Theses Doctoral

Understanding Resistance to Foreign Occupation

Collard-Wexler, Simon

There have been some 163 foreign occupations since 1900. In many cases, military occupations have led to bloody and protracted resistance, while in most cases occupiers faced little resistance at all. This dissertation seeks to answer the puzzle: under what conditions do foreign occupations produce consequential resistance? Conventional wisdom holds that resistance is driven by nationalism. However, states exhibit different levels of resistance to different occupiers, indicating that not only the nature of the occupied but also the nature and the policies of occupiers play a role. Specifically, I look at the role of political dislocation and trust. First, domestic groups that would have otherwise waited out the occupation may be driven to resistance when occupiers implement policies or establish institutions that permanently weaken their relative domestic position, what I call political dislocation. Second, resistance will be muted when occupiers can credibly commit to treating the population benignly and vacating occupied territory promptly. I argue that democracies, international organizations, and co-religionists are better able to make credible commitments and therefore more likely to elicit trust among occupied communities. Conversely, occupiers that victimize the occupied population will face greater resistance. I test these hypotheses on an original dataset of occupier fatalities in every occupation since 1900. Drawing on geospatial data, I then conduct a sub-national quantitative and qualitative study of resistance in Afghanistan. Finally, in order to ensure that these findings are generalizable, I conduct a set of case studies comparing the Soviet and German occupations of Lithuania; the Vietnamese and UN occupations of Cambodia; and the Syrian, Multinational, UN, and Israeli occupations of Lebanon. I find that political dislocation, in the form of forceful regime change, increases the likelihood of resistance. I also find that occupations led by democracies, international organizations, and co-religionists are generally less likely to face resistance. Thus, the nature and context of occupation are some of the most important predictors of resistance.


  • thumnail for Collard-Wexler_Defense_Dissertation.pdf Collard-Wexler_Defense_Dissertation.pdf application/pdf 8.12 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Fortna, Virginia Page
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 30, 2013