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: 457 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1632 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th February 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.