Venue: Armed Forces & Society
Coauthor: Ori Swed
Abstract: Commercial drone advancements have enabled terrorists with crude airpower, challenging states’ aerial dominance. Today, many groups skillfully use drones for propaganda generation, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, and attacks. Despite their obvious value, there is wide variation in adoption begging questions about who is using drones and why. Prominent in practitioner and security provider circles, academics are just skimming the surface of this important phenomenon. The small existing literature suggests that violent nonstate actor (VNSA) drone use is little more than Iran-sponsored jihadist terrorists with territory in the Middle East. Using an original dataset on group characteristics across 998 VNSAs from 1995 to 2019, we explore the empirical determinants of terrorist drone adoption. Though Iran-sponsorship is a significant factor, we find that network affiliations are the strongest predictors of adopting a drone program. We also demonstrate that groups with more intensive attack profiles and to some extent narco groups are more likely to pursue UAVs. Our study provides the first quantitative probe of the drivers of VNSA drone use, putting academic assertions and policy prescriptions on firmer empirical ground.
Venue: The De Gruyter Handbook on Drone Warfare
Coauthor: Ori Swed
Abstract: In the last decade, many violent nonstate actors have attained crude airpower with homemade, commercial and, in some cases, military-grade drones. While early adoption was constrained to groups with higher capacity, around 2013 the rapid advancement of commercial unmanned aerial system technology enabled a broad, diverse, and growing range of militant groups to harness them. Now, groups of manifold goals—terrorists, insurgents, rebels, cartels, criminal syndicates, extremists—use them to advance their agendas. The phenomenon is as geographically spread as ideologically, occurring in every region except Antarctica. The reason for this surge in malign drone use mirrors those of licit nonstate users: commercial drones are feasible and effective. As the industry expanded, these platforms became increasingly affordable and sophisticated. Flexible for multiuse functions, they can replace or reduce risk to manpower, yield intelligence to support operations, and serve as weapons from an aerial vantage point where many targets have not developed defensive measures. Each of these factors is critical for violent nonstate actors vying against stronger states and other nonstate competitors. The most common application is for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Militant groups also use them for target acquisition, propaganda, to disrupt enemy forces and broader political and economic processes, and for weaponized attacks. Already a security concern in several venues, we anticipate that the malign drone threat will grow in use, innovation, and complexity. We conclude with some prescriptions, emphasizing early mitigation, technological solutions, and training.
Venue: Foreign Policy Analysis
Coauthor: James Wright
Abstract: Previous research has extensively analyzed the existence and extent of rally effects following crisis initiation with respect to United States public opinion and presidential approval. Relatively less known is how crisis termination affects presidential approval. The theory presented in this article suggests that crisis terminations are prime for rally effects. They are salient, demonstrate competence, and thus activate a significant boost of executive approval akin to rally effects at crisis onset. Insofar as executives might use them as diversionary tools, crisis terminations overcome the strategic conflict avoidance argument and require less cynical assumptions about leaders’ self-interest than the conventional domain of diversionary theory, crisis initiations. We test the claim that crisis terminations have significant ‘‘halo effects’’ using monthly US presidential approval data during 48 international crises between 1953 and 2016. Results demonstrate that crisis termination has consistently positive effects on presidential approval. In addition, these surges are conditioned by the degree and disposition of public attention. The findings indicate that US public opinion is quite sensitive to the whole trajectory of an international crisis.
Venue: Small Wars & Insurgencies
Coauthor: Ori Swed
Abstract: The Weberian definition of the state as the legitimate monopoly on the means of violence links arms to national power. In practice, the monopoly entails exchanging capital for arms to equip security forces with weapons of war. We examine what happens to these arms when a state collapses. Focusing on Libya, we explore the regional diffusion of small arms and light weapons ejecting out of the power vacuum in the wake of its breakdown. Before the 2011 uprising, the Libyan armed forces were considered one of the best equipped in Africa. When the regime collapsed, the country became the hub of an illicit arms market supplying rebels and extremist groups across the Sahara-Sahel and Middle East. We argue that upon collapse, a reversal of a specific, key aspect of state-making obtains in which uncertain and opportunistic nonstate actors with a sudden surplus of scavenged weapons exchange arms for capital. Using United Nations documentation on illicit arms smuggling and georeferenced Uppsala Conflict Data Program information on substate violence, we examine the links between state collapse and regional substate violence. We find that this exogenous material boost has been critical in the rise of violent groups and their consolidation into regional threats.
