Bush Generals and Small Boy Battalions : Military Cohesion in Liberia and Beyond

Sammanfattning: 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.