Strange Bedfellows or Brothers-in-Arms: Why Terrorist Groups Ally
Conventional wisdom holds that terrorist groups with a shared enemy or ideology have ample reason to work together, even if they are primarily engaged in separate conflicts. Partnering with another terrorist organization creates opportunities to bolster operational effectiveness, range, and efficiency as well as enhance legitimacy and stature. Cross-conflict terrorist group alliances, however, are rare because they expose partnering organizations to serious vulnerabilities, and terrorist organizations are ill-suited to forge these kinds of commitments. Therefore, terrorist alliances occur under limited--but poorly understood and rarely studied--conditions. The prevailing notion that terrorist groups with shared enemies or ideologies will naturally gravitate toward one another mischaracterizes the nature of relationships among these illicit, clandestine, and violent organizations. Furthermore, the common enemy and ideology explanations predict that alliances should occur more frequently than they do, and that alliances should form where none exist. Neither can account for the timing or duration of alliances; the variation in the amount of cooperation among different dyads that share either an enemy or ideology; or why the level of cooperation fluctuates over the course of relationships.When alliances do occur, they are not evenly distributed across dyads. A small number of groups, termed "alliance hubs," demonstrate an aptitude for forging partnerships. Understanding hubs' anomalous behavior has significant scholarly and policy implications, given that their alliances account for a disproportionate proportion of the relationships. Rather than acting as the motives that precipitate and sustain alliances, this dissertation finds that shared ideology and enemies act as identity features that guide partner selection. The primary impetus for alliances with hubs is organizational adaptation and learning needs for groups that lack self-reform capacity, often due to organizational youth, crises or rapidly changing environments. Alliance hubs emerge as superior alliance partners because they have the resources and willingness to fulfill other groups' organizational needs. Hubs are willing to do so because they view themselves as the core of an ideologically defined, balancing coalition against their enemies. This position generates perpetual organizational needs that require alliances.
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