Last week turns out to have been a good week to bury bad news for the security services; in between Brexit mayhem and Donald Trump’s bonfire of established policy on the status of Jerusalem, the report by David Anderson QC based on MI5’s own internal deliberations sparked rather less debate than might have been expected. Anderson’s most prominent finding was that the Manchester suicide bombing by Salman Abedi on 22 May last might, possibly, have been prevented. The failure to stop Abedi at the airport on his recent return from Libya does seem striking since he had already apparently been a ‘subject of interest’ to the security services since 2014.
But there are very many potential ‘subjects of interests’ to MI5; and its agents, in turn, have to prioritise monitoring them ruthlessly. That MI5 came even slightly close to discerning Abedi’s intentions is more reassuring than if he had remained entirely unknown to them — though that observation is of precious little comfort now to the bereaved or injured, of course. For his part, the Director of MI5, Andrew Parker, was very keen to point out last week that the security services had prevented nine out of fourteen planned terrorist attacks over the last year (64%). Across both the natural and social sciences, many experts would be very happy with rates of prediction like that.
Rather less impressive at reflection on likely future consequences has been the new Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson. This week Williamson appeared to announce that government policy was now one of projected systematic extra-judicial executions against any British citizen who joined ISIS, however young or impressionable that individual might have been since ‘a dead terrorist cannot cause any harm to Britain’.
With its assumption of total accuracy in targeting and total indifference to any wider social or cultural legacies, this is policy pronouncement at its most resplendently vapid. ‘A dead terrorist cannot cause any harm to Britain?’ Really? Williamson could do worse here than simply google: ‘Bobby Sands’.
Dr Tim Wilson
Centre Director, CSTPV.
What is the connection between victimhood and involvement in terrorism and political violence? What contributions can former perpetrators of violence make in deradicalisation programmes? How can former perperators and the victims of terrorism work together on these matters? The new book by Orla Lynch and CSTPV Lecturer Javier Argomaniz brings together important contributions by scholars whose work has illuminated an under-researched dimension of terrorism to answer these questions. Indeed, while the perpetrators of political violence have been the subject of significant academic research, victims of terrorism have rarely featured in this landscape.
In an effort to capture the vast complexity of terrorism, and to widen the scope of the agenda that informs terrorism research, the book presents a series of analyses that examines the role of the perpetrators, the experience of the victims, the public and media perceptions of both, and given the inherent intricacy of the phenomenon, how we might think about engaging with perpetrators in an effort to prevent further violence. By considering the role of the many actors who are central to our understanding and framing of terrorism and political violence, this book highlights the need to focus on how the interactivity of individuals and contexts have implications for the emergence, maintenance and termination of campaigns of political violence.
This volume also aims to understand not only how former perpetrators and victims can work in preventing violence in a number of contexts but, more broadly, the narratives that support and oppose violence, the construction of victimisation, the politicisation of victimhood, the justifications for violence and the potential for preventing and encouraging desistance from violence. Considering the significance of these issues for the field, this book will be of great interest to both students and researchers of terrorism and political violence.
Orla Lynch is Director of Postgraduate Criminology at University College Cork, Ireland, a fellow with Hedayah, Abu Dhabi, and co-author of The Psychological Processes of Terrorism (2018).
Javier Argomaniz is Lecturer in International Relations at the University of St Andrews and author of Post–9/11 EU Counter-Terrorism (Routledge, 2011).
Arms and the Man
We cannot know why Devin Kelley chose to slaughter 26 people at a Baptist Church at Sutherland Springs, Texas. Despite the shooter’s militant atheism the incident seems to be overwhelmingly interpreted in media comment primarily as the spectacular overspill of a domestic dispute.
Still, whatever the background nature of Kelley’s dysfunctional relationships, history of sexual violence and fragile mental health, we should be wary of interpreting this tragedy in purely idiosyncratic terms. In many respects, Kelley appears to fit a classic pattern of mass shooters in modern societies: still relatively young (26), male and of insecure social status — his apparently promising and stable career in the US air force having ended recently in the public ignominy of a dishonourable discharge.
Some comparative examples from Europe are suggestive here. In September 1881, at Tours in France a trainee law clerk named Lucien Morrisset was accused of theft. His response was to grab a pistol and gun down strangers in the street, killing one and wounding four. In June 1913, Heinz Schmidt, an unemployed teacher in Bremen had shot up a Catholic girls’ school, killing five. Just three months later at Mühlhausen in Germany, another schoolteacher named Ernst August Wagner shot dead nine, and wounded 12. Wagner apparently was convinced that the community had spread gossip about his youthful flirtation with bestiality; and it was this, in turn, that had prevented public recognition of his literary genius.
