An adventurous Englishman established a durable political order amid the contestation of sea and land Dayaks, ethnic Chinese, Muslims, and other peoples in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, in the middle of the 19th century. Three generations of the Brooke family maintained personal rule over Sarawak until after World War II. After the British Crown bought the territory from the last of the so-called White Rajahs, an insurgency formed to call for the return of personalistic Brooke rule. Given the difficulties that liberal Western powers have had in creating or restoring political order in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere since World War II, how did the Brooke family succeed without creating an institutionalized state, without delivering public goods beyond security, and without creating an appealing ideology? Paradoxically, it was the Brookes’ lack of institutions and ideology that enabled their rule. The Brookes flourished without the trappings and tools of empire, using personal influence; organized violence by a small number of armed Englishmen sufficient to balance power among armed groups; and partnerships with indigenous groups to take and retain power. Their success as outsider rulers rested on their use of compellence. This fine-grained archival case has relevance for theorizing compellence, balancing, and bandwagoning. It is also useful for understanding military intervention in multiple forms, including peacekeeping, state building, and counterinsurgency.
Jacqueline L. Hazelton is an assistant professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College. Her research interests include compellence, grand strategy, great power military intervention, counterinsurgency, terrorism, and U.S. foreign and military policy. She received her Ph.D. in Politics from Brandeis University and holds two M.A.s and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.