Anarchy's anatomy: two-tiered security systems and Libya’s civil wars

Marc R. De Vore, Armin Stähli

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No issue deserves more scrutiny than the mechanisms whereby popular unrest unleashes civil wars. We argue that one institution — two-tiered security systems — is particularly pernicious in terms of the accompanying civil war risk. These systems’ defining characteristic is the juxtaposition of small communally stacked units that protect regimes from internal adversaries with larger regular armed forces that deter external opponents. These systems aggravate civil war risks because stacked security units lack the size to repress widespread dissent, but inhibit rapid regime change through coup d’état. Regular militaries, meanwhile, fracture when ordered to employ force against populations from which they were recruited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-420
JournalJournal of Strategic Studies
Issue number3
Early online date16 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020


  • Coup proofing
  • Civil-military relations
  • Civil war
  • Libya
  • Ethnic stacking


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