Mass shootings are rarer in Europe than the USA — not least because the titanic destruction caused by wars between states there in the first half of the 20th century generally led to a much tighter control over the means of private violence. Germany, for instance, introduced effective gun laws in 1928 — just five years before the Nazis took power. But these older examples from Europe are still thought-provoking. Regardless of the mental health issues, what all these examples seem to have in common is that they concern young men obsessed with perceived slights to their social status. In essence, they slaughter wantonly to make themselves respected again.
What has this to do with terrorism? The conventional answer has tended to be: not much. Spree or mass shooters kill for personal, not political, reasons. But this is perhaps to miss a wider point. True, the horizons of a Devin Kelley seem very narrow — he exerted such devastating power only within the micro-universe of Sutherland Springs. But even within these close confines his atrocity represents a more-or-less random slaughtering of strangers to make a point. In this sense, Kelley’s atrocity, like terrorism, firmly belongs to the Gessellschaft (a society shaped by impersonal transactions), and not the Gemeinschaft (the society of face-to-face relationships). Such violence says something about the society it emerges from. We ignore its wider lessons at our peril.
Dr Tim Wilson,
Johnson, Rob. The Great War and the Middle East. Oxford University Press, 2016. Read the review here
Sneha Reddy is a PhD candidate at CSTPV
Book Review: Combatants of Muslim Origin in European Armies in the Twentieth Century: Far from Jihad
Reviewed by Sneha Reddy (PhD Candidate at CSTPV)
About: Combatants of Muslim Origin effectively brings the experiences of non-western combatants in European armies to the forefront and is therefore essential reading for both scholars of military history and international relations who are keen to deepen their understanding of this subject. It is also valuable to researchers seeking works published in English that take a non-Anglocentric approach to the world wars.
Read the review
Victims of Terrorism and Political Violence: Identity, Needs, and Service Delivery in Northern Ireland and Great Britain
The Conversation, 29 March 2017
The recent car-and-knife attack in London was just the latest in a string of high-profile incidents where assailants have used vehicles as deadly weapons. This type of attack has over the past few years become a feature of violent terrorism in the West and elsewhere – so where did it come from, and how did it become such a common method?
Read the article
Book Review: Lawrence of Arabia’s War: The Arabs, the British and the Remaking of the Middle East in WW1
Middle East and North Africa, The Great War, History
Sneha Reddy reviews Lawrence of Arabia’s War: The Arabs, the British and the Remaking of the Middle East in WW1, by Neil Faulkner.
The story of the young war hero has historically captivated Western readers for decades. However, in the recent past, there have been calls to engage more deeply with the lesser-known histories and broader participants in the First World War. In this context, Sneha Reddy argues that Faulkner’s book goes in the other direction and shifts the spotlight back to Lawrence by making him the central focus of his study. Nonetheless, she adds, for a book that is a result of a ten-year endeavour, ending in 2014, to study modern conflict archaeology as part of the Great Arab Revolt Project, it is uniquely placed.
Author: Sneha Reddy is a PhD student at CSTPV. Her research focuses on French North African and British Indian soldiers in the First World War in the Middle East.
Read the review
In his book, Nationalism, which this article commemorates, Tagore bluntly said, ‘Nationalism is a great menace’. He viewed the European war of nations as the ‘war of retribution’. He felt that the ‘time has come, for the sake of the whole outraged world, Europe should fully know in her own person the terrible absurdity of this thing called the Nation’. For him, ‘nation’ was just another name for an organisation of politics and commerce, and warned that when it ‘becomes all powerful at the cost of harmony of the higher social life, then it is an evil day for humanity’. Ideas of nationalism were rife in India and he lamented that ‘this abstract being, the Nation, is ruling India’
Read the article
About the author
Sneha Reddy is a first-year PhD student at CSTPV. Her research focuses on French North African and British Indian soldiers in the First World War in the Middle East. She is on twitter @sneha_tumu
Despite the discovery of an arsenal of weapons belonging to ETA in a field north of Paris, few believe the Basque terrorist group has the ability to resurrect its violent campaign.
