The Grass Is Always Greener? Armed Group Side Switching in Civil Wars

Published on 2018-10-31T07:03:04Z (GMT) by
<div><p>Why do armed groups switch sides during civil wars? Most theories of conflict assume that armed groups have a fixed alignment with the government throughout their entire life span, ignoring the fact that armed groups switch between fighting on behalf of and against the government. In this article, I propose a theoretical framework that integrates armed groups’ willingness to switch sides and their capacity to do so. Armed groups are motivated to switch sides if it contributes to maintaining or improving organizational objectives. I therefore expect armed groups to switch sides as the number of other armed groups with the same alignment increases and when the state is weak. I also argue that armed groups require the capacity to switch sides in order to overcome the internal coordination problem. I propose that non-state armed actors that are the product of prior splintering are more homogeneous and cohesive than other groups. Hence, they are in a better position to attempt to switch sides. I test the propositions using a novel data set, the History of Armed Actors Dataset, containing data on when and where armed groups have switched sides during civil wars between 1989 and 2007. The results reveal that both incentives and capacity influence side switching.</p></div>

Cite this collection

Otto, Sabine (2018): The Grass Is Always Greener? Armed Group Side Switching in Civil Wars. SAGE Journals. Collection.