Pro-government militias are a prominent feature of civil wars. Governments in Colombia, Syria, and Sudan recruit irregular forces in their armed struggle against insurgents. The United States collaborated with Awakening groups to counter the insurgency in Iraq, just as colonizers used local armed groups to fight rebellions in their colonies. An emerging cross-disciplinary literature on pro-government non-state armed groups generates a variety of research questions for scholars interested in conflict, political violence, and political stability: Does the presence of such groups indicate a new type of conflict? What are the dynamics that drive governments to align with informal armed groups and that make armed groups choose to side with the government? Given the risks entailed in surrendering a monopoly of violence, is there a turning point in a conflict when governments enlist these groups? How successful are these groups? Why do governments use these non-state armed actors to shape foreign conflicts whether as insurgents or counterinsurgents abroad? Are these non-state armed actors always useful to governments or perhaps even an indicator for state failure? We examine the demand for and supply of pro-government armed groups and the legacies that shape their role in civil wars. The enduring pattern of collaboration between governments and these armed non-state actors challenges conventional theory and the idea of an evolutionary process of the modern state consolidating the means of violence. Research on these groups and their consequences began with case studies, and these continue to yield valuable insights. More recently, survey work and cross-national quantitative research contribute to our knowledge. This mix of methods is opening new lines of inquiry for research on insurgencies and the delivery of the core public good of effective security.
Sabine C. Carey and Neil J. Mitchell
Frank A. Stengel and Rainer Baumann
The rise of non-state (international, private, and transnational) actors in global politics has far-reaching consequences for foreign policy theory and practice. In order to be able to explain foreign policy in the 21st century, foreign policy research needs to take into account the growing importance of nonstate actorss. A good way to do this would be to engage the literature on globalization and global governance. Both fields would benefit from such an exchange of ideas because their respective strengths could cancel out each other’s weaknesses. Foreign policy research, on the one hand, has a strong track record explaining foreign policy outcomes, using a broad range of theoretical concepts, but almost completely ignores non-state actors. This is highly problematic for at least two reasons: first, foreign policy is increasingly made in international organizations and intergovernmental and transnational governance networks instead of national institutions like foreign ministries. Second, the latter increasingly open up to, and involve, non-state actors in their policymaking procedures. Thus, if foreign policy research wants to avoid becoming marginalized in the future, it needs to take into account this change. However, systemic approaches like neorealism or constructivism have difficulties adapting to the new reality of foreign policy. They stress the importance of states at the expense of non-state actors, which are only of marginal interest to them, as is global governance. Moreover, they also conceptualize states as unitary actors, which forecloses the possibility of examining the involvement of non-state actors in states’ decision-making processes. Agency-based approaches such as foreign policy analysis (FPA) fare much better, at least in principle. FPA scholars stress the importance of disaggregating the state and looking at the individuals and group dynamics that influence their decision-making. However, while this commitment to opening up the state allows for a great deal more flexibility vis-à-vis different types of actors, FPA research has so far remained state-centric and only very recently turned to non-state actors. On the other hand, non-state actors’ involvement in policymaking is the strong suit of the literature on globalization and global governance, which has spent a lot of time and effort analyzing various forms of “hybrid” governance. At the same time, however, this literature has been rather descriptive, so far mainly systematizing different governance arrangements and the conditions under which non-state actors are included in governance arrangements. This literature could profit from foreign policy research’s rich theoretical knowledge in explaining policy outcomes in hybrid governance networks and international organizations (IOs). Foreign policy researchers should take non-state actors seriously. In this regard, three avenues in particular are relevant for future research: (1) comparative empirical research to establish the extent of non-state actors’ participation in foreign policymaking across different countries and governance arrangements; (2) explanatory studies that analyze the conditions under which non-state actors are involved in states’ foreign policymaking processes; and (3) the normative implications of increased hybrid foreign policymaking for democratic legitimacy.
The term “governance” refers to interactive forms of political steering, characterized by the coordination of a wide spectrum of actors in pursuit of common goals (e.g., Rhodes, 1996; Pierre & Peters, 2000, 2005; Kooiman, 2003; Torfing, Peters, Pierre, & Sörensen, 2013; Ansell & Torfing 2016). Governance processes involve multiple actors and institutions into cooperative relationships and network structures. The corresponding steering mechanisms may range from hierarchical rule to mere persuasion. The governance perspective appeared particularly suited to analyze political steering in the European Union (EU). The Union is not sovereign; it therefore developed steering mechanisms that do not (or only partly) rely on formal competences and hierarchical rule. The evolving system of European governance constituted the EU as a multilevel polity, held together by interlocking relationships of policy coordination and cooperation (Marks et al., 1996; Hooghe & Marks, 2001; Piattoni, 2010). Scholarly reflection on EU governance evolved comparatively late during the 1990s (Hix, 1998); it proliferated after the turn of the century, when the European Union introduced the so-called Open Method of Coordination (OMC) (Kohler-Koch & Rittberger, 2006). Later, the perspective widened to the whole spectrum of governance modes and its innovative forms (e.g., Sabel & Zeitlin, 2008, 2010a; Tömmel & Verdun, 2009a, Héritier & Rhodes, 2011). Yet salient issues remained under-researched, particularly the power dimension of EU governance (Torfing et al., 2013, pp. 48–70).