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Weak States, State Failure, and Terrorism

by Edward Newman
Terrorism and Political Violence ()
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Abstract

It is common to hear the assertion that weak or failed states are fertile ground for terrorism. Yet terrorist groups have emerged from, and operated within, countries which have strong, stable states and a variety of systems of government. Terrorist organizations operate in weak and failed states but it is not necessarily the condition of weak or failed statehood which explains their presence. Moreover, it is not necessarily the weakest states which do host such groups. Therefore, this condition is not a sufficient explanation for their presence. While weak or failed states might provide an enabling environment for certain types of terrorist groups to operate, additional explanatory variables need to be identified. It is common to hear the assertion that weak or failed states are fertile ground for terrorism. Yet terrorist groups have emerged from, and operated within, countries which have strong, stable states and a variety of systems of government. Terrorist organizations operate in weak and failed states but it is not necessarily the condition of weak or failed statehood which explains their presence. Moreover, it is not necessarily the weakest states which do host such groups. Therefore, this condition is not a sufficient explanation for their presence. While weak or failed states might provide an enabling environment for certain types of terrorist groups to operate, additional explanatory variables need to be identified.

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