Draining the swamp: Democracy promotion, state failure, and terrorism in 19 Middle Eastern countries

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This study empirically evaluates the question of whether or not the promotion of democracy in the Middle East will reduce terrorism, both in terms of terrorist attacks sustained by Middle Eastern countries and in terms of attacks perpetrated by terrorist groups based in Middle Eastern countries. Using a series of pooled, time-series negative binomial statistical regression models on 19 countries from 1972 to 2003 the analysis demonstrates that the more politically liberal Middle Eastern states - measured both in terms of democratic processes and in terms of civil liberties protections - are actually more prone to terrorist activity than are Middle Eastern dictatorships. The study demonstrates, furthermore, that an even more significant predictor of Middle Eastern terrorist attacks is the intensity of state failures, or episodes of severe political instability that limit central government projection of domestic authority, suffered by states in the region. States that are unable to respond to fundamental challenges to political stability posed by internal political strife, ethnic conflict or the phenomenon of "stateless areas", geographic or political spaces within states that eschew central government authority, are significantly more likely to host or sustain attacks from terrorist groups. The findings have implications for current United States antiterrorism policy toward the Middle East and provide a statistical/empirical foundation to previous studies on the relationship between terrorism and state failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-539
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in Conflict and Terrorism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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