Publications

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Afghanistan

Research on insurgency has been invigorated this past decade by better data, improved methods, and the urgency of understanding active engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. This empiricists’ insurgency reinforces a classic literature on the essential role of civilians while challenging older theories about how they affect conflict outcomes. It...

List and endorsement experiments are becoming increasingly popular among social scientists as indirect survey techniques for sensitive questions. When studying issues such as racial prejudice and support for militant groups, these survey methodologies may improve the validity of measurements by reducing non-response and social desirability...

How are civilian attitudes toward combatants affected by wartime victimization? Are these effects conditional on which combatant inflicted the harm? We investigate the determinants of wartime civilian attitudes towards combatants using a survey experiment across 204 villages in five Pashtun-dominated provinces of Afghanistan—the heart of the...

Current military doctrine emphasizes the importance of development spending in reducing insurgent violence. Using data from three distinct development programs, the Afghan National Solidarity Program, USAID’s Local Governance and Community Development Program, and the U.S. military's Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), combined with...

How do terrorist groups control their members? Do the tools groups use to monitor their operatives and enforce discipline create security vulnerabilities that governments can exploit? The Terrorist's Dilemma is the first book to systematically examine the great variation in how terrorist groups are structured. Employing a broad range of agency...

The Afghanistan war of the 21st century began when the global terrorist organization, al Qaeda, attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. At that time, al Qaeda's main bases were located in Afghanistan, under the auspices of the Taliban government, then in control of much of the country. Since the attack (known as 9/11), the United...

This study analyzes the effects of US drone strikes on terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some theories suggest that drone strikes anger Muslim populations, and that consequent blowback incites Islamist terrorism. Others argue that drone strikes disrupt and degrade terrorist organizations, reducing their ability to conduct attacks. We use...

We investigate the relationship between violence and economic risk preferences in Afghanistan combining: (i) a two-part experimental procedure identifying risk preferences, violations of Expected Utility, and specific preferences for certainty; (ii) controlled recollection of fear based on established methods from psychology; and (iii)...

Terrorist groups repeatedly take actions that are ultimately politically counter-productive. Sometimes these are the result of deliberate calculations that happen to be mistaken - Al-Qaeda’s decision to conduct the 9/11 attacks is the most obvious example of an ultimately self-defeating operation. Sometimes they reflect the challenges groups...

What explains local variation in electoral manipulation in countries with ongoing internal conflict? The theory of election fraud developed in this article relies on the candidates’ loyalty networks as the agents manipulating the electoral process. It predicts (i) that the relationship between violence and fraud follows an inverted U-shape and...

Elections in developing countries commonly fail to deliver accountability because of manipulation, often involving collusion between corrupt election officials and political candidates. We report the results of an experimental evaluation of Quick Count Photo Capture—a monitoring technology designed to detect the illegal sale of votes by corrupt...

How do radical religious sects run such deadly terrorist organizations? Hezbollah, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Taliban all began as religious groups dedicated to piety and charity. Yet once they turned to violence, they became horribly potent, executing campaigns of terrorism deadlier than those of their secular rivals.

In Radical,...

Most aid spending by governments seeking to rebuild social and political order is based on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting potential recruits. The logic is that gainfully employed young men are less likely to participate in political violence, implying a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in locations with active...

Colombia

This paper explores the causes of displacement during civil wars. Recent scholarship has shown that conventional civil wars – those in which forces are relatively balanced – and irregular civil wars – those in which one side is substantially stronger than the other – exhibit different patterns of violence. We hypothesize that, while the mode of...

Nearly half of all countries emerging from civil conflict relapse into war within a few years of signing a peace agreement. The postwar trajectories of armed groups vary from organizational cohesion to dissolution, demilitarization to remilitarization. In Organized Violence after Civil War, Daly analyzes evidence from thirty-seven militia...

What determines the recidivism of ex-combatants from armed conflicts? In postconflict settings around the world, there has been growing interest in reintegration programs to prevent ex-combatants from returning to illegal activities or to armed groups, yet little is known about who decides to “go bad.” We evaluate explanations for recidivism...

What explains the social reintegration of ex-combatants from armed conflicts? Community-level programs to reintegrate ex-combatants into society are based on the theory that the participation of ex-combatants in their communities can promote reconciliation and minimize recidivism to illegal activities. We evaluate community and security-related...

