The iatrogenic reflex and belief that repression can coercively suppress asymmetric coercive violence : does very robust action by the government decrease functional support for insurgents?

Knight, Charles Anthony Howard (2012) The iatrogenic reflex and belief that repression can coercively suppress asymmetric coercive violence : does very robust action by the government decrease functional support for insurgents? PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Non-state insurgent actors are too weak to compel powerful adversaries to their will, so they use violence to coerce. A principal objective is to grow and sustain violent resistance to the point that it either militarily challenges the state, or more commonly, generates unacceptable political costs. To survive, insurgents must shift popular support away from the state and to grow they must secure it. State actor policies and actions perceived as illegitimate and oppressive by the insurgent constituency can generate these shifts. A promising insurgent strategy is to attack states in ways that lead angry publics and leaders to discount the historically established risks and take flawed but popular decisions to use repressive measures. Such decisions may be enabled by a visceral belief in the power of coercion and selective use of examples of where robust measures have indeed suppressed resistance. To avoid such counterproductive behaviours the cases of apparent 'successful repression' must be understood.

This thesis tests whether robust state action is correlated with reduced support for insurgents, analyses the causal mechanisms of such shifts and examines whether such reduction is because of compulsion or coercion? The approach is founded on prior research by the RAND Corporation which analysed the 30 insurgencies most recently resolved worldwide to determine factors of counterinsurgent success. This new study first re-analyses their data at a finer resolution with new queries that investigate the relationship between repression and insurgent active support. Having determined that, in general, repression does not correlate with decreased insurgent support, this study then analyses two cases in which the data suggests repression seems likely to be reducing insurgent support: the PKK in Turkey and the insurgency against the Vietnamese-sponsored regime after their ousting of the Khmer Rouge. It applies 'structured-focused' case analysis with questions partly built from the insurgency model of Leites and Wolf, who are associated with the advocacy of US robust means in Vietnam. This is thus a test of 'most difficult' cases using a 'least likely' test model. Nevertheless, the findings refute the deterrence argument of 'iron fist' advocates. Robust approaches may physically prevent effective support of insurgents but they do not coercively deter people from being willing to actively support the insurgency.

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ID Code: 53229
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Lauchs, Mark & Bell, Peter
Additional Information: Recipient of 2012 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award.
Keywords: Cambodia, coercion, counterinsurgency, insurgency, K5 Plan, Kampuchea, Khmer Rouge, Kurdish, political piolence, popular support, PKK, reactance, rebellion, repression, terrorism, Turkey, Vietnam, ODTA
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Justice
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 20 Aug 2012 06:21
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:00

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