Department of Education
Graduate Research Management Office
Research Papers
Academic Year 2016


Academic Year 2016 Archive (Excel Spreadsheet 36KB)

This Excel spreadsheet is the 2016 academic year research papers with links to download the paper. Excel spreadsheets are searchable.

Click here to download the Academic Year 2016 Archive (Excel Spreadsheet 36KB)

A Cause for Concern? The Spread of Militant Islam in East Africa

This thesis examines the spread of militant Islam in Kenya and Tanzania. We argue that Islamist militants who have gained a foothold in Kenya and are attempting to expand into Tanzania are behind an increasing number of attacks. We contend that spillover effects from the failed state of Somalia, along with influence from other external actors, are as important—if not more important—than other factors that receive the bulk of the attention, such as socioeconomic disparities and the perceived lack of political representation of Muslims. A third under-recognized but critical factor is the burgeoning population of Muslim youth. Ultimately, this thesis seeks to draw attention to the importance of these three factors. It concludes by offering options to counteract the spread of militant Islam in the region.

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Bringing the Meaning Back in: Exploring Existentially Motivated Terrorism

Radicalization and political violence are traditionally explained as rational, instrumental choices motivated by grievances, deprivation, oppression, and other factors external to the individual. This explanatory model, however, is dangerously incomplete; many radicalized individuals appear to be internally motivated toward violence as a way to bring meaning to their lives. Western philosophy, and the existentialist school in particular, has long recognized the centrality of meaning to human existence. Psychology and sociology have more recently empirically demonstrated meaning-in-life's close connection to happiness, psychological well-being, and even physical health. This thesis examines both the philosophy and science of meaning-in-life, demonstrating the process through which it is produced and terrorism's unique ability to do so. Finally, this thesis examines four case studies across time, place, and ideological basis to establish the influence of existential motives in the history of terrorism. Understanding and accounting for the importance of meaning-in-life and its role in terrorism will help develop effective counter-radicalization and counter-violent extremism programs that account for more than rational, instrumental motives.

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Broken Mirrors: Tracing Issues in Building Partner Capacity

Recent U.S. military engagements in fragile states have focused on building security institutions that match Western military and police models. These operations, however, have highlighted the need to reevaluate how we build host-nation security institutions from the ground up in conflict areas with varying social, religious, and ethnic concentrations. The interaction between the environment, doctrine, and technology (EDT) provided by U.S. government agencies has complicated the issue by locking the host-nation's success to ongoing U.S. support. This research uses process-tracing to examine EDT factors in two case studies: U.S. advisory missions in Vietnam from 1954Ð1965, and in Afghanistan from 2001 to the present. These cases are used to analyze past and current U.S. efforts aimed at building a partner's capacity to secure their own sovereign territory. Because the current U.S. model for fighting internal threats maintains a military structured for fighting external threats, a foreign partner's security structure will likely collapse without continuing U.S. advisory presence and materiel support.

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By Force or by Fraud: Optimizing U.S. Information Strategy With Deception

Military deception (MILDEC) operations have a long and illustrious place in America's battlefield history. To great effect, MILDEC has enabled countless victories in every U.S. conflict since the Revolutionary War. However, the United States has allowed its deception capability to atrophy. Possible explanations for our MILDEC divestiture range from structural insufficiencies to an ethical framework that emphasizes truth and transparency. Simultaneously, the onset of the Information Age has leveled the playing field between state and non-state actors (NSA) and proved that lasting victory cannot be achieved by force alone. Yet, due in part to the difficulty involved in quantifiably measuring information strategy, the contemporary military's acceptance and understanding of information warfare has been limited. This necessitates the re-examination of U.S. information strategy formulation to address more effectively the challenges and complexities encountered in the human domain. To overcome this impediment, this thesis examines the intangible aspects of information warfare and proposes a structured decision-making tool capable of generating precise computations of optimal information strategies. By Force or by Fraud is a quantitative assessment of MILDEC's utility on the modern battlefield that is qualitatively tested against historic cases of information warfare.

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Civil Wars Hijacked: A Case Study of the Lebanese Civil War

The United States continues to be drawn into complex conflict environments where multiple internal and external state and non-state actors (NSAs) compete for influence. This thesis seeks to address how an external state actor can establish influence in a civil war environment through effective support of non-state actors. The research question is addressed through an in-depth analysis of the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990, using both qualitative and social network analysis to assess the strategies of three state actors in that conflict: Israel, Syria, and Iran. This study suggests that external state actors can increase influence in a civil war environment through a variety of strategies. However, the most dominant state actors are typically those that pursue a limited objective through a combination of direct and indirect support to a heterogeneous coalition of non-state actors employing a combination of violent and non-violent techniques. The lessons obtained from this analysis may provide valuable insights to planners tasked with the development of influence within a civil war through external support to NSAs.

