Dissertation Research

What impacts state projection of coercive force? What factors influence the organization and use of the state security apparatus? My dissertation,  “Militias versus Militaries: State allocation of force in civil conflict,” uses original global panel data on internal security forces to explore the intimate relationship between war-making and state-making. Providing a refined typology and new data on security forces from 1970 t0 2010, I analyze why governments develop vastly different types of armed forces in civil conflict and the unintended consequences of those actions.

In the dissertation,  I explore the full spectrum of internal security forces a state can deploy in civil conflict. I argue that the creation and  allocation of personnel between these forces depends in part on the government’s ability to acquire information from the local environment. Presenting the tradeoffs between security organizations, I show that variation in information requirements–collecting information on rebels relative to monitoring one’s own security forces–helps explain why central governments may at times privilege unregulated forces. Forces like militias can be better positioned to gather information from the environment, leveraging local knowledge and social networks that state forces otherwise lack. Yet when needing to monitor troop activity, governments mobilize forces they have greater command authority over.

Ultimately, this work shows that the state attempts to project force in a complex security environment and that short-term strategic incentives can drive a government to develop a less stable security apparatus in the long term. Examining the co-evolution of the state and its coercive apparatus across time and over countries, it provides new substantive insights relevant to international relations, security studies, and comparative politics.