Tactical Diversity in Militant Violence
67 Pages Posted: 15 May 2015 Last revised: 10 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 5, 2017
Militant groups, like all organizations, carefully consider the tactics and strategies that they employ. In this article we assess why some militant organizations diversify into multiple tactics while others limit themselves to just one or a few. This is an important puzzle because militant organizations that employ multiple approaches to violence are more likely to stretch state defenses, achieve tactical success, and threaten state security. We theorize that militant organizations respond to external pressure by diversifying their tactics in order to ensure their survival and continued relevance, and that the primary sources of such pressure are government repression and inter-organizational competition. We find consistent support for these propositions in tests of both the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) and Minorities at Risk Organizational Behavior (MAROB) datasets. We then bolster these findings with an additional specification that employs ethnic fractionalization in the first stage of a multi-process recursive model. These findings are not only relevant for academic research, but for policy as well – while it is difficult for countries to anticipate the character of future tactical choices, they may be able to anticipate which groups will most readily diversify and thereby complicate counterterrorism efforts.
Keywords: terrorism, tactics, diversification, repression, outbidding
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