The Empiricist's Insurgency

Publication Year
Annual Review of Political Science

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 provides a general framework describing “irregular” insurgencies (where government capacity exceeds rebel capacity), which is analytically cohesive and empirically tested using subnational data from multiple conflicts. The new research provides guidance on intervention design, including governance improvement, development programs, and rules of engagement. The design of interventions matters: some key evidence comes from measuring the effects of misguided policies. The framework may enable better conceived and implemented interventions, including foreign engagements with and without troop deployment, depending on the type of insurgency and mindful of political limitations. We position these findings in the literature, and highlight directions for future research, including legal aspects of countering insurgency.


Berman, E and AM Matanock, The Empiricists' Insurgency Annual Review of Political Science 2015 18:1, 443-464

Publication Topic
Publication Type
Academic Journal Article