(H-Diplo) How can we understand the important phenomenon of modern-day warlords, often associated with state failure and transborder criminality even as state leaders frequently rely upon them as a source of order or peace in the most difficult of conditions? Kimberly Marten’s Warlords: Strong-Arm Brokers in Weak States blazes a new trail in answering this question, adopting an explicitly inductive approach to theory-building through the study of four important cases of warlordism: Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Georgia’s strongmen in Ajara and the Kodori Gorge, the Sons of Iraq, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s creation in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.
This engagingly written book makes a number of major arguments, perhaps the most central of which being that warlords are inherently anti-state. While they are capable of providing some public goods, they are necessarily predatory and hardly ever turn into state-builders like Charles Tilly’s wielders of local violence in centuries past. This is fundamentally because world territory is already now completely carved up into states that are claimed and recognized by the international community. In this context, warlords are largely dependent on some kind of state actor for resources and opportunities even as they balk at full loyalty to any state, always seeking to keep their options open and working with various foreign and local forces to maintain their own power and sustain the disorder that makes them valuable. This dependence, however, ultimately makes warlords more vulnerable even to weak states than is commonly thought, leading Marten to suggest that policymakers are often making the wrong decision when they decide they need to accommodate warlords rather than challenge them and undertake serious state-building. […]
Introduction by: Henry E. Hale
Reviewed by: David M. Edelstein, Matthew Evangelista, and William Reno