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Nationalist To Transnational Insurgency: State Repression And Violent Extremist Scale Shift

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Technical Report,05 Jul 2015,26 May 2016

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US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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The phenomenon of global jihad, a transnational conflict often emerging from intra-state insurgency, highlights a weakness in states security apparatus that non-state actors have exploited. In this study, I examine insurgencies that widen their objectives from nationalist or regional focus to transnational violent extremism a process of scale shift under conditions of state repression. My study shows that scale shift accelerates when state security forces repress and co-opt nationalist elements of an insurgency, insurgents in other countries support a transnational faction of the insurgency, and the transnational element becomes predominant. This suggests that the process of scale shift is characterized by decades of evolution based on transnational relationships, gradual replacement of nationalist goals, and diversification of resources to include external sources. I also find that the intervening variables of factional disunity, state repression, and state co-optation are key mechanisms for speeding and completing the scale shift. This research recommends five changes to the US military approach to defeating violent extremist organizations. The first is the introduction of a scale of conflict to US military doctrine in JP 3-0 with intra-state, inter-state, extra-state, non-state, and transnational scales. The second recommendation is for US military doctrine to adapt its definition of insurgency to encompass the tendency of insurgencies to become transnational as a result of effective counterinsurgency. The third recommendation is the introduction of mechanisms of scale shift to explain why insurgents expand from intra-state to transnational conflict types. The fourth recommendation is that each counterinsurgency should include a transnational line of effort. The fifth recommendation is that counterterrorism and counterinsurgency targeting should focus on the relationships, in addition to the power, of an actor.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Government and Political Science

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