Beyond Patriots and Traitors: Collaborations and Resistance in Iraq, 2003-2005

41 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2013

Date Written: August 17, 2013


Why do some subnational political groups collaborate with foreign occupiers, while others resist and still others wait the occupation out? Popular history and scholarly literature often sidesteps this question, focusing on resistance at the expense of collaboration and assuming a simple dyadic relationship between the occupier and occupied populace whereby nationalism produces widespread resistance. This paper will argue that conceptualization is empirically misleading: it exaggerates both the extent and diversity of resistance and glosses over the pervasiveness of collaboration in occupied states. As an alternative, this paper proposes a theory for explaining subnational variation in collaboration and resistance that is rooted in the domestic politics of the occupied state. I argue that political groups are primarily interested in increasing or maintaining their own domestic political power and ensuring political survival, not in international sovereignty, and that this provides occupying powers with wide latitude to shape outcomes through their policies. Because of its high cost, violent resistance is only likely to emerge when a group’s political survival is threatened, or when the group has enough foreign support to make victory feasible. Meanwhile, because it is a relatively cheap pathway to influence, groups are likely to collaborate, regardless of ideology, so long as the occupier offers them significant power. If neither of these conditions hold, groups are likely to wait. As a preliminary test of the theory, this paper analyzes the behavior of political groups in U.S.-occupied Iraq between 2003 and 2005.

Keywords: foreign intervention, Iraq, insurgency

Suggested Citation

Miller, Nicholas, Beyond Patriots and Traitors: Collaborations and Resistance in Iraq, 2003-2005 (August 17, 2013). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2013-37. Available at SSRN: or

Nicholas Miller (Contact Author)

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

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