Gambling with Violence: Why States Outsource the Use of Force to Domestic Nonstate Actors


This dissertation examines why and how states create irregular military units. Security is conventionally viewed as the state’s quintessential and exclusive domain. Centralization, bureaucratization, and nationalization of coercion are deemed necessary for modernization and modern state making. Yet, modern states often incorporate a variety of nonstate partners into their repertoire of coercion. This dissertation examines why states “outsource” violence by creating irregular military units manned by domestic nonstate actors – individuals with no prior professional ties to the state. Furthermore, the dissertation addresses the variation in the type of domestic nonstate actor states use in violent conflict. It shows that the creation and use of irregular military units is a product of target density, the spatial distribution of the military target across population and territory, and the state’s military capacity. These findings contrast with the conventional wisdom that weakness leads states to outsource violence. Building a new theory of state outsourcing of violence, this dissertation employs the method of controlled comparison to systematically analyze “most similar” military operations Pakistan and India undertook between the years 1965 and 2003. The implications of the theory are then explored with out-of-sample cases drawn from Russia and Turkey. The original data used in this dissertation come from two years of extensive cross-national archival and field research. Over 150 interviews were conducted with acting and former state and military officials, including ambassadors and foreign secretaries, generals, soldiers and army officers, intelligence officials, bureaucrats, local journalists, regional experts, human rights activists, witnesses and victims of violence, and former militants. Archival and field research were conducted in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, and New Delhi, India; Dhaka, Bangladesh; London, UK; Washington, D.C; Moscow, Russia; and Diyarbakir, Ankara, and Istanbul, Turkey. The findings of this dissertation carry significant implications for patterns of violence, political accountability, human rights, and international security. They show that no state is immune to outsourcing violence, or is destined to outsource in every military operation. The nature of the military target and the capacity of the military apparatus to put together and employ irregular forces significantly shape the outsourcing process.
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2014)


Biberman, Yelena, "Gambling with Violence: Why States Outsource the Use of Force to Domestic Nonstate Actors" (2014). Political Science Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.