Terrorism, and Global Insurgency
Robert J. Bunker, ed., various contributors
Routledge (2005), 211 pp.
A collection of essays from leading researchers
in the fields of counterterrorism, insurgencies, and organized crime, Networks,
Terrorism, and Global Insurgency is a revealing and sometimes provocative
book that tackles these seminal issues from a variety of perspectives, concentrating
on extremist groups from around the globe – everyone from al-Qaeda to the Chechens
to the IRA – while also offering theoretical insights into the developing trends
in collaboration between terrorists, criminals, and ideologues.
One of the book's strengths is the diversity and expertise of its authors,
whose approaches are less agenda-driven than academic, though it should be said
that they tend to be rather America-centric in outlook. This owes partially
to the original provenance of some of the articles (RAND papers, government-addressed
studies, etc.). Also, the work as a whole tends toward general rather than specific
observations, though there are some exceptions. Yet these caveats aside,
Terrorism, and Global Insurgency provides much food for thought in its
synthetic approaches to some of the foremost issues of the day.
The work is divided into four parts, preceded
by three brief chapters (preface, foreword, and introduction). The first part,
entitled "Theory and International Law," is the most general. It is
most useful as an introduction to the more specific and topical chapters that
follow. One of the best offerings here is "Netwar Revisited: The Fight
for the Future Continues" by John Arquilla and David F. Ronfeld, which
discusses the increasing potency and presence in terrorist and even activist
operations of networks, or "dispersed small zones of all-channel connectivity"
Also of interest in this section is Neal A. Pollard's "Globalization's
Bastards: Illegitimate Non-State Actors in International Law." Pollard
notes that "modern terrorism is globalization, albeit a parasitic (and
paradoxical) dark side of it, and we [are] in the midst of the first war of
globalization" (p. 41).
He goes on to argue that, despite the incorrigible difficulties of finding
any relevant form of international law applicable to the rise of "non-state
actors" such as terrorist groups, governments must strive to do so. "[T]here
must be more responses to terrorism than extradition and military attack,"
Pollard says. "Forms such as the World Trade Organization, International
Monetary Fund, and regional trade blocs – not traditional forms for security
issues – provide a fertile ground for considering new instruments to hold states
and even multinational organizations accountable for varying and complex levels
of terrorist sponsorship … bilateral trade agreements can include statements
of anti-terrorism principles, and even provide recourse if a state provides
specific types of succor to terrorist groups" (pp. 65-66).
However, this solution is obviously problematic, in that it is left unclear
as to who will decide whether a state is guilty or not. And in any case,
it is not as if these economic bodies haven't been used for decades already
to put pressure on "rogue states" through Western sanctions and political
interference – the kind of things that breed the instability and resentment
that cause terrorism in the first place.
Part two of the collection, "Terrorism and Global Insurgency," concentrates
on three different topics from three different angles. The first, "Terrorism,
Crime, and Private Armies" by John P. Sullivan, is a comprehensive look
at the way terrorist/paramilitary groups have developed ties with organized
crime groups to the extent that they can develop a high degree of independence
in terms of funds management and military organization. The article also has
an eye-opening section on the role of private military contractors, chiefly
in Iraq, in today's warfare.
The section's second article, "U.S. Counter-Insurgency vs. Iranian-Sponsored
Terrorism," by Sean K. Anderson, is a statistical survey listing the number
of terrorist attacks allegedly carried out under the direction of the Iranian
government since 1980 against U.S. interests, as compared to the number of American
military actions carried out in the same time against Iran's perceived sphere
Given the Bush administration's current targeting of the regime in Tehran,
the article is bound to be widely read; this is less likely for the final article
in the section, Andrew Garfield's "PIRA Lessons Learned: A Model of Terrorist
Leadership Succession," because the group it describes (the Irish Republican
Army) has more or less ceased to operate. Nevertheless, some of the aspects
of IRA leadership trends over time that the author describes, as well as motivators
for individuals who have joined the paramilitary organization, have application
for similar groups around the world, such as the Albanian UCK/KLA in Kosovo
The third and fourth parts of the work will probably be of most immediate interest
to readers, concentrating as they do on the al-Qaeda and Chechen terrorist groups.
In Kimbra L. Fishel's "Challenging the Hegemon: Al-Qaeda's Elevation of
Asymmetric Insurgent Warfare Onto the Global Arena," the reader gets a
broad look at the modus operandi of the world's currently most infamous
terrorist organization; a more detailed treatment of the same topic is found
later in "Operational Combat Analysis of the al-Qaeda Network" (by
Robert J. Bunker and Matt Begert), which begins from the author's aforementioned
focus on networks, described as "the underlying foundation of postmodern
military and police force structures" (p. 146).
