Saturday, November 28, 2009

Book Reviews: Inside Rebellion


Weinstein, Jeremy. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. New York; Cambridge University Press, 2007.

In my grade school days, I resisted the demand that I show my work. Surely the right answer was proof I had performed the math problem correctly? All showing my work meant was that I was good at wasting paper (funny how green I am when it means less work for me).

Anyway, this book is a two-page article with 348 pages (not counting appendices) of "showing his work." In a single sentence: the resource curse affects insurgencies too.

An insurgency which has resources readily available--either the usual extractive industry wealth, or outside financial support--will not bother with the difficult, and time-consuming, process of creating an economic tax base. They buy and hire what they need.

This approach leads to violence, in his analysis, due to the two time-frames of insurgents. The long-term, "true believers", who will be dedicated and disciplined, and the short-term soldiers of fortune who are trying to get what they can while the getting's good. The short-term soldiers only sign on if there are resources available, and they are also prone to exploit the civilian population to get even more.

Interestingly, a country suffering from the resource curse is more likely to be corrupt and abusive--and much more prone to insurgency than one without. So the resource curse strikes both ways. Resources make the state abusive, which leads to insurgencies (both as a reaction and because the resource reduces barriers to entry), which are in turn abusive. Even if they are not abusive originally, any insurgent group or faction which adopts short-term goals will dominate the available resources, and drive out the others.

There was also an interesting perspective on page 127: "The fact that poorly paid men, recruited by a government and sent to some distant land to fight against an unknown foe, manage to hold their positions, stay in their units, and march on toward battle is a testament to the power of organization."

This book did not change my theory of the proper political approach to insurgency: win a victory, address a grievance, win a victory, address a grievance. Insurgency is political and military. If you advance on only one front, you can still lose the war.

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