Improving the U.S. Military’s Understanding of Unstable Environments Vulnerable to Violent Extremist Groups

Improving the U.S. Military’s Understanding of Unstable Environments Vulnerable to Violent Extremist Groups: Insights from Social Science

David E. Thaler
Ryan Andrew Brown
Gabriella C. Gonzalez
Blake W. Mobley
Parisa Roshan
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: RAND Corporation
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  • Book Info
    Improving the U.S. Military’s Understanding of Unstable Environments Vulnerable to Violent Extremist Groups
    Book Description:

    For over a decade, operations associated with irregular warfare have placed large demands on U.S. ground forces and have led to development of new Army and Joint doctrine. This report helps analysts identify and assess twelve key factors that create and perpetuate environments susceptible to insurgency, terrorism, and other extremist violence and instability to inform military decisions on allocation of analytic and security assistance resources.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8423-1
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Abstract
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. Figures, Tables, and Box
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Despite doctrinal treatment of conflicts categorized as “irregular warfare” (IW), defense analysts have found it challenging to identify what underlying factors matter in particular conflicts or unstable environments. As a result, they have had difficulty developing analytic games and models that explore these factors and identify means of ameliorating their contribution to conflict. The objective of this report is to help defense analysts identify and assess key factors that create and perpetuate environments in which destabilizing conditions arise—and become vulnerable to insurgency, terrorism, and other extremist violence—and to enable them to inform military decisions on allocating resources globally...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Gaining Insights into Unstable, Conflict-Prone Environments Through Social Science Lenses
    (pp. 5-16)

    The social sciences provide a theoretical base to explain how and in what ways unstable, violent environments emerge and propagate. The purpose of this chapter is to briefly describe the major theories that sociology, anthropology, and other fields use to study unstable environments, including what causes conflict, insurgency, or terrorism by violent nonstate actors. We start with brief descriptions of relevant sociological theories and then address anthropological theories based on a literature review of relevant publications. We also briefly touch on key theories and concepts explored in political science and microeconomics that contribute to our understanding of these environments. We...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Factors Associated with Environments Vulnerable to Conflict
    (pp. 17-38)

    The previous chapter described anthropological, sociological, and related insights into the processes by which violence and instability are created and maintained over time (sometimes leading to intervention through IW operations). To formalize these insights from the abstract to the concrete and to ground them in particular examples, we developed a set of 12 key factors to describe these insights and their connection to instability. Our synthesis of the literature produced the following factors:

    Factor 1: Level of external support for violent, nonstate groups

    Factor 2: Extent to which the government is considered illegitimate or ineffective by the population

    Factor 3:...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Relationships Among Factors: Peru and Nepal Case Studies
    (pp. 39-46)

    The 12 factors identified above are neither static nor disconnected; they change over time and interact with one another differently in specific contexts or conflicts. In this chapter, we describe how some of the factors identified might have interacted in two conflicts selected by the sponsor of this research: the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) in Peru and the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. This allowed us to dig deeply into the historical data on these conflicts to determine how our list of factors affected the genesis, maintenance, and resolution of each conflict. Most importantly, it allowed us to analyze the interrelationships...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Utilizing the Factors for Analysis
    (pp. 47-58)

    This chapter identifies potential metrics that could be used by analysts to detect the presence and assess the strength of each factor in a given context and postulates analytic contexts in which the factors can be employed. Armed with means to measure factors in or across particular countries, analysts could identify local vulnerabilities to the emergence and sustainment of insurgent or terrorist groups and potentially prioritize factors that are of greatest concern. Analysts can use this information to support development of assumptions for wargames and other analyses based on social science research. They can also help inform decisionmakers on the...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Conclusion
    (pp. 59-62)

    This study provided a review of sources of understanding about what instigates and perpetuates unstable environments susceptible to insurgency and terrorism—in which IW may be engaged—from the fields of sociology, cultural anthropology, political science, and related fields of social science. The study identified and analyzed factors, assessed levels of consensus among experts about their salience in those environments, and provided examples in which the factors can be applied. It also proposed metrics for each factor that could support analyses of environments and assessment of countries and regions based on the relative strength of the factors. These research results...

  15. APPENDIX A Factors from Joint and Army Doctrine
    (pp. 63-66)
  16. APPENDIX B Factor Matrix
    (pp. 67-84)
  17. APPENDIX C Cross-Matching 12 Factors with RAND Case Studies on 30 Counterinsurgencies
    (pp. 85-88)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 89-96)