A Quantitative Analysis of Insurgent Frames, Claims, and Networks in Iraq

37 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 20 Sep 2011

See all articles by Michael Gabbay

Michael Gabbay

University of Washington

Ashley Thirkill-Mackelprang

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2011


Although the fundamental importance of the political dimension of insurgencies is widely accepted, there has been little effort to develop a dedicated theory of what is the most central political observable of insurgents – their rhetoric. We propose a theoretical framework that addresses three key features of insurgent rhetoric: (1) ideologies as represented by “conflict frames,” which consist of the in-groups and out-groups in insurgent discourse; (2) operational claims of attacks; and (3) publicly declared tactical cooperation with other insurgent groups. Quantitative representations of these features are constructed and empirically implemented on the rhetoric of Iraqi insurgent groups from 2003-2009. Our framework considers a group’s conflict frame as a form of master organizing logic by which the group seeks the conflict to be understood; a group’s operational claims are a way of establishing its action-oriented character and serve to reinforce its conflict frame. Accordingly, we expect that group conflict frames should be broadly consistent with their targeting portfolios – that is, the types of target classes which they claim to attack. This hypothesis is quantitatively supported by significant correlations between conflict frame and targeting portfolio variables. Additionally, in situations of intense factional competition, the base of active insurgency supporters is a prime audience for insurgent rhetoric, and so we also contend that a group’s conflict frame should reflect the social identities of its desired constituency among the active base. This hypothesis is supported by correlation of group conflict frames with structure in the network of declared joint operations between groups. Our research demonstrates the ability to meaningfully quantify insurgent rhetoric and the importance of rhetoric as a tool for revealing insight into insurgent factional structure and dynamics.

Keywords: insurgency, rhetoric, social network analysis, Iraq

Suggested Citation

Gabbay, Michael and Thirkill-Mackelprang, Ashley, A Quantitative Analysis of Insurgent Frames, Claims, and Networks in Iraq (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1900770

Michael Gabbay (Contact Author)

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Ashley Thirkill-Mackelprang

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics