Brown, Joseph M. "Correlates of Warning: Territory, Democracy, and Casualty Aversion in Terrorist Tactics." International Organization (March 2020).

ABSTRACT: Terrorists attack civilian targets, but there is variation in how many civilians they kill. Terrorists may deliberately harm civilians, or they may adopt a less bloody approach, demolishing businesses, transit systems, and other civilian property while employing tactics to avert civilian casualties. One such tactic is to warn civilians before an attack, allowing them to flee the area. With warnings as an example, this study considers why terrorists might adopt casualty aversion tactics. An analysis of 12,235 bombings by 131 terrorist groups in the years 1970-2016 finds that warnings are most common when terrorists fight democracies and when they lack territorial strongholds. Ideological factors such as religion are not significant predictors of warnings. These findings suggest a need to revisit the claim that religion incentivizes indiscriminate terrorism. They also suggest a strategic logic behind casualty aversion tactics. Terrorists fighting democracies may spare civilians to appear legitimate in citizens’ eyes. Terrorists without strongholds may spare civilians because they rely on the state’s population for support. At first glance, my findings appear to contradict civil war literature arguing that militants with strongholds use violence more discriminately. However, terrorism occurs in areas of state control. Militants with strongholds can use indiscriminate terrorism against state-governed civilians without alienating their own supporters elsewhere.

Brown, Joseph M. [with Victor Asal] “Does Repression Work?: Measuring Repression’s Effect on Protest Using an Instrumental Variable Model.” Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict. Published online September 2020.

ABSTRACT: Protest and repression are reciprocally related. Governments respond with repression when faced with challenges to their rule. Dissidents choose their strategies, turning out to protest or staying home, based on the state’s behavior. But what effect does repression have on protestors’ decisions? The existing literature is of two minds on this issue. One school of thought argues that repression suppresses protest. A second school of thought argues that repression increases protest by inducing public backlash against the regime. Efforts to adjudicate these claims are complicated by the endogeneity between protest and repression. We use US economic development assistance as an instrument for government repression. Governments seeking US development assistance eschew the repression of protestors. An instrumental variable analysis of the MAROB Middle East dataset shows that repression (instrumented on US development aid commitments) discourages protest by a dissident group. The likelihood of protest decreases by roughly 20% in a given year if the group is repressed. The need for an instrumental variable model is highlighted by the fact that uninstrumented regressions show the opposite effect, giving the spurious appearance of backlash. Unfortunately for protestors, the appearance is deceiving. Repression works.

Brown, Joseph M. "State Terrorism.” In the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies. Nukhet Sandal, Victor Asal, Soumita Basu, Gilbert M. Khadiagala, Neophytos Loizides, Cintia Quiliconi, and Matthew Weinert, eds.

ABSTRACT: State terrorism is a contentious topic in the field of terrorism studies. Some scholars argue that the concept of terrorism should only be applied to the behavior of nonstate actors. Others argue that certain government behaviors may be understood as terrorism if the intent of state violence and threats is to stoke fear and influence the behavior of a wider audience. Three possible conceptualizations of state terrorism are worth exploring: government sponsorship of nonstate actors’ terrorism, terrorism perpetrated by government agents outside a legal framework, and “inherent” state terrorism—acts perpetrated by the state in the everyday enforcement of law and order that, if perpetrated by nonstate actors, would clearly qualify as terrorism. Each of these conceptualizations yields insight about state behavior, highlighting particular uses of violence and threats as instruments of state policy. Depending on one’s conceptualization of state terrorism, common policies and functions of government possess an underlying terroristic logic. Analytical tools developed in the field of terrorism studies may be useful in helping us understand state behavior, when violence and threats appear to have a broader communicative function in influencing an audience beyond the immediate target.

Brown, Joseph M. “Civil Disobedience, Sabotage, and Violence in US Environmental Activism.” In the Oxford Handbook on Comparative Environmental Politics. Jeannie Sowers, Stacy VanDeveer, and Erika Weinthal, eds. Forthcoming.

ABSTRACT: This chapter explores the logic of illegal or radical tactics in the United States environmentalist movement, generating broader theoretical insights to guide research in other national settings. Two theoretical concepts help to explain environmentalists’ escalation from legal activism (lobbying, litigation, marches, etc.) to more confrontational tactics such as civil disobedience, sabotage, and violence. The first concept is the stepwise escalation of intensity: from legal activism to civil disobedience, to sabotage, to interpersonal violence. Activists escalate from one level of tactical intensity to the next when government and business interests prove unresponsive to activism at the lower level. The degree of escalation is proportional to the degree of government and business resistance. The second concept is the diversity of tactics. Even in highly contested campaigns, a majority of activists continues to use legal tactics while a minority escalates to more radical means. Thus, we see a combination of legal and illegal tactics in the same activist campaign. Tactical diversity is a source of strength: civil disobedience and sabotage may block environmentally destructive projects until legal challenges and legislative rule changes can end them for good. Tactical diversity also creates opportunities for solidarity, with different organizations contributing to the same campaign according to their tactical comparative advantages. The chapter lays out directions for comparative research and speculates about the future –  whether the worsening climate crisis portends an increase in the most radical tactics, sabotage and violence.

