian population, and target insurgent leaders. This battle over organization is the core focus of...

  7. Part II. Comparative Evidence from South Asia

    • 4 Azad and Jihad: Trajectories of Insurgency in Kashmir
      (pp. 59-99)

      The trajectories of indigenous armed groups in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir demonstrate how preexisting social bases influence insurgent organization building. The prewar politics of Jammu and Kashmir fragmented opposition politics as state strategies of co-optation and repression and strategic decisions by political leaders prevented the formation of a unified political front. Instead, over the course of several decades a variety of opposition parties, networks, and organizations developed with different goals and structures. When mass protest and simmering unrest exploded into insurgency in 1987–1988, these social bases determined the initial organization of armed groups, as nascent insurgent leaders were forced...

    • 5 Organizing Rebellion in Afghanistan
      (pp. 100-140)

      Afghanistan has been the site of brutal conflict since 1979. This violence has included a number of distinct but intertwined wars: the resistance to the Soviet invasion, the attempt of the Najibullah regime to cling to power in Kabul, the factional wars of the mid-1990s, the rise of the Taliban, and most recently the overthrow and return of the Taliban in the aftermath of 9/11. Afghanistan’s wars constitute an extraordinarily intricate history, one that eludes easy categories and simple explanations. Despite this complexity, this chapter shows that my argument can offer new insights into the origins and evolution of the...

    • 6 Explaining Tamil Militancy in Sri Lanka
      (pp. 141-178)

      Sri Lanka’s Tamil insurgency appears to have ended in the bloody overrunning of the final battle lines of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009.¹ The annihilation of the LTTE, one of the world’s most innovative, disciplined, and ruthless insurgent groups, brought to a close over three decades of terror, guerrilla warfare, and counterinsurgency. Though the LTTE was the most distinctive of the Tamil groups fighting the Sri Lankan state, it was not the only one: at least four other significant organizations were involved in the conflict. This chapter traces the rise and evolution of the Tamil...

  8. Part III. Extensions and Implications

    • 7 “Peasants and Commissars”: Communist Tides in Southeast Asia
      (pp. 181-216)

      This chapter explores whether my argument can explain insurgent cohesion outside of South Asia. I examine three major Southeast Asian communist groups before, during, and after World War II: the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) in Malaya, Viet Minh/Indochinese Communist Party in French Indochina, and the Huks in the Philippines. The Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) was linked to three rebellions between 1930 and 1954, the MCP fought against first the Japanese and then the British, and the Huks battled the Japanese, then the Philippine state. I mix comparisons across groups and over time to examine whether my theory can account for...

    • 8 Insurgency, War, and Politics
      (pp. 217-232)

      Insurgent groups are born from prewar politics. The social bases in which insurgent organizers are embedded shape initial organization. This explains why two communist insurgent groups might create radically different organizational structures even though they subscribe to the same doctrines and why groups with similar reliance on drug money may follow diverging trajectories. Key obstacles to collective action and organization building can be overcome only with the social resources of trust, information, and shared political meaning. Insurgents create strong institutions when they have social connections and fail to do so when these ties are weak or absent. The social bases...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 233-284)
  10. Index
    (pp. 285-300)