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Cooperation Among Nations: Understanding the Counter Nuclear Smuggling Network in Europe

This research identifies and characterizes a U.S.-centric counter nuclear smuggling network in Europe, and recommends ways to improve its cooperation and effectiveness. The purpose is to provide USSOCOM, NSHQ, and the larger counterproliferation (CP) community with an understanding of how the current network functions, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it can be improved. The research starts by examining prominent theories of international relations to understand cooperation within the network. Afterward, social network analysis (SNA) is used to define the Counter Nuclear Smuggling–Europe (CNS-E) network and characterize its structure. Lastly, the function of the network is assessed using realistic vignettes based upon current threats in Europe. The results of this research indicate that the CNS-E network is highly decentralized and dense. Cooperation is abundant, though not sufficiently strong to ensure that information is shared. This research concludes by making the following recommendations: 1) The U.S. government should focus on strengthening existing relations, not creating new relations; 2) The network should centralize capabilities and information in regional hubs; 3) USSOCOM and NSHQ should establish strong relationships with law enforcement agencies; 4) USSOCOM and NSHQ can contribute to nonproliferation efforts by conducting threat assessments of European chemical biological radiological nuclear (CBRN) facilities.

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Countering the Hidden Hand: A Study of Iranian Influence in Iraq

The purpose of this thesis is to illuminate the pathways of Iranian influence in Iraq in order to provide U.S. decision makers with a possible strategy to counter Iran’s malignant influence there. By using a combination of social network analysis and social movement theory, this study illuminates the network of actors fighting Daesh in Iraq by first analyzing the network to map Iran’s influence channels and identify macro- and micro-level brokerage within the network. Using a social-movement focused approach, this study then identifies a candidate group for mobilization. Study of the network reveals that Iranian influence is exerted via its sponsored Shi’a militias and by conducting bloc recruitment of tribal militias. To counter this, the Jubouri tribal confederation located in Salahuddin Province offers high potential for mobilization under U.S. sponsorship that could be used to combat Iranian influence.

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Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Preliminary Field Study in Improving Collaboration

The proliferation of emerging and disruptive technologies such as additive manufacturing continues unabated. Such trends vastly increase the likelihood of a pernicious non-state actor acquiring weapons of mass destruction in the near future. In addition, these emerging novel threats have proved particularly vexing for the existing U.S. bureaucracies. Absent the major restructuring of the government, significantly higher levels of proactive inter-agency collaboration will be required to successfully respond to these grave challenges. In this project, we first operationalized a concept of collaboration in terms of increases in transparency, resource sharing, and interdependence across inter-agency actors. In other words, actors are deemed to be collaborating when they share information, make assets available to one another, and become jointly invested in (and responsible for) the resulting decisions. Second, we explored if the use of a formal collaborative process and the choice of venue would have significant impacts on the degree of collaboration observed. A preliminary field study conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore confirmed our intuitions regarding increased collaboration, and provided the springboard for additional research, as well as for a number of policy recommendations.

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Cultivating the Grapevine: An Analysis of Rumor Principles and Concepts

Rumors can be a perfect tool to subvert, deceive, or suggest what truth is to a population. However, despite the demonstrated ability of rumors to influence a population, current U.S. military doctrine does not address how to recognize, craft, or effectively counter them. The purpose of this study is to analyze the principles and concepts governing the spread of rumors for their future integration into Psychological Operations forces (PSYOP) doctrine and training. Specifically, this study draws from a review of current and historical literature on rumor theory to distill a set of principles to guide the successful employment of rumors, as well as a set of principles for defending against the employment of rumors by an adversary. These principles are then tested by the case study analysis of three examples of successful rumor generation, as well as two successful examples and one unsuccessful case of rumor defense. From its investigation, this study proposes two new models to assist the influence practitioner in the employment of and defense against rumors.

