Discussion Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
The Inadvertent Effects of Democracy on Terrorist Group Emergence
Why are terrorist groups prevalent in democracies? I argue that the motivation for terrorist group proliferation in democracies can be explained by intergroup dynamics, with terrorist groups of various ideologies competing with one another for limited agenda space within the democracy. In order to test my hypotheses, I conduct a cross-national, longitudinal analysis of 119 countries for the period 1975–97, using participation competition and intergroup competition as the key independent variables and the number of emerging terrorist groups as the dependent variable. I find support for the hypothesis that intergroup competition, motivated by the competitiveness of the political regime, explains an increase in terrorist groups. I also find preliminary support for the notion that the relationship is curvilinear—that the most competitive and least competitive polities produce the largest number of new groups. In light of the current emphasis on terrorism and its impacts on global security, officials must take into account intergroup dynamics in order to derive effective counterterrorism policies.
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