From Insurgent to Incumbent: State Building and Service Provision After Rebel Victory in Civil Wars
Thaler, Kai Massey
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AbstractHow do rebel organizations govern when they gain control of an internationally recognized state? I advance an organization-level theory, arguing that ideology affects recruitment, socialization of fighters and followers, and group relations with civilians, creating path dependencies that carry over to shape post-victory state building and governance. I code rebel groups on a spectrum between two ideal types: programmatic and opportunistic. More programmatic organizations’ aims extend beyond power to socioeconomic and political transformation, spurring attempts to expand state reach over and through territory and society. More opportunistic organizations are motivated primarily by power and its potential to provide private wealth, uninterested in public goods. I conduct a theory-testing comparison of three victorious rebel organizations, selected for diversity along the programmatic-opportunistic spectrum despite similar national structural conditions before taking power: the FSLN of Nicaragua (more programmatic), the NRA/M of Uganda (middle ground), and the NPFL of Liberia (more opportunistic). Using data from interviews with 127 subjects and extensive archival research from over 16 months of fieldwork, I find strong evidence supporting the theory, validated by further evidence from cases in Angola and Afghanistan. The theory and findings suggest that understanding the state building strategies and policies of victorious rebel organizations requires examining groups’ foundational ideals and practices and how they are institutionalized while opposing the state.
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