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Terrorism as Transnational Advocacy: An Organizational and Tactical Examination

Terrorism as Transnational Advocacy: An Organizational and Tactical Examination

This article attempts to shed light on the dynamics and machinations within terrorist organizations by incorporating a heretofore overlooked literature which is directly applicable, that of transnational advocacy networks (TANs). Terror networks have been described using every possible analogy, from multinational corporations to organized crime to the anthropomorphic classic “cut off the head, and the body will die.” In reality, terrorist organizations function in much the same way, and using many of the same techniques, as transnational advocacy networks concerned with issues like the environment or human rights. By describing these characteristics, and comparing TANs and Terror TANs (TTANs), this article aims to offer insight into the tactics and motivations that define modern, as well as the much heralded post-modern, terrorism.
There has been a growing interest in the role that networks play in facilitating terrorist tactical and strategic behavior (Arquilla and Ronfeldt 2001, 3; Tucker 2001; Zanini 1999) but the current literature on terror networks is still in its infancy. Although there has been some examination of how and why terror networks operate and adapt, overwhelmingly the literature related to this topic has been of the historical case study and anecdotal variety. Although this creates a vast body of literature from which to cull information for more theoretical studies, it does little to increase understanding beyond individual historical cases. Some important exceptions to this include the work of John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt (2001), Marc Sageman (2004), and some work that has come out of research and policy institutions like the RAND Corporation (Cragin and Daly 2004).
This article is intended to further integrate one theory of social movement networks, transnational activist networks (TANs) (Keck and Sikkink 1998, 1999) into the study of terrorist networks. This is useful for several reasons. First, the theoretical insights provided can help one to understand the advantages that networks provide terrorists and also to better understand why terrorist networks operate the way they do. Second, by adopting a model of TANS a terrorist organization can be placed into a broader framework of groups that use violence and groups that do not use violence, something that is rarely done. Finally by examining terrorist networks through the lenses of TANs the authors hope to raise questions about why some activist networks use terror and others do not. This article will first briefly examine the terrorist network literature then provide an overview of the TAN concept. It then provides six mini case studies, illustrating the ways in which terrorist networks share almost all behavioral attributes with nonviolent TANs—except the propensity to use terror. Finally, it addresses some of the issues raised by this comparison and points out key questions that need to be addressed by further research.

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Asal, Victor, and Brian Nussbaum, D. William Harrington. 2006. "Terrorism as Transnational Advocacy: An Organizational and Tactical Examination." Studies in Conflict and Terrorism (January):15-39. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10576100600959713#tabModule

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Victor Asal
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