How Rebellious Non-State-Actors acquire weapons

by Eran Zohar

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: weapons; terror; Iran; US; Cuba; smuggling; ALqaeda; Hamas; Hezbollah; Drugs
Record ID: 1301507
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5489


Recent events in world politics, such as the civil wars in Syria and Iraq and conflicts between powerful rebel groups and weak governments in Africa, underline the need for a comprehensive theory to explain how Non States Actors (NSAs) acquire weapons and the factors that influence these efforts. Rebellious activity has been an integral part of political life since ancient times and has taken diverse forms. There were always those who revolted and took up arms against central rule. Weapons were not necessarily the most important factor but rebels needed weapons to fight and usually revolts erupted after the organizers acquired some weapons while many revolts lost their momentum, and operations were not carried out or effective due to shortages in arms and ammunition. Conflicts between governments and armed NSAs have always outnumbered inter-state wars and are not a new phenomenon as some scholars claim. In the last decade NSAs have accelerated the acquisition of large sophisticated weapons systems. They could be better armed than states’ armies because of their access to advanced technologies in the possession of supporting countries or international arms markets. Other NSAs, lacking external support, employ Mao’s principle of self-reliance. They live on their enemies’ arms stocks and improvised weaponry. Available literature on armed NSAs is incomplete because it addresses partial aspects of the problem. This thesis is an attempt to construct a substantive theory explaining NSAs’ arming, offering generic phases and principles that characterize past and present NSAs and probably the NSAs of the near future. The thesis also checks how globalization has affected the way rebellious NSAs acquire arms. In spite of dramatic political and technological changes, rebel groups in different periods have employed similar methods to acquire weapons. Self-production, looting and stealing, external support and arms trade were always the major methods for NSAs to acquire armaments, though the importance of each method and the type of arms changed remarkably over time. Persistent principles have shaped the arming of NSAs. Initial engagements between rebels and states usually highlighted the superior force of the latter, but because of states’ interests and constraints weapons and military technology have been leaking from states to NSAs by different methods. A set of factors, political, social, cultural, technological and organizational, both facilitated and constrained NSAs’ ability to practise the four methods of arming, making it a dynamic process. From the nineteenth century, NSAs have employed mainly external sources to acquire weapons rather than domestic sources because the technology of modern weapons is more difficult to improvise. Another dramatic development, dating from the second half of the twentieth century, is the intensive use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) by armed NSAs, enabling them to reduce the power imbalance against the state. Present NSAs can easily acquire and ship weapons systems over long…