Sharon Erickson Nepstad, University of New Mexico
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 / 12:00pm – 1:00pm EST
Recent studies have emphasized that security force defections can greatly improve the odds that civil resistance movements will achieve their goals. Yet we still know relatively little about the factors that influence defections and the long-term consequences for nonviolent struggles. In this webinar, I briefly describe a variety of security force responses, from shirking to desertions to mutiny. Then I summarize ten factors that shape whether security forces remain loyal, side with civil resisters, or divide internally. To illustrate these factors, I explore several cases from the Arab Spring.
I examine Egypt, where the military sided with civil resisters. I also analyze Bahrain, where the military remained loyal to the state. Finally, I examine Syria, where the military split, leading to civil war. I show how the political rulers often use patronage and ethnic or sectarian favoritism to keep troops loyal but how these same factors can actually contribute to security forces’ decision to withhold cooperation from the state. I conclude the webinar by examining some of the problems that may arise when defectors join the opposition and some ways that civil resisters can address these issues to maintain their autonomy and control of the movement.
Sharon Erickson Nepstad is Chair and Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico. Nepstad received her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado-Boulder and did post-doctoral studies at Princeton University. She was also a Visiting Fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame University. She is the author of numerous articles and three books, including: Nonviolent Revolutions: Civil Resistance in the Late 20th Century (2011, Oxford University Press); Religion and War Resistance in the Plowshares Movement (2008, Cambridge University Press); and Convictions of the Soul: Religion, Culture, and Agency in the Central American Solidarity Movement (2004, Oxford University Press.) She is currently completing a book manuscript that surveys the growing field of nonviolent civil resistance. This book, entitled Nonviolent Civil Resistance: Theories, Strategies, and Dynamics, is under contract with Oxford.