New research published by Assistant Professor Michael Woldemariam, of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence, brings out a new and more refined understanding of how battlefield losses, stalemates and victories change the patters of fragmentation and consolidation within rebel groups in factional rebel organizations.
Using the case of the Eritrean Independence War, Prof. Woldemariam’s paper – titled, ‘Battlefield Outcomes and Rebel Cohesion: Lessons from the Eritrean Independence War’ – sheds new and important light on a topic that is not only of historical significance to the Eritrean situation but has current bearing on situations across South and Central Asia and across the Middle East and many parts of contemporary Africa.
The abstract for the paper explains the argument:
This article uses data from the Eritrean War for independence to refine existing theories of rebel fragmentation. The author argues organizational performance affects the emergence of factional infighting within rebel organizations in unique and novel ways. While battlefield losses increase the likelihood of internal fragmentation, so do battlefield gains.
The implication is battlefield stalemates possess unique properties that promote organizational cohesion in war, a relationship this study refers to as “cohesive stalemates.” The article extends an emerging literature on the internal politics of insurgent groups that has linked the coherence of rebel organizations to rebel losses.