Brown, Joseph M. "Force of Words: The Role of Threats In Terrorism." Terrorism and Political Violence. (August 2018.)

ABSTRACT: This article builds a new theoretical framework to understand the role of threats in terrorism. Interviews of IRA members give rise to a speech/kinetic action model of terrorism, in which threats and violence jointly determine the physical consequences and political messages conveyed by terrorist attacks. In fact, threats are integral to the attack, and some attacks can be said to consist of threats alone. IRA interviews reveal four varieties of threats: warnings, hoaxes, pledges, and bluffs. These categories are distinguished by the timing of the threatened violence (immediate or prospective) and the intended truthfulness of the threat. The IRA interviews establish the function of each type of threat in influencing the beliefs or behavior of state and society. Threats may disrupt the economy, increase or decrease bloodshed, control social behavior, secure tactical or strategic advantage, claim attacks, aggrandize the perpetrator, and facilitate bargaining. A single threat may serve several of these functions, signaling different messages to different audiences. In fact, this is one of the most important applications of threats. When violence alone would produce suboptimal outcomes, threats alter the pattern of damage in a way that optimizes militants' messaging for all audiences.

Brown, Joseph M. "Efficient, Adaptable Simulations: A Case Study of A Climate Negotiation Game." Journal of Political Science Education. (February 2018.)

ABSTRACT: Instructors may be reluctant to adopt simulations because of time, labor, or material constraints, or perceived incompatibility with large classes. In fact, simple games can cover multiple key concepts with minimal time and effort by the instructor. Simple games are also adaptable to other topics and classes, including large lectures. This article presents a simulation in which students negotiate a global greenhouse gas reduction agreement. Three scenarios model basic climate change mitigation, follow-on agreements for climate stabilization, and the surprise withdrawal of signatories after a domestic leadership turnover (e.g. the 2016 US presidential election). The simulation teaches key concepts such as anarchy, collective action, preference divergence, and commitment problems. Concepts such as institutions, identity, and levels of analysis arise organically from game play. The exercise has extremely low cost and setup time. It can be run in fifteen minutes or extended for a full class period. The game may also be repurposed to simulate other bargaining or collective action issues. This case study shows that simulations can be efficient and adaptable. Instructors can create their own simple games to enhance comprehension of key concepts.

Brown, Joseph M. "Notes to the Underground: Credit Claiming and Organizing in the Earth Liberation Front." Terrorism and Political Violence. (September 2017.)

ABSTRACT: This paper presents a case study of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), based on interviews of the group’s former affiliates. It examines the role of credit claims in organizing this underground leaderless resistance group’s activity. In addition to the external signaling functions of credit claims – demonstrating capability, issuing demands, and soliciting public support – credit claims serve a movement-building role in the ELF. By issuing credit claims in “aboveground” fora that other cells are known to read, ELF cells with no direct links are able to communicate information to one another. Credit-claiming communiqués serve four organizing functions for the ELF. They constitute the ELF underground as an imagined community, recruit new cells, set agendas for future actions, and enforce operational standards of behavior via an informal “peer review” process. This study of the ELF suggests broader insights, including possible organizing techniques that may be observed in white supremacist and Islamist cases.

Brown, Joseph M. and Johannes Urpelainen. "Picking Treaties, Picking Winners: International Treaty Negotiations and the Strategic Mobilization of Domestic Interests." Journal of Conflict Resolution.  59:6 (2015), 1043-1073.

ABSTRACT: International treaty negotiations and domestic politics are interrelated. We show that negotiators can strategically select treaties to mobilize domestic interest groups and support particular candidates for office. Interest groups will support (oppose) political parties that will ratify treaties benefiting (harming) them. By designing treaties that mobilize these ‘‘swing’’ groups, negotiators can affect different parties’ chances of assuming power. Our model produces specific predictions for treaty design, contingent on the preferences of negotiators, parties, and interest groups. With conservative and moderate interest groups, the results may be counterintuitive — for instance, foreign governments pushing liberal treaties on liberal incumbents they dislike, intentionally mobilizing interest groups against the treaty and in favor of conservative challengers. Highly competitive systems, particularly those where moderate interest groups’ support is in play, give treaty negotiators leeway to shape political outcomes. Powerful interest groups may exert strong influence or no influence, depending on the cost of appeasing them and whether domestic and foreign negotiators are willing to gamble the incumbent’s political future for the achievement of their policy ideals.


#SorryNotSorry: Why States Neither Confirm Nor Deny Responsibility for Cyber Attacks [With Tanisha Fazal]

Terrorist Peer Review: Which Autonomous Attacks Does ISIL Accept for Publication?