Monday, April 25, 2016

URSP Student Sarah Evans Compares the Advantages of Failed and Weak States to Terrorist Networks

Hello, my name is Sarah Evans! My research this semester is a qualitative analysis of whether transnational terrorist groups benefit more from the use of weak states or failed states as havens. For my project, I have operationalized the word ‘benefit’ through four criteria: prospects of financial gain within the country, rule of law within the country, ease of movement within the country, and ease of travel to other countries. Within my final paper, I will use several countries as ‘case studies’ to examine these ideas in the real world. For example, one country I plan to incorporate as a case study is Yemen, a failed state which has increasingly become a threat due to the operation of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

I originally became interested in the study of terrorism by taking CRIM 475: Theory and Politics of Terrorism, last fall. Both this class and the large-scale terrorist attacks of last November made me feel that terrorism was an increasingly important issue to understand and address knowledgeably. More specifically, reading several articles about Al-Qaeda’s use of weak and failed states through CRIM 475 highlighted the significance of working to understand what type of country is most likely to harbor a transnational terrorist organization.  For my research, I use scholarly journal articles, media publications and books related to my topic. In a typical week at this stage of the process, I spend time finding, reading, and summarizing sources to incorporate into my paper.

Recently I have been doing a lot of reading about the differences between ISIS and Al-Qaeda (ISIS used to be an Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Qaeda in Iraq).  In reading about their structural differences, one thing I learned is that while Al-Qaeda has always used a selective process for approving members, ISIS is much more open to letting any recruits join. I have appreciated the chance to do this independent study about terrorism because I am interested in working in U.S. counterterrorism or foreign policy in the future.