The Differentiation of Security Forces and the Onset of Genocidal Violence

Ulrich Pilster, Tobias Böhmelt*, Atsushi Tago

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Which factors drive the onset of genocidal violence? While the previous literature identified several important influences, states’ military capabilities for conducting mass-killings and the structure of their security forces have received surprisingly little attention so far. The authors take this shortcoming as a motivation for their research. A theoretical framework is developed, which argues that more differentiated security forces, that is, forces that are composed of a higher number of independent paramilitary and military organizations, are likely to act as a restraint factor in the process leading to state-sponsored mass-killings. Quantitative analyses support the argument for a sample of state-failure years for 1971–2003, and it is also shown that considering a state’s security force structure improves our ability to forecast genocides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-50
Number of pages25
JournalArmed Forces and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes


  • civil–military relations
  • counterinsurgency
  • genocide
  • security force structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Safety Research


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