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.
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.
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.
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.
Muhammet A. Bas and Robert Schub
Uncertainty is pervasive in international politics. This uncertainty can have many sources. Each source has different origins and implications for the likelihood of conflict. Existing theories focus on three sources: (1) uncertainty due to asymmetric information about adversary traits that affect war payoffs, (2) uncertainty about adversary intentions, and (3) fundamental uncertainty about conflict-relevant processes. Scholarship details the implications of each type of uncertainty for war and peace as well as the prospects for reducing the uncertainty. While theoretical work is quite rich, empirical studies generally lag behind due to measurement challenges and difficulties in specifying clear, testable implications. Nonetheless, using novel proxies for different forms of uncertainty has generated notable progress.
David C. Rapoport
By the 1960s the international world changed dramatically. While the nuclear balance of terror created by the atomic bomb prevented war between the First and the Second Worlds, proxy wars between the superpowers were conducted in the “Third World.” The Cold War began and the Soviet Union attempted to arouse radical groups in the Third World, an effort that grew immensely as overseas empires of Western states dissolved. The UN membership expanded because of the great number of “new” states. Two events in Third World countries were critical: Castro’s triumph in Cuba and the long Vietnam War. Vietnam was particularly crucial in animating terrorist groups throughout the West. A total of 404 groups emerged: 192 Revolutionaries and 212 Separatists. There were two Revolutionary types: 143 Nationals and 49 Transnational. The Transnationals, a product of the developed world, saw themselves as Third World agents. Nationals and Separatists aimed to remake their own states. Nationals sought equality and Separatists sought a new state that often included elements from neighboring states. Separatists were present everywhere except Latin America where all groups were Nationals.
As in the First Wave, university students provided most of the initial terrorist recruits. Women became important again except among Separatists. Cuban and PLO training facilities intensified bonds with foreign groups. The PLO was the most conspicuous group because it conducted more assaults abroad than at home. Groups from different countries cooperated in attacks, that is, OPEC ministers kidnapping (1975). At home, targets with international significance like embassies were struck. Publicity again became a principal concern, which made hostage taking preeminent for the first time, a practice that became very lucrative for some groups. Over 700 hijacked airlines intensified the wave’s international character. The Sandinista took Nicaragua’s Congress hostage in 1978, which sparked a successful insurrection. Many Third World hostages were foreigners from the developed world involved in commerce, and their companies quickly paid enormous ransoms. Earlier waves produced more deaths.
The wave began ebbing in the 1980s; new groups stopped emerging. Israel eliminated PLO facilities for training terrorist groups. International counterterrorist cooperation became effective. Terrorists now found the UN hostile. Six of the eight successes occurred when the Cold War ended and Soviet support disappeared. Most were very limited. The PLO became so weak it was allowed to return home and negotiate for a two-state solution, one still not achieved. The South African ANC produced the only real success partly because its tactics were so restrained.
David C. Rapoport
The Versailles Treaty ending World War I established a new international order by creating the League of Nations and, dividing the defeated empires in Europe into a number of nation-states. The overseas empires of the defeated became League of Nations mandates, which the victorious powers administered until they were sufficiently developed for “self -determination.” Ironically, the first terrorist campaign began in a victorious power’s territory when the Irish Republican Army produced the first success in global terrorist history though it did gain all territory sought. Campaigns emerged then in other mandates and overseas territories of the victorious powers but all failed. But the Atlantic Charter drawn in World War II made the self-determination principle more obligatory by pledging that the imperial territories of the defeated powers would be freed immediately. When the war was over, the victorious powers often dissembled portions of their empires. Elements not freed largely contained conflicting ethnic elements unable to agree on how to be governed. Successful terrorist campaigns materialized in those territories, and the wave ended when the energies of governments not terrorists dissipated! But most successes were incomplete because bloody tensions between ethnic divisions in the new states persisted.
Important terrorist decisions helped their causes. The First Wave’s language tactics, strategy, and targets were changed and helped terrorists get less offensive media coverage and significant support from the international world, particularly the United Nations. They now described themselves as “freedom fighters” not terrorists. Assassination occurred rarely, violence was restricted to local territories and efforts to cooperate with group were abandoned. The police were the principal civilian element attacked, and warnings about attacks were often given to other civilians enabling them to seek safety.
