Crimes of Terror, Counter-Terrorism, and the Unanticipated Consequences of a Militarized Incapacitation Strategy in Iraq

Social Forces, Vol. 91, No. 1, 309-346, 2018

37 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2018

See all articles by Joshua Kaiser

Joshua Kaiser

Dartmouth College; American Bar Foundation

John Hagan

Northwestern University - Department of Sociology

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

“COIN,” the counter-terrorism doctrine the U.S. used during the Iraq War, was in criminological terms overly reliant on militarized “incapacitationist” strategies. Based on a competing “societal reactions” or community-level labeling theory, we argue that COIN failed to anticipate but predictably produced state-based “legal cynicism” in Arab Sunni communities — increasing rather than decreasing politically defiant terrorist crimes. We test our hypotheses with nationally representative surveys and data on terrorist attacks collected before, during, and immediately after the 2007 Surge in U.S. troops. The Surge increased perceptions of unnecessary U.S.-led violence against Arab Sunni non-combatants, provoking cynical beliefs in Arab Sunni communities, creating local contexts in which terrorist attacks increased, and foreshadowing later advances by the Islamic State. Our findings show that oversimplified, incapacitation-oriented control tactics — in domestic policing, in COIN, or in the traditional warfare strategies that are replacing COIN — are likely to contribute to rather than reduce cycles of violence.

Keywords: Law, Cultural Sociology, Cultural Framing, Legal Cynicism, War, Collective Violence, Criminology, Neighborhood Effects, Iraq War, Terrorism

Suggested Citation

Kaiser, Joshua and Hagan, John, Crimes of Terror, Counter-Terrorism, and the Unanticipated Consequences of a Militarized Incapacitation Strategy in Iraq (2018). Social Forces, Vol. 91, No. 1, 309-346, 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3248725

Joshua Kaiser (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
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United States
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HOME PAGE: http://joshuakaiser.net

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
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John Hagan

Northwestern University - Department of Sociology ( email )

1810 Chicago Ave
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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