Skip to main content

Terrorism and Civil War: A Spatial and Temporal Approach to a Conceptual Problem

  • Michael G. Findley (a1) and Joseph K. Young (a2)

What is the relationship between civil war and terrorism? Most current research on these topics either explicitly or implicitly separates the two, in spite of compelling reasons to consider them together. In this paper, we examine the extent to which terrorism and civil war overlap and then unpack various temporal and spatial patterns. To accomplish this, we use newly geo-referenced terror event data to offer a global overview of where and when terrorist events happen and whether they occur inside or outside of civil war zones. Furthermore, we conduct an exploratory analysis of six separate cases that have elements of comparability but also occur in unique contexts, which illustrate some of the patterns in terrorism and civil war. The data show a high degree of overlap between terrorism and ongoing civil war and, further, indicate that a substantial amount of terrorism occurs prior to civil wars in Latin America, but yet follows civil war in other regions of the world. While the study of terrorism and of civil war mostly occurs in separate scholarly communities, we argue for more work that incorporates insights from each research program and we offer a possibility for future research by considering how geo-referenced terror and civil war data may be utilized together. More generally, we expect these results to apply to a wide variety of attitudes and behaviors in contentious politics.

Hide All
Abrahms, Max. 2006. “Why Terrorism Does Not Work.” International Security 31(2): 4278.
Alvarez, Alberto Martin. 2010. “From Revolutionary War to Democratic Revolution: The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador.” Berghof Transition Series 9: 137.
Arnold, Guy. 1995. Wars in the Third World since 1945. London: Cassell.
Asal, Victor, and Rethemeyer, Karl. 2008. “The Nature of the Beast: Organizational Structures and the Lethality of Terrorist Attacks.” Journal of Politics 70: 437449.
Bjørgo, Tore. 2005. “Introduction.” In Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality and Ways Forward, ed. pp, Tore Bjørgo. London: Routledge. 115.
Bloom, Mia. 2005. Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror. New York: Columbia University Press.
Brogan, Patrick. 1998. World Conflicts. 3rd ed.London: Bloomsbury.
Collier, Paul, and Hoeffler, Anke. 2001. “Greed and Grievance in Civil War.” World Bank Working Paper.
Collier, Paul, Hoeffler, Anke, and Söderbom, Måns. 2004. “On the Duration of Civil War.” Journal of Peace Research 41(3): 253273.
Cunningham, David. 2006. “Veto Players and Civil War Duration.” American Journal of Political Science 50(4): 875892.
Degregori, Carlos Ivan. 1998. “Harvesting Storms: Peasant Rondas and the Defeat of Sendero Luminoso in Ayacucho.” In Shining and Other Paths, ed. Durham, Steve J. Stern., NC: Duke University Press 128157.
del Pino, Ponciano. 1998. “Family, Culture, and ‘Revolution’: Everyday Life with Sendero Luminoso.” In Shining and Other Paths, ed. Durham, Steve J. Stern., pp, NC: Duke University Press. 158192.
DeRouen, Karl, and Sobek, David. 2004. “The Dynamics of Civil War Duration and Outcome.” Journal of Peace Research 41(3): 303320.
Dohrn, Bernardine, Ayers, Billy, Jones, Jeff, and Sojourn, Celia. 1974. “Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism: Political Statement of the Weather Underground.” 1–153.
Downes, Alexander. 2004. “The Problem with Negotiated Settlements to Ethnic Civil Wars.” Security Studies 13(4): 230279.
Downs, George, and Stedman, Stephen. 2002. “Evaluation Issues in Peace Implementation.” In Ending Civil Wars: The Implementation of Peace Agreements, ed. Stedman, Stephen, Rothchild, Donald and Boulder, Elizabeth Cousens., pp, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.. 4369.
Drakos, Konstantinos, and Gofas, Andreas. 2006a. “The Devil You Know but Are Afraid to Face: Underreporting Bias and its Distorting Effects on the Study of Terrorism.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 50(5): 714735.
Drakos, Konstantinos, and Gofas, Andreas. 2006b. “In Search of the Average Transnational Terrorist Attack Venue.” Defence and Peace Economics 17(2): 7393.
Enders, Walter, and Sandler, Todd. 1993. “The Effectiveness of Antiterrorism Policies: A Vector-Autoregression-Intervention Analysis.” American Political Science Review 87(4): 829844.
