In the introduction to her edited volume Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, Klejda Mulaj notes that, while political science scholarship has extensively examined non-state actors (most notably those whose activities are primarily economic), violent non-state actors (VNSAs) “have only recently received sustained interest amongst academic and policy circles.” The study of VNSAs is thus a young and developing academic field, and scholars examining VNSAs will experience both the joys and also the pitfalls of working on a relatively new topic. The theoretical literature is highly uneven, with some extraordinarily well developed concepts mixed with a battery of assumptions that the field may no longer adhere to in four or five years.
This semester I’m teaching a course on violent non-state actors for Georgetown University’s security studies program, the first such class that the program has offered (although it has offered courses examining terrorism and counterterrorism for many years). A number of colleagues have expressed interest in seeing my syllabus, or having me provide a reading list. Thus, to assist other scholars with an interest in VNSAs, I’ve compiled the following reading list, largely based on my course syllabus. The inclusion of a particular work does not constitute an endorsement (which should be evident to those who remember my reaction to Pape and Feldman’s Cutting the Fuse), but it means that it’s part of the relevant discussion that scholars should be having.
Part One: Theoretical Foundations
I. Violent Non-State Actors in Context
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, “Terrorism and the Coming Decade,” Global Brief, Oct. 2011.
Derek Jones, Understanding the Form, Function, and Logic of Clandestine Insurgent and Terrorist Networks (Joint Special Operations University, 2012).
Mulaj, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, chapter 1.
Jacob Shapiro & Nils B. Weidmann, “Is the Phone Mightier than the Sword?: Cell Phones and Insurgent Violence in Iraq,” Dec. 18, 2011.
Lisa Stampnitzky, “Disciplining an Unruly Field: Terrorism Experts and Theories of Scientific/Intellectual Production,” Qualitative Sociology 34 (2011):1–19.
II. Defining Violent Non-State Actors and Understanding Their Strategy
Ivan Arreguín-Toft, “How the Weak Win Wars,” International Security 26:1 (2001).
Jack A. Goldstone, “Toward a Fourth Generation of Revolutionary Theory,” Annual Review of Political Science (2001): 139-187.
Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (Columbia University Press, 2006), chapter 1.
Carlo Morselli, “Assessing Vulnerable and Strategic Positions in a Criminal Network,” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 26 (2010).
Nicholas Sambanis, “What is Civil War? Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an Operational Definition,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 48:6 (2004): 814‐58.
The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (2007), pp. 3-34.
Ana M. Arjona & Stathis N. Kalyvas, Rebelling Against Rebellion: Comparing Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Recruitment (2008).
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, “A Blind Spot,” Pragati, Nov. 2, 2012.
John Knefel, “Everything You’ve Been Told About Radicalization is Wrong,” Rolling Stone, May 6, 2013.
Clark McCauley & Sophia Moskalenko, Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Peter R. Neumann, “The Trouble with Radicalization,” International Affairs 89:4 (2013): 873-93.
Robert Pape & James K. Feldman, Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism & How to Stop It (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010).
Patrick Van Inwegen, Understanding Revolution (2011), chapters 1, 4-7.
PART TWO: CASE STUDIES IN VIOLENT NON-STATE ACTORS
IV. Al-Qaeda through 2011
Juan Carlos Antúnez & Ioannis Tellidis, “The Power of Words: The Deficient Terminology Surrounding Islam-Related Terrorism,” Critical Studies in Terrorism (2013).
Ryan Evans, Peter Neumann & Raffaello Pantucci, “Locating al-Qaeda’s Center of Gravity: The Role of Middle Managers,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 34:9 (2011).
Leah Farrall, “How al-Qaeda Works,” Foreign Affairs 90:2, Mar./Apr. 2011.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Bin Laden’s Legacy (Wiley, 2011), chapters 1-6, 9-10.
Brian A. Jackson & Bryce Loidolt, “Considering al-Qa’ida’s Innovation Doctrine: From Strategic Texts to ‘Innovation in Practice,’” Terrorism and Political Violence 25:2 (2013): 284-310.
Mulaj, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, chapter 10.
