Enemies with Benefits? Violent Rivalry and Terrorist Group Longevity
Journal of Peace Research, Forthcoming
14 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2014 Last revised: 12 Oct 2014
Date Written: August 14, 2014
Terrorist organizations often attack each other, but we know little about how this affects the involved groups. Some states encourage or turn a blind eye toward terrorist group interorganizational violence, hoping that it destroys at least one of the groups involved. This paper argues that – contrary to the wishes of such governments – violent rivalries can contribute to the longevity of participating terrorist groups. Violent rivalries encourage civilians to take a side, inspire innovation, provide new incentives to group members, and spoil peace talks. Some of these mechanisms should be especially likely between rivals of different political goals (inter-field rivalries), instead of between rivals seeking the same primary goal (intra-field rivalries). Illustrative cases in Colombia and Northern Ireland show that the theorized mechanisms occur in diverse environments. Quantitative global analysis of terrorist groups from 1987-2005, using original data on interorganizational violence, suggests that violent rivalries are generally associated with group longevity. Further analysis suggests that when rivalries are disaggregated by type, only inter-field rivalries are positively associated with group longevity. Participation in violent rivalry is never found to increase a group’s chance of ending. The results suggest the importance of studying interorganizational dynamics, and raise questions about the notion of encouraging a violent rivalry as a way to hurt an involved terrorist group.
Keywords: terrorism, terrorist organizations, event history analysis, organizational dynamics
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