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Loyalty Strategies and Military Defection in Rebellion

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Two common strategies for maintaining military loyalty—individual incentives and ethnic preference—produce very different outcomes for defection of government troops when a rebellion arises outside the military. Since a strategy of individual incentives rests on a continuous judgment of regime strength, a rebellion can provoke a self-fulfilling prophecy that the regime will collapse. An ethnic preference policy identifies soldiers as loyal or disloyal based on group identity and gives those soldiers strong incentives to act accordingly. A rebellion by the out-group might generate out-group defection, but not in-group defection. Focusing on information about preferences, these outcomes are illustrated through a comparison of rebellions in Syria, Jordan, and Iran.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2010

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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