This article seeks to explain sub-national, spatial, and temporal variation in the return to violence following civil war termination in Colombia. In 1958, La Violencia ended in negotiated settlement, but peace was short-lived with violence recurring within several years. However, violence resumed in only 45% of the municipalities affected by...

What are the varying roles that norms play to either enable or constrain violence in armed conflict settings? The article examines this question by drawing on experiences from com- munities and armed groups in Colombia and Syria. It begins by presenting an explanation of how norms of violence and nonviolence may arise within communities and...

Can local organizations give civilians the capacity to protect themselves from civil war violence? Civilians have traditionally been considered powerless when facing armed groups but new research suggests organized communities may promote security through nonviolent strategies such as resolving disputes between neighbors and managing relations...

Can targeted land reform reduce levels of civil war conflict by mitigating the factors that contribute to rural rebellion? This paper uses new micro-level data on land reform and insurgency at the municipal level from Colombia from 1960-2000, a country with high rates of land inequality and informal land ownership, to test whether land reform...

This article highlights a nefarious effect of elections during civil wars by demonstrating that they can facilitate the displacement of civilians. In contrast to the perception of displacement as haphazard, the author argues that armed groups displace strategically when they attempt to gain control over a territory, and where they have...

Iraq

Foundations of the Islamic State: Management, Money, and Terror in Iraq, 2005–2010 draws from more than 140 recently declassified documents to present a comprehensive examination of the organization, territorial designs, management, personnel policies, and finances of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI), both...

Research on insurgency has been invigorated this past decade by better data, improved methods, and the urgency of understanding active engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. This empiricists’ insurgency reinforces a classic literature on the essential role of civilians while challenging older theories about how they affect conflict outcomes. It...

We welcome the opportunity to respond to Jon Lindsay and Austin Long’s and John
Hagan, Joshua Kaiser, and Anna Hansen’s comments on “Testing the Surge”. Our critics
disagree not only with us, but also with each other: Lindsay and Long argue that we
understate the Sunni Awakening’s importance; Hagan et al. think we exaggerate...

How do terrorist groups control their members? Do the tools groups use to monitor their operatives and enforce discipline create security vulnerabilities that governments can exploit? The Terrorist's Dilemma is the first book to systematically examine the great variation in how terrorist groups are structured. Employing a broad range of agency...

Participating in insurgency is almost always physically risky, raising questions about what motivates people to do so. Political economy theories of crime, insurgency, and rebellion posit some opportunity cost constraint so that the net value of participation must be at least as good as the next best option. That net value may con- tain a...

Most interpretations of prevalent counterinsurgency theory imply that increasing government services will reduce rebel violence. Empirically, however, development programs and economic activity sometimes yield increased violence. Using new panel data on development spending in Iraq, we show that violence reducing effects of aid are greater when...

The implementation of the US military surge in Iraq coincided with a significant reduction in ethnic violence. Two explanations have been proposed for this result: The first is that the troop surge worked by increasing counterinsurgent capacity, whereas the second argument is that ethnic unmixing and the establishment of relatively homogenous...

Terrorist groups repeatedly take actions that are ultimately politically counter-productive. Sometimes these are the result of deliberate calculations that happen to be mistaken - Al-Qaeda’s decision to conduct the 9/11 attacks is the most obvious example of an ultimately self-defeating operation. Sometimes they reflect the challenges groups...

Why did violence decline in Iraq in 2007? Many credit the “Surge,” or the program of U.S. reinforcements and doctrinal changes that began in January 2007. Others cite the voluntary insurgent stand-downs of the Sunni Awakening or say the violence had simply run its course with the end of a wave of sectarian cleansing; still others credit an...

Does improved communication provided by modern cellphone technology affect the rise or fall of violence during insurgencies? A priori predictions are ambiguous; introducing cellphones can enhance insurgent communications but can also make it easier for the population to share information with counterinsurgents and creates opportunities for...

Terrorist groups repeatedly include operatives of varying commitment and often rely on a common set of security-reducing bureaucratic tools to manage these individuals. This is puzzling in that covert organizations are commonly thought to screen their operatives very carefully and pay a particularly heavy price for record keeping. The authors...

Can civilians caught in civil wars reward and punish armed actors for their behavior? If so, do armed actors reap strategic benefits from treating civilians well and pay for treating them poorly? Using precise geo-coded data on violence in Iraq from 2004 through 2009 we show that both sides are punished for the collateral damage they inflict....

