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Bush Generals and Small Boy Battalions: Military Cohesion in Liberia and Beyond
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Peace and Conflict Research.
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Description
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: Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University , 2016. , p. 83
Series
Report / Department of Peace and Conflict Research, ISSN 0566-8808 ; 109
Keyword [en]
Coercion, cohesion, compensation, ethnography, identity, ideology, Liberia, micro-dynamics of civil war, military sociology, strategy
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research; Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-283199ISBN: 978-91-506-2545-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-283199DiVA, id: diva2:918765
Public defence
2016-06-03, Borgen, Orphei Drängars plats 1, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-05-13 Created: 2016-04-11 Last updated: 2018-01-10
List of papers
1. ‘Taylor must go’ – the strategy of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>‘Taylor must go’ – the strategy of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy
2015 (English)In: Small Wars & Insurgencies, ISSN 0959-2318, E-ISSN 1743-9558, Vol. 26, no 2, p. 248-270Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In 1999, rebels rose to oppose the newly elected former warlord CharlesTaylor in Liberia. Motivated by a variety of reasons, the minimal commondenominator of these rebels, who assumed the name Liberians United forReconciliation and Democracy (LURD), was that Charles Taylor must leavethe country. The decentralized nature of LURD though stands out in theirstruggle, as they don’t fit the unitary actor assumed by literature on strategy,nor the alternative conception of decentralized forces fighting for purely localreasons. Understanding such aberrations as LURD is the first step to findingstrategies that can incorporate and manage them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2015
Keyword
cohesion, insurgency, Liberia, LURD, strategy
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-246445 (URN)10.1080/09592318.2015.1007561 (DOI)000354477900003 ()
Available from: 2015-03-07 Created: 2015-03-07 Last updated: 2018-01-11Bibliographically approved
2. “No die, no rest”?: Coercive Discipline in Liberian Military Organisations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>“No die, no rest”?: Coercive Discipline in Liberian Military Organisations
2015 (English)In: Africa Spectrum, ISSN 0002-0397, E-ISSN 1868-6869, Vol. 50, no 2, p. 3-29Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Discipline forms the backbone of all military organisations. While discipline is traditionally associated with draconian punishment, this association is increasingly only applied to non-Western contexts. African rebel movements and similar, weak organisations are represented especially often as lacking non-coercive means of instilling discipline. This article explores the utility of coercive discipline in one such context – the Second Liberian Civil War (1999–2003). I argue that Liberia’s weak military organisations faced significant restrictions when it came to employing direct coercion. Executions, which are often equated with coercion in existing literature, threatened to rive the already frail organisations. Even other formal instruments of discipline, such as military hierarchies and rules and regulations, remained contested throughout the war. Consequently, more indirect means were adopted. Ultimately, the main users of coercion were not military organisations, but peers. This suggests that it is easier for strong organisations to coerce their members, and that the relationship between coercion and organisational strength may need to be reassessed. Furthermore, existing positive perceptions of camaraderie between brothers-in-arms requires re-evaluation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Hamburg: G I G A Institute of African Affairs, 2015
Keyword
Liberia, civil wars, armed forces/military units, social cohesion, discipline
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-260901 (URN)000362236800001 ()
Available from: 2015-08-25 Created: 2015-08-25 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
3. Contracting War in West Africa: Cohesion and the business of war in Charles Taylor's Liberia
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Contracting War in West Africa: Cohesion and the business of war in Charles Taylor's Liberia
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
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
Civil war, cohesion, compensation, Liberia, militia, strategy
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research; Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-283196 (URN)
Available from: 2016-04-11 Created: 2016-04-11 Last updated: 2018-01-10
4. Mystical and Modern Transformations in the Liberian Civil War
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Mystical and Modern Transformations in the Liberian Civil War
2016 (English)In: Transforming Warriors: The Ritual Organization of Military Force / [ed] Peter Haldén and Peter Jackson, London/New York: Routledge, 2016Chapter in book (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London/New York: Routledge, 2016
Keyword
Cohesion, identity, Liberia, military professionalism, peacebuilding, rebels, soldiers
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research; Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-283197 (URN)
Note

This essay investigates military transformation within the context of the Liberian civil wars (1989-1996 and 1999-2003). Military transformation is understood as a process of turning a civilian into a fighter, and in Liberia two ideal types of fighters materialized: the trained soldier and the mystical combatant. Whereas the first drew from their professional military training and international military culture, the second drew on mystical protection. These two ways of transformation also became sources of authority within the military organizations that fought the wars. It was ultimately training that offered more than protection alone: the former military personnel dominated command positions. Training also succeeded in the creation of forming a shared identity, which continues to date. Whereas most combatants demobilized and not fought again since, the identities of soldiers are still very much alive. This has partly to do with the fact that the Liberian government continues to pay pensions to those that have served in the armed forces, which has led to the institutionalization of these identities. The view of military personnel as security professionals also helps to maintain these identities as relevant. While constructing and maintaining this kind of professional cohesion is important during conflicts, it can have long-term consequences for peace-building.

Available from: 2016-04-11 Created: 2016-04-11 Last updated: 2018-01-10

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