Organisational perspectives on terrorism
Friday June 21, 14.30 - 16.00
Session 6, Auditorium 2, Eilert Sundt building
Chair: Thomas Hegghammer
- Terrorists and Diplomats: an archive-based, bottom-up view on foreign policy and counter-terrorism - Philipp Hirsch
- Decision-making in insurgent negotiation: a comparison between the FARC and ELN in Colombia - Alexandra Phelan
- Bringing policy back: How perceptions of policy affects the risk of violent extremism - Steffen Selmer Andersen
Terrorists and Diplomats: an archive-based, bottom-up view on foreign policy and counter-terrorism
Philipp Hirsch, University of Cambridge
Research on foreign policy and terrorism in the past few years has been largely characterised by two elements: it focused on a country’s ability to counter terrorist threats in a confrontational way (legal persecution or extrajudicial killings) and used a macro-level perspective of focusing on the state level (see the debate on the US Global War on Terror). But what does counter- terrorism actually mean for the on-the-ground actors in foreign policy and is it really only confrontational?
Archival material allows us to retrace past deliberations and decision-making procedures of foreign offices and diplomats on the ground. Using the case of West Germany and Palestinian terrorism during the 1970s, I will analyse the complexity of ground-level engagement with counter-terrorism in foreign policy making. This features West German attempts to establish lines of communication with Fatah or to negotiate with the PLO to prevent attacks on German soil. Cooperation with terrorists was thus a crucial element of early counter-terrorism. Methodologically, the paper will engage with the less often employed use of archival material for terrorism research, thereby exploring further ways to expand sources of data in this area.
Decision-making in insurgent negotiation: a comparison between the FARC and ELN in Colombia
Alexandra Phelan, Monash University Australia
This paper seeks to critically examine how insurgent decision-making is shaped by organisational structure and overall strategic rationale, using Colombia as a case study. Through a comparison of FARC and ELN, it identifies how differences in insurgent hierarchy and overall political objectives influence decisions to negotiate with the Colombian government. Despite some similarities in Marxist-Leninist ideology, operating environment and command structure between these two organisations, this research argues that two key differences have impacted on the way that these groups chose to pursue negotiations. First, it argues that FARC’s vertical decision-making through binding guerrilla conferences, plenaries and command-and-control structure, and ELN’s horizontal decision-making through decentralisation and deliberation, have impacted on the way these organisations engage with the government. Second, it argues that FARC’s overall strategic rationale of the “combination of all forms of struggle” in “taking power” has demonstrated a degree of pragmatism in the organisation’s decision-making process.
On the contrary, ELN’s rationale of “popular power” has contributed to a higher degree of idealism, which has impacted on negotiating a political settlement in line with their strategic rationale. This study uses a combination of primary FARC and ELN literature, including conference, plenary and congress findings, previous interviews with former and active FARC, ELN, AUC and M-19 leaders and members, and secondary literature to argue that these two aforementioned differences have contributed to FARC reaching a final settlement with the Colombian government in 2016, whilst the ELN continues to pursue precarious negotiations.
Bringing policy back: How perceptions of policy affects the risk of violent extremism
Steffen Selmer Andersen, Aarhus University
A conventional wisdom regarding violent extremism is that the phenomenon has many causes, including sociological, psychological and socio-psychological factors. However, one of the primary components of state stability is that citizens consider those in power and their policy as just and legitimate. Citizens are not likely to comply with government policy or respect state authorities if they perceive the state as illegitimate. Thus, in theory, perceptions of policy as illegitimate should play an important role in the risk of violent extremism, as Ehud Sprinzak noted already in 1991. He urged scholars to investigate this potential causal link. However, few followed this instigation. With this in mind, this study explores if perceived policy illegitimacy affects the risk of violent extremism, and under which circumstances this risk is more pertinent. The study investigates the question through an experimental survey of a representative sample of the Danish population in terms of gender, age and socioeconomic status. The survey manipulates perceived policy legitimacy to identify causal effects on behavioral intentions, violent mind-set and support for terrorism. Consequently, this study adds both empirically and theoretically to the existing literature by ‘bringing policy back’ into the study of violent extremism with potentially substantial policy implications.