Emil Aslan Souleimanov
Reflecting on the recent rise of Salafi groups and their impact on civil war, the academic literature on Salafi radicalization, mobilization, and recruitment has burgeoned in the recent decade and a half. Yet little consensus exists as to the relative power of three major causes: grievances, ideology, and radical milieu and support structures as causes of violent radicalization. Even less is known about how jihadist foreign fighters affect civil wars in terms of conflict intensity and resolution. In both fields, key debates are identified in the recent scholarship, explain the major shortcomings and gaps, and suggest avenues of future research. For instance, it is important—and hardly avoidable—that epistemological and ontological obstacles lay in the way of establishing the causes of (violent) radicalization, because the processes relating to the change of human perception and behavior are extremely difficult to trace. Another point is the frequent—deliberate or unintended—distortion of the testimonies of former combatants, not least Salafi-jihadists, which makes the task of establishing the causes of (violent) radicalization and recruitment harder. Identifying avenues of further research, there is a lack of quality first-hand data in the current research on Salafi-inspired radicalization, mobilization, and recruitment. More methodological plurality—particularly in-depth ethnographic studies and quantitative work—is needed, as well as more research on virtual social networks and non-verbal contents.
Robert Ralston and Ronald R. Krebs
The field of international relations has long focused on understanding and explaining the causes of war. In contrast, scholars have devoted relatively little attention to war’s consequences. However, scholarly literature on the consequences of violent conflict, including its effects on liberal democracy, has burgeoned and improved in recent decades, since the 1990s.
Existing research shows that security threats, mobilization, and warfare are neither entirely negative nor entirely positive with respect to liberal democracy. On the one hand, in the short run, these pressures erode liberal institutions and values. On the other hand, large-scale mobilization and warfare—both interstate and civil—encourage broader and more intense participation at the individual level and strengthen participation’s structural foundations.
However, despite recent advances, there remains much that we still do not know, which suggests promising avenues for future research. The existing literature has not sufficiently or systematically distinguished among the effects of threat/insecurity, mobilization, and warfare. It has been stronger on empirical findings than on developing the mid-range theories and causal mechanisms that would make sense of those findings. It has been firmer on conflict’s impact on individual attitudes and predilections than on how and when violence reshapes larger political processes and structures. It has had more to say about conflict’s short-run effects than its long-term effects, especially with respect to contestation. The impact of violent conflict on liberal democracy remains a rich soil for future research.
Pellumb Kelmendi and Amanda Rizkallah
Civil war is one of the most devastating and potentially transformative events that can befall a country. Despite an intuitive acknowledgment that civil war is a defining political moment in a state and society’s history, we know relatively little about the legacies of wartime social and political processes on post-war political development. Scholars and practitioners have written extensively on the effects of different war endings and international interventions on post-war political outcomes—particularly as they concern the maintenance of security and stability. However, this scholarship has tended to treat the wartime period as a black box. Until recently, this bias has precluded systematic efforts to understand how the wartime political and social processes and context preceding international interventions and peace agreements have their own autonomous effects on post-war politics. Some of these processes include regional and local patterns of mobilization, armed group structure, political polarization, and violence, among others. Focusing more closely on the post-war effect of variation in wartime processes can not only improve our existing understanding of outcomes such as peace duration and stability but can also improve our understanding of other political development outcomes such as democratization, party building, local governance, and individual political behavior and participation.
However, some scholars have started investigating the effect of wartime processes on post-war political development at three broad levels of analysis: the regime, party, and individual levels. At the regime level, democratization seems most likely when the distribution of power among warring parties is even and in contexts where armed actors find it necessary to mobilize ordinary citizens for the war effort. The transition from armed group to peacetime party has also received attention. Armed groups with sustained wartime territorial control, strong ties with the local population, centralized leadership, and cohesive wartime organizations are most likely to make the transition to post-war party and experience electoral success. Moving beyond case studies to more comparative work and giving greater attention to the precise specification of causal mechanisms would continue moving this research agenda in a productive direction. In addition, some scholars have examined individual behavior and attitudes after civil war. A central finding is that individuals who experience victimization during civil war are more likely to engage in political participation and local activism after the war. Future research should go beyond victimization to examine the effects of other wartime experiences.
Harnessing the insights of the rich literature on the dynamics of civil war and the parallel advances in the collection of micro-level data is key to advancing the research on wartime origins of post-war political development. Such progress would allow scholars to speak to the larger question of how state and society are affected and transformed by the process of civil war.