Enders, Walter, and Sandler, Todd. 2006. The Political Economy of Terrorism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fearon, James D. 1995. “Rationalist Explanations for War.” International Organization 49(3): 379414.
Fearon, James, and Laitin, David. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.” American Political Science Review 97: 7590.
Findley, Michael. 2011. “Spoiling the Peace After Civil War.” Unpublished Manuscript: Brigham Young University (forthcoming).
Findley, Michael, and Young, Joseph K.. 2011. “Terrorism, Democracy, and Credible Commitments.” International Studies Quarterly 55(2): 357378.
Findley, Michael G., and Young, Joseph K.. 2012. “More Combatant Groups, More Terror? Empirical Tests of an Outbidding Logic.” Terrorism and Political Violence.
Fortna, Page. 2011. “Do Terrorists Win? Rebels' Use of Terrorism and Civil War Outcomes.” Unpublished Manuscript: Department of Political Science, Columbia University.
Gamson, William. 1975. Strategy of Social Protest. Homewood, IL: The Dorsey Press.
Gerring, John. 2004. “What is a Case Study and What is it Good for?American Political Science Review 98(2): 341354.
Gerring, John. 2007. Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Goodwin, Jeff. 2005. “A Theory of Categorical Terrorism.” Social Forces 84(4): 20272046.
Hoffman, Bruce. 2006. Inside Terrorism. 2nd ed.New York: Columbia University Press.
Holiday, David, and Stanley, William. 1993. “Building the Peace: Preliminary Lessons from El Salvador.” Journal of International Affairs 46(2): 415438.
Honwana, João. 2002. “Mozambique: What Nexus among Peacemaking, Peacekeeping, and Development.” In The Causes of War and the Consequences of Peacekeeping in Africa, ed. pp, Ricard René Laremont. Heinemann. 195221.
Horgan, John. 2005. The Psychology of Terrorism. New York: Frank Cass.
Horowitz, Donald. 2003. The Deadly Ethnic Riot. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Humphreys, Macartan, and Weinstein, Jeremy. 2006. “Handling and Manhandling in Civil War.” American Political Science Review 100(3): 429447.
Jenkins, Brian M. 1975. “International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict.” In International Terrorism and World Security, ed. Carlton, David and pp, Carlo Schaerf. New York: Wiley. 1941.
Juergensmeyer, Mark. 2001. Terror in the Mind of God. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Ordered from library.
Kalyvas, Stathis. 1999. “Wanton and Senseless: The Logic of Massacres in Algeria.” Rationality and Society 11(3): 243285.
Kalyvas, Stathis. 2003. “The Ontology of ‘Political Violence’: Action and Identity in Civil Wars.” Perspectives on Politics 1: 475494.
Kalyvas, Stathis. 2004. “The Paradox of Terrorism in Civil War.” The Journal of Ethics 8: 97138.
Kalyvas, Stathis. 2006. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kalyvas, Stathis N., and Balcells, Laia. 2010. “International System and Technologies of Rebellion: How the End of the Cold War Shaped Internal Conflict.” American Political Science Review 104(3): 415429.
Kydd, Andrew, and Walter, Barbara. 2006. “The Strategies of Terrorism.” International Security 31(1): 4980.
Kydd, Andrew, and Walter, Barbara. 2002. “Sabotaging the Peace: The Politics of Extremist Violence.” International Organization 56: 263296.
LaFree, Gary, and Dugan, Laura. 2007. “Introducing the Global Terrorism Database.” Terrorism and Political Violence 19: 181204.
Lai, Brian. 2007. “Draining the Swamp: An Empirical Examination of the Production of International Terrorism, 1968–1998.” Conflict Management and Peace Science 24(4): 297310.
Lake, David. 2002. “Rational Extremism: Understanding Terrorism in the Twenty First Century.” International Organization 56: 1529.
Lake, David. 2003. “International Relations Theory and Internal Conflict: Insights from the Interstices.” International Studies Review 5: 8189.
Li, Quan. 2005. “Does Democracy Promote or Reduce Transnational Terrorist Incidences.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 49: 278297.
McAdam, Doug, and Su, Yang. 2002. “The War at Home: Antiwar Protests and Congressional Voting, 1965 to 1973.” American Sociological Review 67(5): 696721.
McClintock, Cynthia. 1998. Revolutionary Movements in Latin America: El Salvador's FMLN & Peru's Shining Path. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.
