The Empire Strikes Back: Violence and Counterinsurgency in the North Caucasus

On Thursday May 21, David Siroky, Ph.D., of Arizona State University gave a presentation to UCF students and faculty about indiscriminate and selective violence in the North Caucasus. Siroky presented two of his current works in progress: “The Empire Strikes Back: Ethnicity Terrain and Indiscriminate Violence in Counterinsurgencies” and “The Logic of Killing Kin in Irregular War: How and Why Does It Work?”David_Siroky

In the first area of his research, Siroky examines how the ability to acquire information about counterinsurgencies can motivate a government to utilize either indiscriminate or selective violence. He looked at two factors when researching the government’s likelihood of employing indiscriminate violence techniques: amount of forested terrain, and ethnic homogeneity of the population. Forested terrain offers refuge to insurgents and limits the government’s ability to collect taxes. Ethnic homogeneity limits the government’s ability to acquire quality intelligence. Informants are harder to find since there tends to be a higher group solidarity; therefore the government will try to dilute the ethnic pockets to reduce the insurgents’ ability to maintain a cohesive resistance. In his research Siroky found that governments are more likely to resort to indiscriminate violence in ethnically homogenous areas and in more densely forested areas.

In the second area of his research, Siroky looks at why governments would employ a kin-killing strategy. He explains that indiscriminate violence tends to be unstable because it encourages those on the fence to join the opposition. Kin killing strategies aim to attack the relatives of insurgents to get the insurgents to capitulate. The goal of this type of violence is to coerce insurgents to quit, compel those who would retaliate to stand down, stop local support, and stop new recruits from joining. This strategy lacks some of the disadvantages of indiscriminate violence because it punishes for individual actions and it doesn’t push civilians into the arms of the insurgents for security.

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