K. Payne, “Building the Base: Al-Qaeda’s Focoist Strategy,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 34:2 (2011).
V. The Arab Uprisings and Al-Qaeda
Hisham Abdelbaki, “The Arab Spring: Do We Need a New Theory?” Modern Economy 4 (2013): 187-96.
Daniel Byman, “Terrorism After the Revolutions: How Secular Uprisings Could Help (or Hurt) Jihadists,” Foreign Affairs 90:3 (2011).
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia’s Long Game: Dawa, Hisba, and Jihad (ICCT—The Hague, 2013).
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Tara Vassefi, “Perceptions of the Arab Spring Within the Salafi-Jihadi Movement,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 35 (2012).
Fawaz Gerges, “The Rise and Fall of al-Qaeda: Debunking the Terrorism Narrative,” Huffington Post, Jan. 3, 2012.
Bruce Hoffman, “Al Qaeda’s Uncertain Future,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 36:8 (2013): 635-53.
William McCants, “Al-Qaeda’s Challenge: The Jihadists’ War with Islamist Democrats,” Foreign Affairs, Sept./Oct. 2011.
VI. Nationalist Groups
Martyn Frampton, “Dissident Irish Republican Violence: A Resurgent Threat?” The Political Quarterly 83:2 (Apr.–June 2012).
Judith Matloff, “Basque-ing in Peace,” World Policy Journal 29:3 (2012): 81–88.
Mulaj, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, chapters 3-5.
James A. Piazza, “Is Islamist Terrorism More Dangerous?: An Empirical Study of Group Ideology, Organization, and Goal Structure,” Terrorism and Political Violence, 21:1 (2009): 62-88.
Neil A. Smith, “Understanding Sri Lanka’s Defeat of the Tamil Tigers,” Joint Force Quarterly 59 (2010).
John Thompson, “Hosting Terrorism: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Canada,” in Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Linda Frum eds., Terror in the Peaceable Kingdom (2012).
VII. Hamas and Hizballah
Eitan Azani, “Hezbollah’s Strategy of ‘Walking on the Edge’: Between Political Game and Political Violence,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 35:11 (2012): 741-59.
Nadia Baranovich & Ravichandran Moorthy, “Terror Strategies in the Israel-Palestine Conflict: An Analysis of Hezbollah and Hamas,” IEPDR 5:2 (2011): 229-36.
Hillel Frisch, “Strategic Change in Terrorist Movements: Lessons from Hamas,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 32:12 (2009): 1049-1065.
Mona Harb & Reinoud Leenders, “Know Thy Enemy: Hizbullah, ‘Terrorism’ and the Politics of Perception,” Third World Quarterly 26:1 (2005).
Baudouin Long, “The Hamas Agenda: How Has it Changed?” Middle East Policy 17:4 (2010): 131-43.
Mulaj, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, chapters 7-8.
VIII. Drug and Criminal Cartels
Robert J. Bunker & John P. Sullivan, “Cartel Evolution Revisited: Third Phase Cartel Potentials and Alternative Futures in Mexico,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 21:1 (2010): 30-54.
Sylvia M. Longmire & John P. Longmire. “Redefining Terrorism: Why Mexican Drug Trafficking is More Than Just Organized Crime,” Journal of Strategic Security 1:1 (2008): 35-52.
Carlo Morselli, Cynthia Giguère & Katia Petit, “The Efficiency/Security Trade-Off in Criminal Networks,” Social Networks 29 (2007): 143–53.
Mulaj, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, chapter 2.
John T. Picarelli, “Osama bin Corleone? Vito the Jackal? Framing Threat Convergence Through an Examination of Transnational Organized Crime and International Terrorism,” Terrorism and Political Violence 24:2 (2012): 180-98.
Bilal Y. Saab & Alexandra W. Taylor, “Criminality and Armed Groups: A Comparative Study of FARC and Paramilitary Groups in Colombia,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 32:6 (2009): 455-75.
Graham H. Turbiville Jr, “Firefights, Raids, and Assassinations: Tactical Forms of Cartel Violence and Their Underpinnings,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 21:1 (2010): 123-144.