Candice Ortbals and Lori Poloni-Staudinger
Gender influences political violence, which includes, for example, terrorism, genocide, and war. Gender uncovers how women, men, and nonbinary persons act according to feminine, masculine, or fluid expectations of men and women. A gendered interpretation of political violence recognizes that politics and states project masculine power and privilege, with the result that men occupy the dominant social position in politics and women and marginalized men are subordinate. As such, men (associated with masculinity) are typically understood as perpetrators of political violence with power and agency and women (associated with femininity) are seen as passive and as victims of violence. For example, women killed by drone attacks in the U.S. War on Terrorism are seen as the innocent, who, along with children, are collateral damage. Many historical and current examples, however, demonstrate that women have agency, namely that they are active in social groups and state institutions responding to and initiating political violence. Women are victims of political violence in many instances, yet some are also political and social actors who fight for change.
Gendercide, which can occur alongside genocide, targets a specific gender, with the result that men, women, or those who identify with a non-heteronormative sexuality are subject to discriminatory killing. Rape in wartime situations is also gendered; often it is an expression of men’s power over women and over men who are feminized and marginalized. Because war is typically seen as a masculine domain, wartime violence is not associated with women, who are viewed as life givers and not life takers. Similarly, few expect women to be terrorists, and when they are, women’s motivations often are assumed to be different from those of men. Whereas some scholars argue that women pursue terrorism for personal (and feminine) reasons, for example to redeem themselves from the reputation of rape or for the loss of a male loved one, other scholars maintain that women act on account of political or religious motivations. Although many cases of women’s involvement in war and terrorism can be documented throughout history, wartime leadership and prominent social positions following political violence have been reserved for men. Leaders with feminine traits seem undesirable during and after political violence, because military leadership and negotiations to end military conflict are associated with men and masculinity. Nevertheless, women’s groups and individual women respond to situations of violence by protesting against violence, testifying at tribunals and truth commissions, and constructing the political memory of violence.
Gabrielle S. Bardall
This article presents a conceptual orientation to the intersection of gender, politics, and violence. The first part of the article will introduce the subject by reviewing the primary conceptual framework and empirical knowledge on the topic to date and discussing the theoretical heritage of the concept. Establishing a key distinction between gender-motivated and gender differentiated violence, this article will discuss the gender dimensions of political violence and the political dimensions of gender-based violence. The latter half of the article reviews a number of the key questions driving research and dialogue in the field in the 21st century.
Nils W. Metternich
International relations as a subfield in political science has always been fundamentally concerned about the relations between actors and how they lead to conflictual or cooperative outcomes. However, despite this inherent interest in relations between actors, the gap between theoretical conceptualization and empirical estimation considerably widened until spatial econometric and network analytic estimation approaches allowed researchers to address interdependencies in multiactor settings empirically. However, the discipline needs to strengthen the link between theoretical and empirical network analysis by integrating formal theoretical advances and fully embracing inferential statistical network approaches that are available to researchers. Formal theories of network behavior need to be further developed to establish systematic insights into the conditions under which complex network structures arise and how they affect actor behavior. Rigorous theoretically guided research will form the basis of linking network theories of conflict and cooperation and empirical testing.
Susanne Martin and Ami Pedahzur
Suicide terrorism has captured considerable attention since the attacks on September 11, 2001. Governments offered unprecedented support for scholars who were willing to research the phenomenon. One result has been a tremendous growth in the volume of research on terrorism. The research has also become more diverse. Until 2001, 84% of the articles appeared within the disciplines of political science and international relations. Since 2002, though, only 53% of articles belonged to these disciplines. Meanwhile, other areas (most notably economics) increased in prominence. Despite the growth in the volume and diversity of the research, important aspects of the phenomenon remain largely unexplored. This is particularly evident when it comes to studies of suicide terrorism. Two areas requiring further attention include the “theater of terrorism” and the role of culture. The case of ISIS demonstrates the significant roles of the mass media and culture in explaining contemporary suicide terrorism.
David C. Rapoport
The First Wave of global terrorism began in Russia. After Russia was humiliated in the Crimean War (1853–1856), Czar Alexander II decided to make it more like Western states which seemed so much stronger. In 1861, he freed 25 million serfs, roughly one third of Russia’s population. He then established local self-governments, “Westernized” the judicial system, abolished capital punishment, greatly expanded universities, etc. But the changes proved difficult. The serfs had little money to buy properties necessary for their livelihoods, and the Czar refused to establish a national legislature. Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will), a small group greatly influenced by anarchists, was formed in 1879, and in 1881 it assassinated Alexander II. Members were university students; women constituted one third of the group, the first time women had ever been involved in terrorist activity. Russian terrorism persisted for 40 odd years, though individual groups rarely lasted more than 5 years.
Assassinating prominent public figures was the principal tactic, and martyrdom was then sought in court trials. Efforts were always made to seek international support, i.e., foreign bases, Diasporas, other radical groups, etc. Two kinds of terrorist groups emerged on six continents: nationalists and anarchists. Anarchists produced the “Golden Age of Assassination” (1892–1901) in which more monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers were assassinated than ever before. The Wave’s high point was from 1890 to 1910. But that high point produced furious antiterrorist sentiment and no significant support from the poor, forcing many anarchists to abandon assassination and seek other methods like syndicalism for achieving their goals.
