Terrorism In Asymmetric Conflict: Ideological and Structural Aspects, by Ekaterina A. Stepanova

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Much has been written about the ‘sharp’ rise of ‘religious terrorism’ during the last decades of the 20th century and about its growing internationalization and international impact. However, to back this thesis most analysts choose not to look at the available data directly. The same few pieces of quantitative evidence are usually quoted, covering the same period of time (from the late 1960s until the mid-1990s) and derived from the same sources—most commonly from terrorism experts Bruce Hoffman and Magnus Ranstorp. For example, these experts’ reference to the fact that over the 30-year period until the mid-1990s the number of radical fundamentalist religious groups professing various confessions tripled has been reproduced in a number of analyses. These analyses also note that there was an increase in terrorist groups of an ‘explicitly religious’ character from virtually no such groups in 1968 to a quarter of all terrorist organiza-tions by the early 1990s (somewhat declining to 20 per cent of approximately 50 active terrorist groups in the mid-1990s).77
77 E.g. Hoffman, B., “‘Holy terror”: the implications of terrorism motivated by a religious imperative’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol. 18, no. 4 (Oct.–Dec. 1995), p. 272—for an earlier version see Hoffman, B., ‘Holy Terror’: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative (RAND: Santa Monica, Calif, 1993), <https://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/P7834.html>, p. 2; Ranstorp, M., ‘Terrorism in the name of religion’, Journal of International Affairs, vol. 50, no. 1 (summer 1996), pp. 41-62; Hoffman, B., ‘Terrorism trends and prospects’, I. 0. Lesser et al., Countering the New Terrorism (RAND: Santa Monica, Calif, 1999), http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR989/, pp. 16-17; and Hoffman, B., ‘Old madness, new methods: revival of religious terrorism begs for broader U.S. policy’, RAND Review, vol. 22, no. 2 (winter 1998/99), pp. 12-17.

I found this in my luggage while travelling the other weekend, a 2008 paper from the Swedish thinktank SIPRI by Ekaterina Stepanova. I owe her a bit of a public explanation, actually; she now works at IMEMO, one of the better Russian thinktanks, and asked me (and I agreed) several months ago to write a piece on unrecognised states for their journal. However, after February I felt that this is not really the time to be writing even for one of the better Russian thinktanks, and withdrew with apologies.

It’s a typically detailed paper, though it really made me realise just how much the discourse has changed in the last 14 years. The actual seizure of territory on a large scale by Islamist terror groups only really happened four to five years later, and that has totally changed the analytical framework. Stepanova can’t be blamed for not foreseeing that; few people did.

I think however she also missed the opportunity to look at domestic political terrorism, which is a rising problem in all Western countries, but which she excludes from her analysis. The American mass shootings and the Taliban’s summary justice are linked by a common thread of ideologically motivated brutality, and I wonder whether there’s some useful parallel to be drawn. I don’t know if there is, which is why I ask the question.

Anyway, despite the dense subject matter, I found it a quick read. You can get it here.

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