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  • Author: Aisha Ahmad
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In recent years, jihadists across the world have transformed their gendered violence, shocking the world by breaking from prior taboos and even celebrating abuses that they had previously prohibited. This behavior is surprising because jihadists represent a class of insurgents that are deeply bound by rules and norms. For jihadists, deviating from established Islamist doctrines is no easy feat. What then explains these sudden transformations in the rules and norms governing jihadist violence? An inductive investigation of contemporary jihadist violence in Pakistan and Nigeria reveals a new theory of jihadist normative evolution. Data from these cases show that dramatic changes in jihadist violence occur when an external trigger creates an expanded political space for jihadist entrepreneurs to do away with normative constraints on socially prohibited types of violence. As these jihadist leaders capitalize on the triggers, they are able to encourage a re-socialization process within their ranks, resulting in the erosion of previously held taboos, the adoption of proscribed behaviors, and the emergence of toxic new norms.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Gender Issues, Islam, Terrorism, Women, Gender Based Violence
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Middle East, West Asia
  • Author: Christopher Clary, Vipin Narang
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Is India shifting to a nuclear counterforce strategy? Continued aggression by Pakistan against India, enabled by Islamabad's nuclear strategy and India's inability to counter it, has prompted the leadership in Delhi to explore more flexible preemptive counterforce options in an attempt to reestablish deterrence. Increasingly, Indian officials are advancing the logic of counterforce targeting, and they have begun to lay out exceptions to India's long-standing no-first-use policy to potentially allow for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons. Simultaneously, India has been acquiring the components that its military would need to launch counterforce strikes. These include a growing number of accurate and responsive nuclear delivery systems, an array of surveillance platforms, and sophisticated missile defenses. Executing a counterforce strike against Pakistan, however, would be exceptionally difficult. Moreover, Pakistan's response to the mere fear that India might be pursuing a counterforce option could generate a dangerous regional arms race and crisis instability. A cycle of escalation would have significant implications not only for South Asia, but also for the broader nuclear landscape if other regional powers were similarly seduced by the temptations of nuclear counterforce.
  • Topic: National Security, Terrorism, International Security, Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, India, Asia
  • Author: John Mueller, Mark G. Stewart
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: On November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald, a deluded little man with grandiose visions of his own importance, managed, largely because of luck, to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Since then, many people have contended that such a monumental event could not have been accomplished by such a trivial person. Some of these disbelievers have undertaken elaborate efforts to uncover a bigger conspiracy behind the deed.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Risa Brooks
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Are Muslims born or living in the United States increasingly inclined to engage in terrorist attacks within the country's borders? For much of the post-September 11 era, the answer to that question was largely no. Unlike its European counterparts, the United States was viewed as being relatively immune to terrorism committed by its residents and citizens-what is commonly referred to as "homegrown" terrorism-because of the social status and degree of assimilation evinced by American Muslims. In 2006, in the long shadow cast by the Madrid 2004 and London 2005 attacks perpetrated by European homegrown terrorists, there was a perceptible shift in the characterization of the threat posed by American Muslims. Public officials began to speak more regularly and assertively about the potential threat of some Muslims taking up terrorism, elevating it in their discussions alongside threats from foreign operatives and transnational terrorist organizations. By 2009, in part catalyzed by a surge in terrorist-related arrests and concerns that they could portend a growing radicalization of the American Muslim population, policymakers and terrorist analysts seemed increasingly worried about homegrown terrorism. When U.S. Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, some members of Congress and other commentators argued that the threat of homegrown terrorism would become even more important.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Europe
  • Author: Valerie M. Hudson, Bradley Thayer
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Theoretical insights from evolutionary psychology and biology can help academics and policymakers better understand both deep and proximate causes of Islamic suicide terrorism. The life sciences can contribute explanations that probe the influence of the following forces on the phenomenon of Islamic suicide terrorism: high levels of gender differentiation, the prevalence of polygyny, and the obstruction of marriage markets delaying marriage for young adult men in the modern Middle East. The influence of these forces has been left virtually unexplored in the social sciences, despite their presumptive application in this case. Life science explanations should be integrated with more conventional social science explanations, which include international anarchy, U.S. hegemony and presence in the Middle East, and culturally molded discourse sanctioning suicide terrorism in the Islamic context. Such a consilient approach, melding the explanatory power of the social and life sciences, offers greater insight into the causal context of Islamic fundamentalist suicide terrorism, the motivation of suicide terrorists, and effective approaches to subvert this form of terrorism.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Mia Bloom, Valerie M. Hudson, Bradley Thayer
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Mia Bloom responds to Bradley Thayer and Valerie Hudson's Spring 2010 International Security article, "Sex and the Shaheed: Insights from the Life Sciences on Islamic Suicide Terrorism."
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In 2001 approximately 100 Central Intelligence Agency officers, 350 U.S. Special Forces soldiers, and 15,000 Afghans overthrew the Taliban regime in less than three months while suffering only a dozen U.S. fatalities. They were supported by as many as 100 U.S. combat sorties per day. Some individuals involved in the operation argued that it revitalized the American way of war. This initial success, however, transitioned into an insurgency, as the Taliban and other insurgent groups began a sustained effort to overthrow the Afghan government. The fighting, which began in 2002, had developed into a full-blown insurgency by 2006. During this period, the number of insurgent-initiated attacks rose by 400 percent, and the number of deaths from these attacks by more than 800 percent. The increase in violence was particularly acute between 2005 and 2006, when the number of suicide attacks quintupled from 27 to 139; remotely detonated bombings more than doubled from 783 to 1,677; and armed attacks nearly tripled from 1,558 to 4,542. Insurgent-initiated attacks rose another 27 percent between 2006 and 2007. The result was a lack of security for Afghans and foreigners.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Government, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Asia, Taliban
  • Author: Thomas H. Johnson, M. Chris Mason
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: By 1932, British troops had been waging war of varying intensity with a group of intractable tribes along and beyond the northwestern frontier of India for nearly a century. That year, in summarizing a typical skirmish, one British veteran noted laconically, “Probably no sign till the burst of fire, and then the swift rush with knives, the stripping of the dead, and the unhurried mutilation of the infidels.” It was a savage, cruel, and peculiar kind of mountain warfare, frequently driven by religious zealotry on the tribal side, and it was singularly unforgiving of tactical error, momentary inattention, or cultural ignorance. It still is. The Pakistan- Afghanistan border region has experienced turbulence for centuries. Today a portion of it constitutes a significant threat to U.S. national security interests. The unique underlying factors that create this threat are little understood by most policymakers in Washington.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Washington, Asia
  • Author: Max Abrahms
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The strategic model—the dominant paradigm in terrorism studies—claims that terrorists are rational actors who attack civilians to achieve political goals. To defeat terrorism, policymakers have sought to decrease its political utility by adhering to a no concessions policy, engaging in political accommodation, and promoting democracy. The evidence suggests, however, that terrorists are not motivated primarily by a desire to achieve political objectives. Rather, they use terrorism to develop strong affective ties with fellow terrorists. Counterterrorism strategies must therefore find ways to diminish the social utility of terrorism.
  • Topic: Terrorism