We develop and test an economic theory of insurgency motivated by the informal literature and by recent military doctrine. We model a three-way contest between violent rebels, a government seeking to minimize violence by mixing service provision and coercion, and civilians deciding whether to share information about insurgents. We test the...

How do radical religious sects run such deadly terrorist organizations? Hezbollah, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Taliban all began as religious groups dedicated to piety and charity. Yet once they turned to violence, they became horribly potent, executing campaigns of terrorism deadlier than those of their secular rivals.

In Radical,...

Most aid spending by governments seeking to rebuild social and political order is based on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting potential recruits. The logic is that gainfully employed young men are less likely to participate in political violence, implying a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in locations with active...

Mexico

In 2006 the Mexican government launched an aggressive campaign to weaken drug- trafficking organizations (DTOs). The security policies differed significantly from those of previous administrations in the use of a leadership strategy (the targeting for arrest of the highest levels or core leadership of criminal networks). While these strategies...

We study the governance of public good provision in poor communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. We estimate the effect of usos y costumbres—a form of participatory democracy prevalent in indigenous communities—on the provision of local public goods. Because governance is endogenous, we address selection effects by matching on municipal characteristics...

Pakistan

This study analyzes the effects of US drone strikes on terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some theories suggest that drone strikes anger Muslim populations, and that consequent blowback incites Islamist terrorism. Others argue that drone strikes disrupt and degrade terrorist organizations, reducing their ability to conduct attacks. We use...

This article presents the BFRS Political Violence in Pakistan dataset addressing its design, collection, and utility. BFRS codes a broad range of information on 28,731 incidents of political violence from January 1, 1988 through May 2011. For each incident...

How natural disasters affect politics in developing countries is an important question given the fragility of fledgling democratic institutions in some of these countries as well as likely increased exposure to natural disasters over time due to climate change. Research in sociology and psychology suggests traumatic events can inspire pro-...

A longstanding research tradition on political culture argues that greater support for core liberal values leads to a rejection of destructive political activities and reduced support for violent politics. In this vein, many contemporary analysts of security policy contend that a lack of democratic values in the Middle East promotes the...

Around the world, publics confronted with terrorism have debated whether Islamic faith gives rise to a uniquely virulent strain of non-state violence targeted at civilians. These discussions almost always conceive of “Islam” in general terms, not clearly defining what is meant by Islamic religious faith. We engaged this debate by designing and...

Terrorist groups repeatedly take actions that are ultimately politically counter-productive. Sometimes these are the result of deliberate calculations that happen to be mistaken - Al-Qaeda’s decision to conduct the 9/11 attacks is the most obvious example of an ultimately self-defeating operation. Sometimes they reflect the challenges groups...

Political scientists have long been interested in citizens’ support level for such actors as ethnic minorities, militant groups, and authoritarian regimes. Attempts to use direct questioning in surveys, however, have largely yielded unreliable measures of these attitudes as they are contaminated by social desirability bias and high nonresponse...

Policy debates on strategies to end extremist violence frequently cite poverty as a root cause of support for the perpetrating groups. There is little evidence to support this contention, particularly in the Pakistani case. Pakistan’s urban poor are more exposed to the negative externalities of militant violence and may in fact be less...

We use data from an innovative nationally representative survey of 6,000 Pakistanis in April 2009 to study beliefs about political Islam, Sharia, the legitimacy and efficacy of jihad, and attitudes towards specific militant organizations. These issues are at the forefront of U.S. policy towards Pakistan. Four results shed new light on the...

Islamist militancy in Pakistan has long stood atop the international security agenda, yet there is almost no systematic evidence about why individual Pakistanis support Islamist militant organizations. An analysis of data from a nationally representative survey of urban Pakistanis refutes four influential conventional wisdoms about why...

Philippines

Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs are an increasingly popular tool for reducing poverty in conflict-affected areas. Despite their growing popularity, there is limited evidence on how CCT programs affect conflict and theoretical predictions are ambiguous. We estimate the effect of conditional cash transfers on civil conflict in the...

We estimate the causal effect of a large development program on conflict in the Philippines through a regression discontinuity design that exploits an arbitrary poverty threshold used to assign eligibility for the program. We find that barely eligible municipalities experienced a large increase in conflict casualties compared to barely...

How do radical religious sects run such deadly terrorist organizations? Hezbollah, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Taliban all began as religious groups dedicated to piety and charity. Yet once they turned to violence, they became horribly potent, executing campaigns of terrorism deadlier than those of their secular rivals.

