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University of Virginia

Bucerius Dissertation Completion Scholarship

Selecting Success: Recruitment and Insurgent Effectiveness in Civil Wars


Why do some insurgent groups perform better than others in civil wars? Studies of combatant effectiveness, with their focus on ultimate conflict outcomes, provide little theoretical insight concerning the diverse performances of non-state armed actors during internal wars. Samuel argues that the answer lies in insurgent recruitment practices: groups that select, induct, train, and socialize recruits in a consistent and comprehensive manner are better able to perform effectively. He integrates fieldwork and secondary sources to explain patterns of insurgent effectiveness during the conflicts in Jordan (1968-1971), Oman (1964-1975), and Eritrea (1974-1991). The findings advance a deeper understanding of the conduct of civil wars, while also providing practical leverage for conflict management and peacebuilding efforts in ongoing conflicts.

Samuel Plapinger is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on civil wars, military effectiveness, and non-state actors, and has been supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, Project on Middle East Political Science, and the Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation and the Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures at UVa. Samuel has conducted field research in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, and has studied Arabic at the University of Jordan and Yarmouk University in Jordan. He received his B.A. in Government and Economics in 2012 from Wesleyan University.

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