Mickolus, Edward F., Sandler, Todd, Murdock, Jean, and Flemming, Peter A.. 2008. “International Terrorism: Attributes of Terrorist Events (ITERATE), 1968–2007.” Dunn Loring, VA: Vinyard Software [Distributor] V1 [Version].
Most, B.A., and Starr, H.. 1984. “International Relations Theory, Foreign Policy Substitutability, and “Nice” Laws.” World Politics: A Quarterly Journal of International Relations 36(3): 383406.
Norton, Augustus Richard. 2007. Hezbollah: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Pape, Robert. 2003. “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.” American Political Science Review 97: 343361.
Poe, Steven C., and Tate, C. Neil. 1994. “Repression of Human Rights and Personal Integrity in the 1980's: A Global Analysis.” American Political Science Review 88: 853872.
Race, Jeffrey. 1973. War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Rasler, Karen. 1996. “Concessions, Repression, and Political Protest in the Iranian Revolution.” American Sociological Review 61(1): 132152.
Rød, Jan Ketil. 2003. “ViewConflicts: Software for Visualising Spatiotemporal Data on Armed Conflicts.” Paper prepared for presentation at the Joint Sessions of Workshops European Consortium for Political Research, Edinburgh, UK. 28. March 2. April.
Sambanis, Nicholas. 2004a. “Using Case Studies to Expand Economic Models of Civil War.” Perspectives on Politics 2(2): 259279.
Sambanis, Nicholas. 2004b. “What is Civil War? Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an Operational Definition.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 48(6): 814858.
Sambanis, Nicholas. 2005. “Using Case Studies to Refine and Expand the Theory of Civil War.” In Understanding Civil War: Volume 1 Africa, ed. Paul Collier and Nicholas Sambanis. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.
Sambanis, Nicholas. 2008. “Terrorism and Civil War.” In Terrorism, Economic Development, and Political Openness, ed. Keefer, Philip and Loayza, Norman. New York: Cambridge.
Sánchez-Cuenca, Ignacio, and De la Calle, Luis. 2009. “Domestic Terrorism: The Hidden Side of Political Violence.” Annual Review of Political Science 12: 3149.
Sandler, Todd. 1995. “On the Relationship Between Democracy and Terrorism.” Terrorism and Political Violence 7(4): 19.
Schmid, Alex, and Jongman, Albert. 2005. Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories, and Literature. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Seawright, Jason, and Gerring, John. 2008. “Case Selection Techniques in Case Study Research.” Political Research Quarterly 61(2): 294308.
Stanley, W.D. 1996. The Protection Racket State: Elite Politics, Military Extortion, and Civil War in El Salvador. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Stephan, Maria J., and Chenoweth, Erica. 2008. “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” International Security 33(1): 744.
Tarrow, Sidney T. 2007. “Inside insurgencies: Politics and violence in an age of civil war.” Perspectives on Politics 5(3): 587600.
Tilly, Charles. 2003. The Politics of Collective Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Tilly, Charles. 2004. “Terror, Terrorism, Terrorists.” Sociological Theory 22(1): 513.
Turk, Austin. 2004. “Sociology of Terrorism.” Annual Review of Sociology 30: 271286.
Uppsala. 2011. Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Uppsala Conflict Database. Uppsala University. Accessed Feb 7, 2011.
Valentino, Benjamin. 2000. “Final Solutions: The Causes of Mass Killing and Genocide.” Security Studies 9(3): 159.
Victoroff, Jeff. 2005. “The Mind of the Terrorist: A Review and Critique of Psychological Approaches.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 49: 342.
Walter, Barbara. 1997. “The Critical Barrier to Civil War Settlement.” International Organization 51(3): 335364.
Ward, Michael D., and Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede. 2008. Spatial Regression Models. Number 155 in “Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences”Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Weinberg, Leonard, Pedahzur, Ami, and Hirsch-Hoefler, Sivan. 2004. “The Challenges of Conceptualizing Terrorism.” Terrorism and Political Violence 16(4): 777794.
Wood, Elisabeth Jean. 2003. Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Zahar, Marie Joelle. 2002. “Peace by Unconventional Means: Lebanon's Ta'if Agreement.” In Ending Civil Wars: The Implementation of Peace Agreements, ed. Stedman, Stephen, Rothchild, Donald, and pp, Elizabeth Cousens. Lynne Rienner Press.. 567597.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 33
Total number of PDF views: 582 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1953 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.