In Radical,...

Most aid spending by governments seeking to rebuild social and political order is based on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting potential recruits. The logic is that gainfully employed young men are less likely to participate in political violence, implying a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in locations with active...

Others

Rebel groups exhibit significant variation in their treatment of civilians, with profound humanitarian consequences. This book proposes a new theory of rebel behavior and cohesion based on the internal dynamics of rebel groups. Rebel groups are more likely to protect civilians and remain unified when rebel leaders can offer cash payments and...

This paper explores the causes of displacement during civil wars. Recent scholarship has shown that conventional civil wars – those in which forces are relatively balanced – and irregular civil wars – those in which one side is substantially stronger than the other – exhibit different patterns of violence. We hypothesize that, while the mode of...

Beliefs about the long-run economic prospects of Daesh, often known as the Islamic State or ISIL, inform international decisions over how to counteract the group. We analyze Daesh as an economic entity, demonstrating first that the amount of productive activity in areas it controls is small and second that its institutions are inimical to...

Theories of conflict diffusion have long argued that domestic conflict spreads from one country to others. One set of mechanisms explaining this relies on material flows across borders that incite violence in neighboring countries. Another set of mechanisms, however, relies on informational flows. Information about ongoing violence elsewhere...

Politically-driven corruption is a pervasive challenge for development, but evidence of its welfare effects is scarce. Using data from a major rural road construction programme in India we document political influence in a setting where politicians have no official role in contracting decisions. Exploiting close elections to identify the causal...

When rebels provide social services, do they have more leverage negotiating the terms of a peace deal? The literature suggests service-providing groups may, on average, have a wider base of support and a more centralized organizational structure. We argue that these features deter potential spoilers from breaking away from the organization...

Irregularities plague elections in developing democracies. The international community spends hundreds of millions of dollars on election observation, with little robust evidence that it consistently improves electoral integrity. We conducted a randomized control trial to measure the effect of an intervention to detect and deter electoral...

Spatial variations in the distribution and composition of populations inform urban development, health-risk analyses, disaster relief, and more. Despite the broad relevance and importance of such data, acquiring local census estimates in a timely and accurate manner is challenging because population counts can change rapidly, are often...

A number of studies have demonstrated an empirical relation- ship between higher ambient temperatures and substate violence, which have been extrapolated to make predictions about the security implications of climate change. This literature rests on the untested assumption that the mechanism behind the temperature- conflict link is that...

Korean families belong to clan lineages, bon-guan, that originated in the imperial Joseon period, 1392–1897. We can rank bon-guan by their average Joseon status, measured by the recorded number of civil service exam passers. In the disruptions of the Japanese occupation and the Korean War it is believed many families switched their bon-guan to...

Governance delegation agreements—international treaties allowing external actors legal authority within host states for fixed terms—succeed in simple and, under certain conditions, complex state-building tasks. These deals are well institutionalized and have input legitimacy because ratification requires sufficient domestic support from a...

Modern communication technology is emerging rapidly, with tremendous social implications. The key innovations introduced by this technology include the increased pervasiveness and the rich nature of digitally transmitted information, and a new type of network structure over which it is disseminated. The articles in this special issue present...

Many of the world’s most infamous terrorist organizations demonstrate clear political aptitude, maintaining highly successful political parties while simultaneously carrying out terrorist attacks. Yet the relationship between terrorism and a group’s political fortune is unclear. Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah appear to have gained significant...

Research on insurgency has been invigorated this past decade by better data, improved methods, and the urgency of understanding active engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. This empiricists’ insurgency reinforces a classic literature on the essential role of civilians while challenging older theories about how they affect conflict outcomes. It...

When and why ethnic groups rebel remains a central puzzle in the civil war literature. In this paper we examine how different types of inequalities affect both an ethnic group’s willingness and opportunity to fight. We argue that political and economic inter-group inequalities motivate ethnic groups to initiate a fight against the state, and...

When studying sensitive issues including corruption, prejudice, and sexual behavior, re- searchers have increasingly relied upon indirect questioning techniques to mitigate such known problems of direct survey questions as underreporting and nonresponse. However, there have been surprisingly few empirical validation studies of these indirect...

This paper examines how tribes, the dominant political structure in rural areas of many developing countries, can affect the allocation of publicly provided goods. I create a dataset containing more than 4000 unique Yemeni local tribes and study their relationship with the public provision of educational goods. I demonstrate that areas with...

