Honor Among Thieves: Understanding Rhetorical and Material Cooperation Among Militant Groups
70 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 26, 2020
Cooperation among militant organizations contributes to capability, but also to present security risks. As a consequence, for cooperation to persist when it is needed most, militant groups must have means of committing to cooperation even in the context of substantial state repression. We posit that shared ideology plays this role. Specifically, shared ideology aids cooperation by lengthening the shadow of the future, facilitating monitoring and enforcement, leveraging pre-existing authority structures, and fostering trust. We test this theory using new, comprehensive, time-series data on all relationships between militant organizations from 1950-2016, which we introduce here. Results show that when groups share an ideology, and especially a religion, they become more likely to cooperate materially as repression increases. By contrast, commitment is more difficult to sustain in rhetorical alliances. These findings help contextualize important existing research that suggests the connections between violent, non-state actors strongly shape their tactical and strategic behavior.
Keywords: Militant Groups, Alliances, Cooperation, Terrorism, State Repression
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