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Cyber-enabled Unconventional Warfare: The Convergence of Cyberspace, Social Mobilization, and Special Warfare

The United States currently faces an environment of constrained resources and increasing threats where new foreign policy options need to be considered. An area that holds the potential for low-profile campaigns to confront enemies of the United States is cyber-enabled unconventional warfare (UW). Conducting military operations through cyber-enabled UW is less expensive, and inherently, it involves less physical risk than a conventional deployment of U.S. military personnel abroad. This research indicates that seven conditions exist in the cyberspace environment that can enhance the conduct of UW. Since no organization in the U.S. military with the requisite capabilities to exploit these conditions in the cyber domain exists, one should be created. Cyber-enabled UW can provide scalable military options to U.S. policymakers that are currently not available.

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Dim Networks: The Utility of Social Network Analysis for Illuminating Partner Security Force Networks

As the security landscape changes, the importance of strong and influential partnerships for security cooperation (SC) increases. The process of selecting the best possible partners should not be neglected; tools to accomplish this task may already exist. Recently, the use of social network analysis (SNA) has allowed the military to map dark networks of terrorist organizations and selectively target key elements. SNA data collection and analysis efforts remain focused on these terrorist networks, whereas friendly or light networks have been relatively neglected. This thesis highlights the importance of analyzing light networks for SC and introduces the concept of dim networks. These are networks that consist of friendly actors whose connections to external organizations may not be public. This thesis has potential to improve partner security force engagement selection through the use of SNA principles, methods, and software, yielding several dividends. First, it provides a commander with a detailed understanding of the foreign units involved in SC, which allows for development of a more focused engagement strategy. Second, it allows SC planners to invest time and resources on the partner security forces that most effectively advance the commander’s engagement priorities. Third, it reinforces the collection of network-related data on organizations the U.S. military cooperates with and the importance of analyzing that empirical data to improve SC.

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Embedded Efficiency: A Social Networks Approach to Popular Support and Dark Network Structure

This thesis poses the question, What is the nature of the relationships between social embeddedness, structural efficiency, and organizational behavior within dark networks? The objectives of this thesis are twofold. The primary objective is to illuminate the interaction between embeddedness, structure, and activity within dark networks, the aim being to study if changes in embeddedness manifest in observable fluctuations in a network’s topography or behavior. The secondary objective is to evaluate the results of a novel, permutation-based methodology. Throughout, this thesis combines qualitative elements of social movement theory and social network analysis with quantitative statistical techniques to provide a mixed method examination of three empirical dark network case studies (the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the Noordin Top Terrorist Network, and a Southeast Asian Foreign Fighter Facilitation network). The results of both the qualitative and quantitative methods are synthesized to highlight the strengths and limitations associated with each approach. This thesis reveals that, although embeddedness may contribute to rapid mobilization or organizational security, exogenous factors such as network shocks and endogenous variations in core membership may preclude such advantages from influencing internal network structure. Finally, this thesis recommends potential intelligence applications and areas for future social network research.

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Fighting to Avoid Conflict: U.S. Counterterrorism Model in Northwest Africa

This paper proposes that national security decision makers consider using special operation forces (SOF) forward in contested security environments outside of theaters of war to enable partner forces to combat violent extremist threats. Assumption of low-risk presence early buys down risk later as U.S. forces gain needed situational understanding. To the degree that SOF enablement activities are successful, the United States can achieve positive effects for U.S. national security interests in an acceptable time horizon. Additionally, time is gained for long-term institution building and governance activities to achieve sustainable results. First, this paper addresses key concepts and assumptions concerning the strategic indirect approach in terms of security cooperation and shaping operations. Second, we discuss the strategic environment and threat in North and West Africa. The paper then addresses the USSOF enablement model of select regional partner forces. By analyzing SOF supporting actions in North and West Africa, we present four specific insights for future potential enablement operations outside of areas of declared combat operations.

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Harbingers of the Caliphate: Islamic State Revolutionary Actions 2011-2014

At the time of the U.S. forces' withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011, the Islamic State was on the brink of defeat. With roughly 700 members remaining, the movement initiated a well-designed and rigorously executed revolutionary campaign, first in Iraq and then Syria. By June of 2014, a movement once dismissed as junior varsity was dominating eastern Syria and routing divisions of the Iraqi Army. This thesis develops a model of revolutionary growth and employs it as a tool to evaluate the Islamic State's campaign from 2011 through 2014. This evaluation reveals the significance and logic of Islamic State car bomb attacks against the Iraqi Security Forces and Shia civilians. The analysis explains how and why the Islamic State forges alliances and eliminates rival movements and tribal organizations. This evaluation illuminates the Islamic State's internal structure and methodology for governing territory to support further growth. This thesis allows the reader to form a better understanding of the integrated strategy of the Islamic State, so as to be better prepared to contribute to current efforts to combat the movementÑin Iraq, Syria, and other troubled nations.

