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  • Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence
  • John W. Harbeson
Jeremy Weinstein . Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. xix + 402 pp. Maps. Tables. Notes. Index. $70.00. Cloth. $26.99. Paper.

Inside Rebellion attempts to account for why strategies that insurgent movements employ in their efforts to seize control of the state include markedly [End Page 193] different levels and patterns of violence. Jeremy Weinstein has inquired deeply into the strategies of four insurgencies (in Uganda, Mozambique, and Peru); he proposes that micro-level comparative investigations of insurgent behavior will supply insights that conventional, more macro-level theories do not adequately address.

His central finding is deceptively simple and straightforward. He contends that "rebel groups that emerge in environments rich in natural resources or with the external support of an outside patron tend to commit high levels of indiscriminate violence; movements that arise in resource-poor contexts perpetuate far fewer abuses and employ violence selectively and strategically" (7). In resource-rich environments, Weinstein argues, the lure of short-term opportunities to "consume" tends to crowd out and erode the commitment to investing in long-term goals that will benefit the whole community. By contrast, in resource-poor environments, Weinstein contends, rebel leaders can, do, and must actively embrace the interests of movement soldiers and citizens alike—and really share power with them as well. These practices require institutionalization, including checks on leaders' powers, if the reciprocal trust necessary to sustained disciplined pursuit of long-term movement goals is to be realized. Weinstein draws a specific parallel between movement inclusiveness and power sharing, on the one hand, and the central elements of Robert Dahl's theory of polyarchy, on the other.

Weinstein finds support for this hypothesis in his detailed comparison of four rebel insurgencies: the National Resistance Movement in Uganda led by Yoweri Museveni and the main Shining Path movement in Peru emerging in resource-poor environments, and Renamo in Mozambique and a relatively isolated Huallaga Valley wing of Shining Path which succumbed to the temptations of their relatively resource-rich environments (or ample external support).

Weinstein's thesis is deceptively straightforward because, as he himself systematically and conscientiously realizes, there are numerous potential bases for qualifying its empirical reach and validity. These include the limitations of data on violence, the forms and extent of state weakness for those states targeted by insurgencies, leadership quality, important changes in resource environments, the vagaries of combat, the effects of sudden successes or setbacks affecting the movements, and many others. One wonders, too, what the ultimate outcomes of these movements say about the internal dynamics of their evolution—the near extinction of Shining Path, the less than fully democratic and prominently corrupt Museveni administration, and Renamo's transformation into an opposition party in a relatively viable Mozambican democracy with the benefit of substantial external assistance. The book rehearses the strengths and limitations of international mechanisms for reining in the violence and excesses of insurgent movements even as they have increasingly been brought to bear upon governments in power. [End Page 194] Yet this issue is only one part of a larger problem. Whatever the limitations as well as achievements of Museveni's administration, one can scarcely deny that his NRM has lifted the Uganda polity out of the abyss of the Amin era and the instability of the first post-Amin years even as it has presided over the country's noteworthy economic revival. Thus a larger question arises: how, if at all, can insurgencies that may turn out ultimately to benefit their countries be recognized as such during their emergence, and their constructive initiatives be encouraged as well as their excesses restrained.

However it may ultimately be qualified by future research, the book's thesis makes an important contribution and addresses a significant gap in the relevant literatures. Even more important, however, may be the insights offered by Weinstein and subsequent researchers exploring how, and along what lines, African states in the global South may be rebuilt and reformed.

John W. Harbeson
City University of New York
New York, New York


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pp. 193-195
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