Major counter-terror practices were developed that are still employed. Police forces were re-made. They had always worn uniforms and responded to illegal actions after they occurred, but pre-emption efforts were then required to make it impossible for acts to happen. Uniforms were removed to observe actions without being identified in the process and to enable infiltration. Prisoners could not be treated as criminals. To avoid producing martyrs, Russia abandoned public trials. In 1 year, more than 1,000 were sentenced to death and were hanged or shot secretly within 24 hours. The treatment of criminals depended on the acts they committed. But terrorists had information about actions others would do, and torture was revived everywhere to gain that information. Terrorists could not be treated as prisoners of war because they did not follow the rules of war.
David C. Rapoport
Time gaps existed in the first three waves between precipitating political events and the development of terrorist activity. But now the time gap has disappeared because the precipitating events were directly associated with terrorism. All of those events occurred in the Islamic world where religion was employed to justify terror. Jewish, Sikh, and Christian terror groups emerged very quickly afterwards, but Islamic groups were larger, more durable, and had a more significant global impact. The international world changed; Iran’s religious revolution made it a major player; and the Soviet Union’s collapse intensified Islamic opposition to the United States.
Sikh, Jewish, and Christian terrorists came from a national base, but Islamic ones often emerged from many countries to join a particular group; and two critical groups, al-Qaeda and ISIS, aimed to re-establish a caliphate embracing the Islamic world. Diasporas provided financial support as they had in other waves, but some Islamic immigrants, like first wave anarchists, employed terror in their new homes and often left those homes to seek targets elsewhere. “Suicide bombing” or “self-martyrdom,” the wave’s distinguishing tactic, made it the most destructive wave. The only religious groups to embrace this tactic were Islamic, though ironically, the secular Tamil Tigers used it and did so more often than any Islamic group did. Islamic groups initiated social services for their societies, a program not seen earlier, and the Tamil Tigers adopted social services for their communities as well.
Al-Qaeda, born in the resistance to the Soviet Afghan invasion, became the wave’s most important group. After difficulties in helping uprisings outside Afghanistan in the Islamic world, it decided to strike the United States, and its 9/11 attacks, the wave’s high point, are the most destructive terrorist acts ever. The United States then invaded Afghanistan forcing al-Qaeda to leave that country. Instead of completing the job, however, the United States decided to invade Iraq to prevent Iraq from giving al-Qaeda weapons of mass destruction, weapons Iraq did not have. This over-reaction inflamed Muslims everywhere, enabling al-Qaeda to get more recruits and develop Iraqi resistance. One crucial focus of al-Qaeda in Iraq was its gruesome atrocities towards the Shia population, which produced violence between Sunni and Shia throughout the Islamic world. The United States ultimately eliminated al-Qaeda in Iraq, and al-Qaeda Central was unable to get another ground base. Al-Qaeda Central then adopted two methods to revitalize itself. The lone wolf strategy, developed first by U.S. Christian terrorists, did not produce many significant results. At the same time, many franchises were created but each focused on local activities and did not strengthen al-Qaeda’s global capacities.
A new situation developed with the “Arab Spring” in 2011, when peaceful secular demonstrations for equality and democracy were transformed into violent conflicts between Shia and Sunni sects. Syria, the bloodiest scene, attracted support from Shia and Sunni elements everywhere and encouraged Russia and the United States to get engaged. ISIS (Islamic State), the remnant of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was reborn and grew immensely there as it captured much territory in Iraq and Syria and became the wave’s most important group. Al-Qaeda Central also became involved and eventually turned against ISIS. In a short time ISIS lost most of the territory gained, and its European strikes to get the West more deeply involved in the conflict by sending troops to Syria and Iraq failed. Al-Qaeda and ISIS franchises continue to fight each other, a conflict that may end the wave.
Bargaining Theory, Civil War Outcomes, and War Recurrence: Assessing the Results of Empirical Tests of the Theory
Caroline A. Hartzell
Once ended, a significant number of civil wars recur. One influential empirical international relations theory on which scholars have drawn in an effort to provide an explanation for this phenomenon is the bargaining model of war. Devised initially for the study of interstate war, the theory posits that bargaining problems may prevent belligerents from reaching a deal that enables them to avoid a costly war. Bargaining problems also have been identified as contributing to the recurrence of armed intrastate conflict. Working within the framework of bargaining theory, a number of scholars have claimed that the most effective way to inhibit a return to civil war is to end the conflict via military victory as such an outcome is thought to help solve key bargaining problems. However, a growing number of empirical tests cast doubt on this proposition. An analysis of the results of these tests as well as new scholarship on civil war termination highlight some of the limitations inherent in employing a theory devised for the study of interstate war to analyze questions related to civil wars.