Adoption Capacity and the Spread of Suicide Bombing
Adoption Capacity and the Spread of Suicide Bombing: A Response to Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli, “The Spread of Military Innovations: Adoption Capacity Theory, Tactical Incentives, and the Case of Suicide Terrorism,” Security Studies 23, 3 (2014): 513-547.
9 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 13, 2015
In “The Spread of Military Innovations,” Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli question the importance of organizational factors in explaining whether violent non-state actors decide to use suicide bombing. Instead, they argue that the strategic environment faced by groups generates tactical incentives that better explain who adopts suicide bombing. While they are right to point out that tactical incentives shape the choices made by groups (a perspective shared by adoption capacity theory, the argument they criticize), their argument is based on a misunderstanding of the way that adoption capacity theory functions in the case of suicide bombing. Reassessing their evidence shows that Gilli and Gilli’s results actually demonstrate the strong robustness of adoption capacity theory, showing how organizational factors significantly influenced whether violent non-state actors adopted suicide bombing between 1981-2007. It is only their alternative measure of organization size, one inappropriate for testing adoption capacity theory, that is not significant. This reassessment also reveals new insights about the overall relationship between organizational politics and military innovation for both state and non-state actors, including the conceptual risks involved when importing ideas from the business innovation literature, and the utility of accounting for both capacity and interests in future research.
Keywords: suicide bombing, adoption capacity theory, organizational capital, terrorism
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