Venue: Defence Studies
Coauthor: Ori Swed
Abstract: Scholarship on the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones) mainly focuses on states’ use, sidestepping the consequential proliferation of drone technology to violent nonstate actors (VNSAs). Meanwhile, an increasing corpus of media, military, and policy publications underscores the latter’s importance. The source of the gap is that existing proliferation models overlook civilian drone technologies. Applying supply- and demand-side proliferation models, we confirm conventional wisdom that military-grade drones are not likely to proliferate to VNSAs. Including civilian drones inverts proliferation logic across the boards. Shifting from cost-prohibitive, inaccessible, and technically complex military technologies to cheap, simple civilian platforms, we demonstrate that VNSAs have the resources, capacity, and interest to effectively incorporate drone programs to advance their aims. Furthermore, in context of state and nonstate actors’ security environments and normative constraints, the proliferation of civilian drones matters for international security. Norm-abiding states need expensive, high-performance, norm-enabling drones. For norm-defying VNSAs, civilian platforms are sufficient, even efficient, to advance their agendas.
Venue: Towards an International Political Economy of Artificial Intelligence
Coauthor: Ori Swed
Abstract: As artificial intelligence (AI) advances, speculations on its implications run parallel, sometimes rampant. On one side, alarmists foresee a technological singularity as AI outstrips human intelligence. On the other, scholars and analysts tend to trail behind the staggering speed of development. Called cultural lag, the deliberate pace of theoretical reflection is out of sync. Steering between the Scylla of doomsday scripts and the Charybdis of cultural lag, we identify and discuss the threat of violent nonstate actors exploiting advanced and democratized AI technologies to commit attacks. We analyze three confirming case studies followed by three potential threats becoming available as AI evolves: self-driving cars, Internet bots, and 3D printing. Our chapter contributes a shrewd approach to threat analysis in the dynamic world of AI development.
Venue: Air & Space Power Journal
Coauthor: Ori Swed
Abstract: The proliferation of civilian drone technologies to violent nonstate actors (VNSA) gives them a new offensive edge and increases challenges to security providers. Though far inferior to exquisite military-grade drones, commercial models enable VNSAs to leverage airpower’s unique attributes for violent attack, intelligence gathering, and propaganda generation. Also, as more VNSAs join the airspace, security providers must divert scarce resources—attention, time, and technology—to mitigate the growing threat. We survey the empirical record to demonstrate how VNSA-operated drones impact international, domestic, and aviation security. Our objective is to highlight and describe the scope and potential impact of the VNSA drone threat. In responding to the threat, we encourage military planners, practitioners, and security providers to consider cost proportionality and sustainability, logistical disruption, and operating context.
Venue: Journal of Conflict Resolution
Coauthors: Daehee Bak and Toby Rider
Abstract: Given the conventional claim that external threats increase internal cohesion and government capacity, cross-country studies have examined how interstate conflict events influence domestic politics. This article reevaluates the in-group and outgroup mechanisms by examining how international strategic rivalry, which indicates the presence of persistent external threats even in the absence of military conflict, affects domestic political competition. An alternative explanation suggests that the effect of external threats on political incentives of domestic actors differs between regime supporters and oppositions. We posit that the presence of international threats from rival states inflames domestic unrest and oppositions’ antiregime challenges, while making governments rely more on repressive tactics given resource constraints and a high level of domestic political intolerance. In addition, we propose that the domestic consequences of international rivalry are heterogeneous depending on the characteristics of political systems and the level of threat perception. Empirical tests reveal robust evidence for the hypotheses.
Venue: Social Science Quarterly
Coauthor: Aie-Rie Lee
Abstract: Previous research asserts that women are less prone to corruption than men. It is not without contestation, leading to a complex corpus with mixed findings suggesting that perceptions might be context-specific. This study investigates whether, how, and under or through what conditions gender impacts individual perceptions of corruption in South Korea, a case exemplifying “Asian exceptionalism.” Employing the World Values Survey and statistical regression techniques, we leverage a quasi-experiment analyzing individual attitudes across all regime types in South Korea’s recent history. Examining three types of corruption—state benefit fraud, tax evasion, and bribe-taking—we find no significant differences until Korea democratizes, when we observe a surprising increase in the gap between perspectives. Women’s differential tolerance is mixed across types of corruption, implying that corruption is not a homogenous concept and that perceptions are conditioned by individual opportunities and constraints.
Venue: PS: Political Science & Politics
Coauthor: Kristina Mitchell
Abstract: Research continues to accumulate showing that in instructor evaluations students are biased against women. This article extends these analyses by examining the dynamics between evaluations and gender and race/ethnicity. In a quasi-experimental design, faculty members teaching identical online courses recorded welcome videos that were presented to students at the course onset, constituting the sole exposure to perceived gender and race/ethnicity. This enables exploration of whether and to what degree the instructors’ characteristics influenced student evaluations, even after holding all other course factors constant. Findings show that instructors who are female and persons of color receive lower scores on ordinal student evaluations than those who are white males. Overall, we add further evidence to a growing literature calling for student evaluations of teaching (SETs) reform and extend it to encompass the effects on racial/ethnic minorities in addition to women.