Resolving a Terrorist Insurgency by Addressing Its Root Causes

  • Joshua Sinai
Part of the Integrated Series In Information Systems book series (ISIS, volume 18)

To effectively resolve a terrorist insurgency against a state, it is crucial to map the root causes underlying the conflict because terrorism does not emerge in a political, socio-economic, religious or even psychological vacuum. Root causes form the initial components driving the terrorist life cycle (TLC), e.g., why terrorist groups are formed, how they are led and organized, the nature of their grievances, motivations, strategies and demands and their relations with their constituency, while the terrorist attack cycle (TAC) refers to how they conduct a spectrum of operations, ranging from non-violent to violent activities, and their choice of weaponry and targeting. Once these underlying causes are mapped, then it would be possible to formulate appropriate response measures, although some terrorist insurgencies can be resolved through conciliatory measures, some by means of a mix of coercion and conciliation, whereas others may only be resolved by defeating the terrorists militarily.


Terrorist Group Relative Deprivation Political Violence Gaza Strip Coercive Measure 
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References and Footnotes

  1. 1.
    In this framework, terrorism is defined as “a form or tactic of warfare characterized by the deliberate acts of violence, such as killing persons and causing physical damage, perpetrated by sub-state or non-state groups against all citizens of a state, whether civilian or military, to achieve a myriad of objectives.” This definition is not intended to demonize a group that uses violence to achieve its goals or to delegitimize its grievances and demands, but to highlight its chosen form of tactical warfare, which is distinguished from guerrilla warfare, which deploys different sets of tactics and objectives, such as using paramilitary forces against government forces to increase territory under insurgent control.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    In the academic literature on terrorism, several important studies have been published on the need to understand the root causes of terrorism. These include Ted Robert Gurr’s Why Men Rebel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970); Walter Reich, ed., Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998); Neil J. Smelser and Faith Mitchel, eds., Terrorism: Perspectives from the Behavioral and Social Sciences (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2002), and Tore Bjorgo, editor, Root Causes of Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 2005).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For an example of how social network theory can be applied to excavating how terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and its affiliates are organized and led, see Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Bjorgo, “Conceptual Framework,” in Tore Bjorgo, Root Causes of Terrorism.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
  6. 6.
    For initial examinations of root causes, see Reich, editor, Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind; and Bjorgo, editor, Root Causes of Terrorism.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gus Martin, Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2003), p. 67. Martin based his analysis on the works of Steven E. Barkan and Lynne L. Snowden, Collective Violence (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2001) and Jack A. Goldstone, “Introduction: The Comparative and Historical Study of Revolutions,” in Jack A. Goldstone, editor, Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative, and Historical Studies (San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Martin, Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues, p. 67.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid., p. 68.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gurr, Why Men Rebel.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    See Charles Y. Glock, "The Role of Deprivation in the Origin and Evolution of Religious Groups," in Religion and Social Conflict , R. Lee and M. E. Marty, editors (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), pp. 24-36Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Arie Kruglianski, “Inside the Terrorist Mind,” paper presented to the National Academy of Science annual meeting, Washington, DC, April 29, 2002.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Marc Sageman, “Threat Convergence: The Future of Terrorism Research” [unpublished paper prepared for the workshop on “Threat Convergence: Possible New Pathways to Proliferation - Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Weak and Failing States, April 7, 2006, Washington, DC; cited by permission].Google Scholar
  14. 14.
  15. 15.
    For an analysis of how a root causes tool developed for the engineering milieu can be applied to terrorism studies, see Robert J. Latino, “The Application of PROACT RCA to Terrorism/Counter-Terrorism Related Events,” pages 579-589 in Paul Kantor, et al, editors, Intelligence and Security Informatics, ISI 2005 (IEEE International Conference on Intelligence Security Informatics, ISI 2005, Atlanta, GA, USA, May 19-20, 2005 Proceedings] (Berlin: Springer, 2005.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    The term ‘terrorist insurgency’ is used because incidents of terrorism are not single or isolated acts but are part of a protracted rebellion that employs terrorist tactics against its stronger adversary.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Combating terrorism (CbT) is an umbrella concept incorporating anti-terrorism, which is defensively oriented, and counter-terrorism, which is offensively oriented.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    This approach is based on Robert J. Latino and Kenneth C. Latino, Root Cause Analysis: Improving Performance for Bottom-Line Results (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    In the case of Lebanon, Hizballah’s political party is part of the country’s confessional democratic political system, but a major intangible element is whether at some point it will seek to overthrow the political system and impose an Iranian-based theocracy over the country.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    This insight was suggested by Bjorgo, editor, Root Causes of Terrorism, in correspondence with the author.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua Sinai
    • 1
  1. 1.The Analysis CorporationMcLeanUSA

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