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
Date Written: 2018
“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: Suggested Citation