The chapter is unique for its combination of historical analysis (the genesis
of al-Qaeda, a recap of its military and terrorist operations over the years)
and analysis (in terms of its speed, offensive and defensive attributes, and
a "combat multiplier" factor). The article then goes on to painstakingly
take apart different examples of al-Qaeda attacks according to translatable
military principles – the object of the study being "to further research
into the military capabilities and ultimately, vulnerabilities of network organizational
structures" (p. 146).
Finally, Mark Galeotti's "'Brotherhood' and 'Associates': Chechen Networks
of Crime and Resistance'" analyzes the link between armed struggle and
organized crime in Chechnya, taking a more nuanced view of the identity and
attributes of the Chechen cause than one gets from American Russophobe writers
sympathetic to the neoconservative vision of a new Pax Americana in the
Caucasus. In fact, the author's remarks are considerably enlightening in that
he ties together historical aspects of the Chechen resistance and the pseudo-Soviet
aspirations of its corrupt pro-independence bloc in the 1990s with the thoroughly
criminalized nature of its paramilitary groups, themselves rooted in an ancient
clan structure having its own leadership structures and interpersonal obligations.
The book closes with a sort of conclusion, "Multilateral Counter-Insurgency
Networks," by Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, which draws on the
predominant themes expressed throughout the work while offering advice and direction
on the desired future role of law enforcement (particularly, American) in the
war against terror.
Inevitably, a work such as Networks,
Terrorism, and Global Insurgency is bound to have some limitations,
even flaws. By nature, it is stylistically speaking rather academic, meaning
there is a certain degree of repetitiveness, rehashing, and reliance on now
stock terminology such as "asymmetric warfare" and "non-state
actors." Again it seems that placating the original target audience of
the papers delivered (Department of Homeland Security, branches of the military)
might have had something to do with this tendency.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, though it might be a turnoff for some
readers. The academic focus also means the manifestation of extremes: while
articles such as "Challenging the Hegemon" seem a tad fluffy and verbose,
full of cliché terminology, others such as "Operational Combat Analysis
of the al-Qaeda Network" might bewilder the general reader with idiosyncratic
terminology and formulations almost bordering on mathematical equations.
On Private Enterprise
Perhaps the most fascinating article in the collection,
which provides much food for thought, is the aforementioned "Terrorism,
Crime, and Private Armies" by John P. Sullivan, which does an even better
job of presenting the full ramifications of the topic than Pollard's similar
piece. The study is particularly useful in that provokes thought regarding the
ultimate future outcomes of today's manifested activities in these categories.
For example, take Sullivan's description of human rights abuses carried out
by private mercenaries against civilians in Bosnia and Iraq, as well as his
observation that such groups have their own intelligence services and relationships
with local militias. In the former case, private military contractors if found
guilty of abuses seem to risk only a demotion, not a prosecution, due to the
lack of applicable law. Sullivan laments the implications for human rights this
lack has brought about, in an era when "the law has not yet caught up with
the shift in conflict and participants in market-state war" (p. 79). As
for the latter, these individuals and their organization, while they often work
with and count on the support of the U.S. and allied forces, remain unaccountable
to their official state bodies.
Sullivan's presentation here inspires further deliberation. How, for example,
can limits or control be placed on the "alliance-building" tendencies
of the Blackwaters or MPRIs of the world – especially considering that they
have a huge amount of cash at their disposal, which is subject to no official
oversight other than that of the corporate headquarters? The lack of moral restraint
sometimes exhibited by employees of such firms is no doubt fed by their wealth
and perceived unaccountability, while at the same time they enjoy the same patriotic
support back home as the legitimate military gets (such as the storm of outrage
in America at the death of the four "civilian contractors" in Fallujah
in 2004, which launched a small war with a devastating human toll for that city's
Further, and perhaps most interestingly, if private armies have their own intelligence
networks, what will the legal difference prove to be in terms of its disclosure?
The government's penalties for leaking "classified" information are
severe; what if the same class of information is acquired independently, by
a private company? Should it abide by similar laws? The relativity of treatment
between private and public military forces are also pointed out by the author
in terms of the huge discrepancies in salary between private mercenaries and
soldiers, whose "take" varies tremendously – for what is often the
Indeed, just as terrorism is described in the beginning of the work as the
"dark side" of globalization, the entrance of private military contractors
into the game also illustrates some of the dangers of a new scenario in which
"the market prevails rather than the rule of law or state identity"
(p. 79). In the end, the business of terrorism and war is a symbiotic one, bringing
together an unlikely cast of opposing characters, from nationalist militants
to Mafia clans, from soldiers of strong states to the private mercenaries who
cooperate with both them and, sometimes, local warlords and crime bosses. As
Terrorism, and Global Insurgency abundantly demonstrates, war has never
been stranger than it is today.