Gillian Brunton at the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence introduces the groundbreaking, distance-learning, postgraduate programme in terrorism and political violence
Pan European Networks, PEN: Defence Management Review, Issue 1, September 2016
The internationalisation of higher education (HE) is not a new idea, although it may appear to be taking some time for HE institutions to embrace the findings of various reports into this area of growth in student numbers. This article looks at the St Andrews University strategy for internationalisation, in particular at the MLitt in Terrorism and Political Violence programme detailing the part-time distance-learning option and its current place in the postgraduate curriculum. Entry to this programme appeals to applicants in full-time employment or to those without a degree level qualification to undertake the distance postgraduate course after providing evidence of professional or other relevant experience of prior learning deemed to be broadly equivalent to other traditional routes of entry.
Read the article
Book Review (Irish Times)
European Journal of International Security / Volume 1 / Issue 02 / July 2016
Wardlaw Professor of Politics, University of St Andrews
This article reflects on the central problems to be faced over the next fifty years of the academic study of terrorism. It discusses a series of problems that are sometimes raised (regarding definition, the division between Critical Terrorism Studies and Orthodox Terrorism Studies, and the supposed stagnation in contemporary terrorism research), and argues that these present rather limited difficulties, in reality. It then identifies a greater problem, in the form of a five-fold fragmentation of the current field, before offering suggested means of addressing in practice these latter, more profound difficulties.
Book Launch - ‘The Origins and Dynamics of Genocide: Political Violence in Guatemala’ - Dr Roddy Brett
25 May 2016, 5:00PM
By Dr. Roddy Brett, Lecturer in International Relations, University of St Andrew’s
Discussant: Dr. Ezequiel Gonzales Ocantos, University of Oxford
In May 2013, former de facto president of Guatemala, General Efraín Ríos Montt, was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity within Guatemala’s domestic courts. This book rigorously documents and insightfully explains the genocide perpetrated by the Guatemalan state against indigenous Maya populations within the context of its counterinsurgency campaign against leftist guerrillas between 1981 and 1983, bringing to light a genocide that has remained largely invisible within both academic disciplines and the practitioner sphere. Based upon over a decade of ethnographic research, including in survivors’ communities in Guatemala, this book documents the historical processes shaping the genocide by analysing the evolution of both counterinsurgent and insurgent violence and strategy, focusing above all on its impact upon the civilian population. The research, convincingly framed within key theoretical scholarship from genocide studies, peace and conflict studies and comparative politics (how and why people rebel), clearly evidences the impact of political violence upon non-combatants, how military and insurgent strategies gradually implicate civilians in conflict and the strategies civilians may adopt in order to survive them.
St Andrews University and openDemocracy interviewed 25 activists, and surveyed more than a hundred, about the impacts of surveillance on activism in the UK. Here are our findings.
This report details the findings of an exploratory research project funded by a Carnegie Trust research incentive grant and by the Russell Trust. The aim of the project was to examine how concerns about surveillance have impacted on activists in progressive-left causes in the UK. The project was originally inspired by a question which Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group asked Adam Ramsay of openDemocracy – one of the co-authors of this report, about whether activists in the UK had changed their practices since the Snowden Revelations in 2013.
Read the full report at opendemocracy.net
Bernhard Blumenau - Group of 7 and International Terrorism: The Snowball Effect That Never Materialized
The article looks at the Group of 7 (G7) efforts to fight international terrorism in the 1970s and early 1980s. It examines the G7 statement against hijacking, the Bonn Declaration of 1978, and assesses how the G7 dealt with it after the adoption of the Declaration. The article illustrates that after a short phase of enthusiasm just after the Declaration’s adoption, the G7 members’ united front against terrorism quickly eroded. The G7 failed to secure support from other countries and realized the economic and political costs that the implementation of the Declaration could produce. Therefore, it was pushed to the backburner. The Declaration was largely of symbolic and only of very little practical importance. Yet, it still pointed to the new approach of the G7 – present until today – that moved away from a purely economic agenda towards a progressively more political one.
Thus in 1917 Leon Trotsky consigned the Mensheviks, the non-Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party, to perennial insignificance—a fate from which they never recovered. Only five years ago, al Qaeda’s downfall appeared similarly imminent. Its founder and leader was dead. A succession of key lieutenants had been eliminated. And the region was transformed by the Arab Spring. Civil protest, it seemed, had achieved what terrorism had manifestly failed to deliver—and al Qaeda was the biggest loser. As John O. Brennan, then deputy national security advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and assistant to the president, told an audience gathered at a DC think tank in April 2012, “For the first time since this fight began, we can look ahead and envision a world in which the al Qaeda core is simply no longer relevant.” Less than a month later, on the first anniversary of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s killing, U.S. President Barack Obama proudly proclaimed that, “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”
How completely different it all looks today. In February, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper painted a singularly bleak picture of a newly resurgent al Qaeda alongside an ambitiously expansionist Islamic State (ISIS) in his annual worldwide threat assessment. Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “have proven resilient and are positioned to make gains in 2016.... They will continue to pose a threat to local, regional, and even possibly global interests....” More alarming still was the rise of an even more extreme offshoot. ISIS, he explained, “has become the preeminent terrorist threat because of its self-described caliphate in Syria and Iraq, its branches and emerging branches in other countries, and its increasing ability to direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world.”
