In October, I’ll be attending ISSS/ISAC’s annual conference, held this year in Montreal, Canada. I have a lot of work to do to get my paper and presentation ready, but in the meantime, here’s my abstract. Let me know what you think:
Weak States, Civil Militia, and State Deconstructive Violence
This paper is a response to the argument that employment of regional militia forces are an effective means to extend governmental authority in weak and embattled states. A weak regime may turn to paramilitary groups to shore up domestic influence, conduct counterinsurgency operations, or even to repel occupying foreign militaries thus neglecting or shutting out state security forces. Indeed this military doctrine has grown increasingly popular even in zones of Western military occupation as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While often successful in suppressing domestic disorder where the regular military has failed, this approach is also exceptionally problematic as their employment often has lasting effects beyond the conflict for which the militia was mobilized. At one extreme, state dependency on clients intensify to such a degree that it actually becomes hostage to their particular interests. On the other, the state remains able to cut support to former clients but only insofar as others are available to take their place.
In either case, rather than contributing to state coercive capacity, the employment of paramilitary actors often drains formal state security bodies, administrative bureaucracies, and governing institutions of legitimacy, autonomy, and necessary resources thus perpetuating state weakness and augmenting the likelihood of collapse.