David C. Rapoport
Global terror began in the 1880s, but it took a century before a few scholars began to understand its peculiar dynamic. One reason for the difficulty was that many scholars and government officials had “historical amnesia.” When they saw it disappear, they assumed it had become part of history and no longer had contemporary relevance. But global terror disappears and then reappears. Another reason they failed to understand the pattern is that the concept of generation was rarely used to describe politics, a concept that requires one to recognize the importance of life cycles. Modern global terror comes in the form of waves precipitated by major political events that have important global significance. A wave consists of a variety of groups with similar tactics and purposes that alter the domestic and international scenes. Four very different waves have materialized: the Anarchist, the Anti-Colonial, the New Left, and the Religious. The first three have been completed and lasted around 40 years; the fourth is now in its third decade, and if it follows the rhythm of its predecessors, it should be over in the mid-2020s, but a fifth wave may emerge thereafter.
The effect of foreign policy on terrorism is an important area of research that bridges work on international relations and intrastate conflict by highlighting how an outside country can influence attacks from a nonstate actor in another country. Research in this area is important for understanding how countries like the United States can best deal with the threat of international terrorism.
Research has generally demonstrated that states with active foreign policies are more likely to experience international terrorism, particularly democracies and the United States. This has been hypothesized to occur because active foreign policies create blowback, or negative feelings toward a state, leading to greater acts of terrorism against that state.
Beyond the effects of a state’s general foreign policy, others have looked at more specific policies, such as military occupation and intervention. This body of research argues that international terrorism is often a response to perceived occupation of an area. Groups see terrorism as a method to dislodge the occupying force. This argument has been refined by other scholars, who have presented conditions or extensions of this argument. Others have focused on military intervention, arguing that the presence of troops, the negative sentiment that they evoke, and their effect on strengthening the government all create incentives for groups to attack the foreign power that has deployed troops.
Foreign aid has been seen as a policy that can address the threat of terrorism. Aid has been argued to be able to improve local conditions and incentivize and reward local states for engaging in counterterrorism. Others have presented conditions under which aid is more or less likely to be effective, including the idea that military aid might actually increase the amount of terrorism, for reasons similar to military intervention, and create an incentive for states to maintain a terrorist threat.
Other foreign policy approaches have focused on legal attempts to stop terrorists from financing their organizations. These policies have been driven by the United Nations, coalitions of states, and individual states. This article also focuses on the methodological issues that all these studies face, as well as future research directions.
Erin K. Jenne and Milos Popovic
In their seminal study “Resort to Arms,” Small and Singer (1982) defined a civil war as “any armed conflict that involves (a) military action internal to the metropole, (b) the active participation of the national government, and (c) effective resistance by both sides.” Internationalized civil wars constitute a newer classification, denoting a conflict involving organized violence on two or more sides within a sovereign state, in which foreign elements play a role in instigating, prolonging, or exacerbating the struggle. Small and Singer defined civil war as one in which a “system member” intervenes into a substate conflict involving organized violence. Although Singer and Small conceived “system members” narrowly as external sovereign states engaged in military intervention into the civil war in question, the definition has since been expanded by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) to include other foreign actors—such as nonstate or private actors, diasporas, IOs, corporations, or cross-border kin groups—any of which can intervene to intensify a domestic civil conflict. From superpower interventions during the Cold War to more recent conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, internationalized civil wars have garnered increasing scholarly attention, primarily because they tend to be far bloodier and more protracted than noninternationalized civil wars.
How to end such wars is a problem long bedeviling the international community. Civil wars are already more difficult to end than interstate wars partly because there are more players to satisfy in civil war settings, with multiple conflict parties coexisting on a single territory, and multiple factions within each conflict party—each constituting a “veto player” that might plausibly spoil a peace agreement should the agreement not satisfy their needs. This problem is exacerbated by an order of magnitude when a civil war becomes internationalized. When outside actors get involved in a civil war, the number of veto players rises correspondingly to include not only domestic players and internal factions, but also the involved external players, which may include foreign governments, diaspora groups, foreign fighters, and/or transnational social networks.
Managing or ending internationalized civil wars is thus a highly complicated balancing act requiring attention not just to internal, but also to external veto players represented by all involved parties both inside and outside the conflict state. The traditional methods of conflict management involve electoral engineering, power-sharing arrangements, or other peace deals that seek to satisfy the aspirations of involved internal parties, while ensuring that the peace deal is “self-enforcing.” This means that it will hold up even in the absence of outside pressure. In internationalized civil wars, however, conflict managers must also satisfy involved outside actors or otherwise neutralize external conflict processes. There are multiple methods for doing this, ranging from effective border control in cases of conflict spillover to decomposing internationalized conflicts into civil and international conflicts, which are solved separately, to outright peace enforcement involving international security guarantees.