Read the complete article [PDF]
This article was originally published in Foreign Affairs (29 March 2016)
In this article, we examine how European authorities have responded to reported threats to aviation resulting from individual terrorist tactics. We do so by applying the notion of political resilience and drawing on Palonen’s “policy, polity, politicking and politicization” model as well as on Malcolm Anderson’s concept of “politics of the latest outrage.” We argue that the EU response to aviation terrorism has created polity transformation and generated a long list of new policies but has also in the process become politicised and subject of politicking, with some high-profile measures being criticised for having a deleterious impact on passengers’ rights.
Read the article (Subscription required)
Next month’s issue of the National Interest has as its cover story a piece by CSTPV Professor of Terrorism Studies Bruce Hoffman titled “Return of the Jihadi”.
“This is sort of the new normal,” FBI Director James Comey observed after the most recent Fourth of July. Comey was talking about the ten persons who were arrested in connection with a variety of plots linked to ISIS in the weeks leading up to that national holiday. But while the threat of homegrown violent extremism inspired by either ISIS or Al Qaeda is now accepted as fact, there is still surprisingly little consensus on the potentially far greater danger posed by radicalized foreign fighters trained by ISIS, returning to their native or adopted homelands in the West, ready to carry out terrorist actions—despite the attacks that occurred in Paris last November.
To read the full piece please visit the National Interest website.
Terrorism and counter-terrorism represent enduringly and globally important phenomena, and the mutually shaping relationship between non-state terrorism and state counter-terrorism continues to influence world politics. Illusions of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism brings together leading scholars in the field to analyse this relationship, and to do so in distinctive manner. The book sustainedly assesses the interaction of terrorism and counter-terrorism through drawing on a range of academic disciplines in dialogue with one another. It addresses the dynamics of counter-terrorism more interrogatively and concentratedly than is common in much of the scholarly literature, and it highlights a theme that is all too rarely considered in the field: namely, the shared and mutually-echoing failings and illusions involved in the politics of terrorism and counter-terrorism alike.
Even though notions of extremism are subjective and relative, we can still be systematic in the way we approach them. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how such a systematic mechanism can be compiled and visualised. I propose a set of definitions, in an ‘Extremist Media Index’, to grade ideological media material conveying religious-political sentiments according to some very basic criteria concerning stages of activism and the nature of religio-political discourse. I test the reliability of these criteria and apply the Index to publications by Anwar Al-Awlaki and associated with far-right extremism in order to display the range of sentiments conveyed and how these can be understood through systematic grading.
Donald’s research note is available to download here.
The complete issue of Perspectives on Terrorism is available from its website.
This book is available from the publisher’s website.
You can find more about Javier Argomaniz previous publications here or here.
Donald Holbrook - A critical analysis of the role of the internet in the preparation and planning of acts of terrorism
Report: Scotland and Separatism: Reverberations of the Scottish Independence Referendum on Separatist Politics
About the author:
Kieran McConaghy is a graduate of both Queen's University Belfast (LLB, MA) and the University of St Andrews (PhD) where he completed his doctoral thesis entitled 'Terrorism and the State: Intra-state Dynamics and the Response to Non-state Terrorism' in 2014. From October to December 2014, he was the Handa Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews. His research interests include terrorism, political violence, nationalism, and extreme right wing groups, as well as Irish and British political history.
About the report:
On 18 September 2014, the Scottish electorate voted in a referendum on independence. While the result was decisive, indicating a preference for Scotland to remain within the Union, that the Independence campaign had gained so much support was a shock to many unionist politicians. Furthermore, the issue is far from solved, and the impact of the Scottish referendum and the strength of nationalist sentiment in Scotland will have important political and social effects not only in Scotland, but across the United Kingdom.
This report is intended to address two issues. Firstly, it will compare and contrast the development and fortunes of nationalist movements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will reflect on their similarities and differences, on the effect that the Scottish independence campaign and referendum has had on separatist politics in Wales and Northern Ireland, and on the UK as a whole.