The literature is divided as to how ethnicity affects wartime patterns of violence in civil wars. This article conducts an assessment of the relative impact of two competing explanations for violence in Bosnia’s civil war. One account of this conflict attributes violence to the intentions of ethnic groups to create ethnically homogenous...

Suppose that international sharing risk—worldwide or with large numbers of countries—were costly. How much risk-sharing could be gained in small sets (or “pools”) of countries? To answer this question, we compute the means and variances of poolwide gross domestic product growth, for all possible pools of any size drawn from a sample of 74...

Contemporary research on civil war has largely dismissed the role of political and economic grievances, focusing instead on opportunities for conflict. However, these strong claims rest on questionable theoretical and empirical grounds. Whereas scholars have examined primarily the relationship between individual inequality and conflict, we...

Recent work has shown that the introduction of mobile communications can substantially alter the course of conflict. In Afghanistan and India targeting mobile communications is a central part of the insurgent campaigns. The opposite was true in Iraq. There insurgents instead threatened providers who did not do enough to maintain mobile phone...

We experimentally vary white foreigner presence in dictator games across 60 villages in Sierra Leone, and find that the simple presence of a white foreigner increases player contributions by 19 percent. To separate the impact of the white foreigner's race and nationality from other characteristics, we test additional predictions. First, the...

Book Review of Christopher Paul, Colin P. Clarke, and Bell Grill (2011). Victory Has a Thousand Fathers: Sources of Success in Counterinsurgency. Los Angeles: Rand Corporation.

Recent years have seen the United States and its allies embroiled in major counter-insurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, and lesser operations in such countries as Yemen and Somalia. These battles against local insurgencies are only the latest in a string of such conflicts that have erupted in nearly every developing region since the...

The increasing integration of qualitative and quantitative analysis has largely focused on the benefits of in-depth case studies for enhancing our understanding of statistical results. This article goes in the other direction to show how some very straightforward quantitative methods drawn from information theory can strengthen comparative case...

We analyze a seemingly simple question: When should government share private information that may be useful to terrorists? Policy makers' answer to this question has typically been “it is dangerous to share information that can potentially help terrorists.” Unfortunately, this incomplete response has motivated a detrimental increase in the...

We conducted a representative survey of Mogadishu's population—the first in 25 years—in March 2012. We overcame challenges related to lack of data and poor security with the use of remote sensing, the systematic development of local contacts through the Somali diaspora, the flexible deployment of staff, and mobile technology. This article...

After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, its twenty-seven successor states were charged with devising policies with respect to their ethnic minorities. This shock enables an analysis of the conditions that render states more likely to repress, exclude, assimilate or accommodate their minorities. One would anticipate that groups that are most ‘...

Terrorist groups repeatedly take actions that are ultimately politically counter-productive. Sometimes these are the result of deliberate calculations that happen to be mistaken - Al-Qaeda’s decision to conduct the 9/11 attacks is the most obvious example of an ultimately self-defeating operation. Sometimes they reflect the challenges groups...

How does the way in which a group organizes change the lethality of the group’s attacks? In this paper, we argue that groups organized vertically as hierarchies are likely to conduct more lethal attacks. We build our argument around three advantages inherent to centralized structures: functional differentiation, clear command and control...

Is killing or capturing insurgent leaders an effective tactic? Previous research on interstate war and counterterrorism has suggested that targeting enemy leaders does not work. Most studies of the efficacy of leadership decapitation, however, have relied on unsystematic evidence and poor research design. An analysis based on fresh evidence and...

Can rational models, once theological explanations are discredited, explain why certain radical religious rebels are so successful in perpetrating suicide attacks? The fundamental barrier to success turns out not to be recruiting suicide attackers; there is a rational basis for volunteering. Rather, the barrier is the danger of other operatives...

This paper challenges conventional views of violent religious extremism, particularly those that emphasize militant theology. We offer an alternative analysis that helps explain the persistent demand for religion, the different types of religions that naturally arise, and the special attributes of the “sectarian” type. Sects are adept at...

To what extent does the depth of ethnic cleavages play a role in the process that leads to ethnic cleansing? The question is important, as the conventional explanation for ethnic cleansing takes deep ethnic cleavages as the main exogenous variable that explains this phenomenon. The idea is that in societies where ethnic cleavages are deep,...