Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Insurgent Fratricide, Ethnic Defection, and the Rise of Pro-State.. Journal of Conflict Resolution
Paul Staniland  |  February 15, 2012

Ethnic insurgents sometimes defect to join forces with the state during civil wars. Ethnic defection can have important effects on conflict outcomes, but its causes have been understudied. Using Sunni defection in Iraq as a theory-developing case, this article offers a theory of ‘‘fratricidal flipping’’ that identifies lethal competition between insurgent factions as an important cause of defection. It examines the power of the fratricidal-flipping mechanism against competing theories in the cases of Kashmir and Sri Lanka. These wars involve within-conflict variation in defection across groups and over time. A detailed study of the empirical record, including significant fieldwork, suggests that fratricide was the dominant trigger for defection, while government policy played a secondary role in facilitating pro-state paramilitarism. Deep ideological disagreements were surprisingly unimportant in driving defection. The argument is probed in other wars in Asia. The complex internal politics of insurgent movements deserve careful attention.