Secondly, it looks to Catalonia, where a consultative and non-binding poll on independence from Spain was held just two months after Scotland’s referendum. Again, the nationalist movements in Catalonia and Scotland will be examined comparatively, and I will suggest common features which could help to account for the growing popularity of nationalism in some stateless nations. Before proceeding, I wish to set out some disclaimers.
Download the full report [PDF]
(Image used under an Attribution-NonCommercial License: https://www.flickr.com/photos/daveograve/6161601149/)
Sarah Marsden discusses some of the outcomes of her research on efforts to reintegrate people convicted of terrorism studies:
Sarah presented this research at a conference organised by CSTPV and University College Cork on the 31 March 2015.
- How Terrorism Ends - Sarah Marsden
- Supporting Terrorism - Nicole Ives-Allison
This book introduces you to the key issues in contemporary studies on Terrorism. Its interdisciplinary approach provides a unique intellectual rigour which introduces readers to cutting-edge research.
Bringing together chapters contributed by members of the Terrorism and Political Violence Association network, it offers an insight into a variety of traditional and critical perspectives. It also equips Undergraduate and Postgraduate students with the study skills needed to succeed in coursework and assignments, especially dissertation work.
- Drawing on the expertise of TAPVA members, this book:
- Explores contemporary issues, such as drone warfare, state violence, children and political violence, cyber-terrorism and de-radicalisation.
- Features case studies drawn from a range of international examples, lists of further reading, key concepts and questions for use in seminars and private study.
- Provides you with study skills content designed to help you complete your dissertation.
- This is the perfect textbook to guide you through your studies in terrorism, political violence, international security and strategic studies.
(2015) International Perspectives on Terrorist Victimisation. An Interdisciplinary Approach (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan) (with Lynch, O. (eds.))
Sarah Marsden - Conceptualising ‘Success’ With Those Convicted of Terrorism Offences: Aims, Methods, and Barriers to Reintegration
Despite an increasing need to understand the aims of work with ex-prisoners convicted of terrorism offences, the knowledge base remains underdeveloped. Notwithstanding this limited theoretical and empirical foundation, practitioners in probation are increasingly faced with trying to successfully resettle these ex-prisoners. In the south of England, the organisation tasked with this work is London Probation Trust's Central Extremism Unit (CEU). Based on interviews and observational research with practitioners, this article sets out a framework for interpreting this work's aims from a practitioner perspective. Alongside describing the 13 primary aims of successful resettlement, the research sets out what success would ‘look like’, as well as considering some of the challenges in interpreting and promoting positive outcomes. The CEU's model reflects a multimodal approach, speaking to both criminogenic needs, and the primary themes of desistance. Within this, practitioners try to encourage the probationers to take control of their own life and develop an agentic approach to their present and future. It is in this way that successful resettlement is conceptualised by practitioners working in this field. The implications of these findings for current debates over the appropriate focus of work on countering violent extremism and returnees from overseas conflict are also discussed.
To read the full article please visit Taylor and Francis Online.
The first 50 readers can download this article for free from this link.
You can find more about Javier Argomaniz previous publications here or here.
“A striking feature of recent jihadist attacks is that most of the perpetrators were well known, both to the security services and to the criminal justice system. Sydney hostage taker, Man Haron Monis was previously on a security watch list and had been charged with numerous offences, both political and non-political. Michael Adebolajo, one of Lee Rigby’s killers, was arrested in Kenya suspected of trying to reach Al Shabaab in Somalia, and was allegedly repeatedly approached by MI5 on his return to the UK. Cherif Kouachi had been in prison for helping to send people to fight with al-Qaeda in Iraq, and he and his brother, Said, were under surveillance until relatively recently.
Inevitably, questions have been asked over whether this knowledge, if handled differently, would have been able to prevent the attacks. Typically, such questions have been directed at the security services. However, as well as asking whether there have been security failures, it is important to ask whether these attacks represent a different missed opportunity: one of resettlement.”
To read the article in full please visit http://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/can-we-reintegrate-extremists-society
“ It gets ever more difficult even for specialists to keep track of the huge number of publications on terrorism. This bibliography provides an overview of this still-growing field of studies and the still-growing number of publications. We are aware, however, that our choice is a personal one—while some readers may deem certain subfields to be overrepresented to the detriment of what they see to be more important ones, other readers might have wished to find more specialised entries going beyond the “usual suspects.” For this first iteration of this bibliography, this cannot be helped—but we are open to suggestions and (constructive) criticism.”