IX. Private Military Corporations
Seden Akcinaroglu & Elizabeth Radziszewski, “Private Military Companies, Opportunities, and Termination of Civil Wars in Africa,” Journal on Conflict Resolution (2012).
Deane-Peter Baker & James Pattison, “The Principled Case for Employing Private Military and Security Companies in Interventions for Human Rights Purposes,” Journal of Applied Philosophy 29:1 (2012).
Christopher Kinsey, “Problematising the Role of Private Security Companies in Small Wars,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 18:4 (2007): 584–614.
Mulaj, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, chapter 18.
Ulrich Petersohn, “The Other Side of the COIN: Private Security Companies and Counterinsurgency Operations,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 34:10 (2011): 782–801.
X. Non-State Actors in the Cyber Realm
Alinta Krauth, “Anonymous in Portmanteaupia,” Social Alternatives 31:2 (2012): 27-32.
Noah Hampson, “Hacktivism: A New Breed Of Protests in a Networked World,” Boston College International & Comparative Law Review, Spring 2012, pp. 511-42.
Charlotte Philby, “The Tor System: Welcome to the Dark Internet Where You Can Search in Secret,” Independent, June 10, 2013.
Peter W. Singer, “The Cyber Terror Bogeyman,” Brookings Institute, Nov. 2012.
Simon Springer et al., “Leaky Geopolitics: The Ruptures and Transgressions of WikiLeaks,” Geopolitics 17 (2012): 681-711.
XI. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia
Gartenstein-Ross, Bin Laden’s Legacy, chapters 7-8.
Vanessa M. Gezari, “How to Read Afghanistan,” New York Times, Aug. 10, 2013.
Thomas Johnson, “Taliban Adaptations and Innovations,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 24:1 (2013): 3–27.
Thomas H. Johnson & Matthew C. DuPee, “Analysing the New Taliban Code of Conduct (Layeha): An Assessment of Changing Perspectives and Strategies of the Afghan Taliban,” Central Asian Survey (2012).
Mulaj, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, chapters 9, 11, 16.
Antonio Giustozzi, “Hearts, Minds, and the Barrel of a Gun: the Taliban’s Shadow Government,” Prism (2012).
Oscar Gakuo Mwangi, “State collapse, Al-Shabaab, Islamism, and Legitimacy in Somalia,” Politics, Religion & Ideology 13:4 (2013): 513–27.
XII. VNSAs and African Politics
Jutta Bakonyi & Kirsti Stuvøy, “Violence & Social Order Beyond the State: Somalia and Angola,” Review of African Political Economy (2005): 359-382.
Danny Hoffman, The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia (Duke University Press, 2011).
Kimberly Marten, “Warlordism in Comparative Perspective,” International Security 31:3 (Winter 2006/07): 41-73.
Mulaj, Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics, chapters 12-15.
William Reno, “War, Markets, and the Reconfiguration of West Africa’s Weak States,” Comparative Politics 29:4 (1997): 493-510.
PART THREE: THE NATION-STATE’S RESPONSE TO VNSA’S
Tore Bjørgo and John Horgan eds., Leaving Terrorism Behind: Individual and Collective Disengagement (London and New York: Routledge, 2009).
Audrey Kurth Cronin & James M. Ludes eds., Attacking Terrorism: Elements of a Grand Strategy (Georgetown University Press, 2004).
Audrey Kurth Cronin, How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns (Princeton University Press, 2011).
Jason Fritz, “Counterinsurgency is Not the Problem,” War on the Rocks, Aug. 14, 2013.
Bryan Groves, “America’s Trajectory in the Long War: Redirecting Our Efforts Toward Strategic Effects Versus Simply Tactical Gains,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 36:1 (2013): 26–48.
Jason Rineheart, “Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency,” Perspectives on Terrorism 5:5 (2010).
Thomas & Casebeer, “Violent Non-State Actors: Countering Dynamic Systems,” Strategic Insights (Mar. 2004).
Peter Turchin, “A Theory for Formation of Large Empires” (2009).