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Implications for US Special Operations Forces and the Interagency in Phase Zero: Case Studies in the Pacific Theater, 2000 to 2014

Using a qualitative case study methodology in this thesis, I explore how USSOF and the interagency support chiefs of mission and geographic combatant commanders in achieving national security objectives. Analysis of national security documents, research literature, and US phase zero counter terrorism campaigns in the Philippines and Indonesia reveals four major themes. First, threat groups exploit instability, and voids in phase zero engagement prevent the United States from understanding that exploitation. Second, authorities can be mutually supportive for the DoS and USSOF, but they can also unintentionally narrow the scope of phase zero operations and create an “authorities trap.” Third, the contemporary operating environment is complex, and the US lacks a strategy that synchronizes all the elements of national power to navigate that environment effectively. Finally, understanding the operational environment is paramount for USSOF to effectively execute phase zero operations. These four themes support three recommendations: the legislative foundation of the US national security structure needs to be updated; a national security council level directorate needs to be established to develop and execute phase zero strategy; and Theater Special Operations Commands need to drive national strategy through comprehensive, regional phase zero campaign planning that is integrated at all levels of the GCC and US country team.

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Innovative Practices for Special Warfare

Special Warfare forces are tasked with conducting operations in uncertain environments defined by rapidly changing environmental elements (instability) and the interaction of many diverse external factors (complexity). In order to succeed, organizations operating in uncertain environments should decentralize decision-making to the appropriate level and emphasize an organic approach that focuses on the importance of people, adaptation, and innovation. The current USASOC bureaucracy, mirroring the conventional Army, is built to maximize internal efficiency and specialize in previously predicted scenarios. Due to persistently high operational tempo, personnel downsizing, and fiscal constraints, redesigning USASOC is not feasible at this time. However, the improvement of processes and incremental enhancement to align better with the operational environment within the existing design is possible. This study explores best practices from innovative and adaptive organizations that ARSOF can draw upon to increase its capability to conduct special warfare. Through the examination of these best practices, the study identified four key factors that lead to innovation: collaboration, organizational structure, incentives, and acceptance. This study recommends that Special Warfare forces apply these factors by increasing career flexibility, internal and external linkages through broadening opportunities and liaisons, and the collective intelligence of the organization through the use of cross-functional teams and increased communication measures. Adopting these enhancements may promote innovation and adaptation and increase Special Warfare forces’ contributions to national defense.

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Insurgent Design: The Re-emergence of al-Qa'ida From 9/11 to the Present

Analysts disagree on how to characterize al-Qa’ida’s evolution. One perspective regards jihadi-Islamism in general to be self-marginalizing. A second perspective describes the merging of discrete jihadist grand strategies that is considered symptomatic of the decline of al-Qa’ida and its allies. A third finds that al-Qa’ida is gathering strength. This study expands upon the gathering strength perspective, contending that al-Qa’ida’s successes are derived from its design orientation and competence. Al-Qa’ida agents have vigorously redesigned their transnational system to adapt to a profoundly hostile and unpredictable environment. For al-Qa’ida and its brethren, the highest rate of adaptation is occurring on the battlefield, as they experiment with varied technologies of warfare, rather than in debate over grand strategic ideas. Where before there were fleeting, desultory actions by terroristic cells, now maturing organizations vie for territorial control, establishing jihadi emirates and proto-states. To respond effectively to the situation, Western understanding of al-Qa’ida and the wider system of jihadi-Islamist insurgency must evolve apace.

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Joint Combined Exchange Training Evaluation Framework: A Crucial Tool in Security Cooperation Assessment

A focal point of American security readiness is proactive security interaction with cooperative states and allies abroad to deter threats, protect the homeland, and advance national interests. As a component in this effort, the militaries of theUnited States and the Republic of the Philippines (PH) have been conducting recurring bilateral engagements since 1991. Among these Security Cooperation programs, Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) produces a high return on training investment through the enhancement of US Special Operations Forces (SOF) in mentor, instructor and advisor roles, as well as increasing cultural understanding and trust between American and Filipino counterparts, US-PH interoperability, and both militaries’ tactical skills. Despite several decades of conducting JCETs, no objective assessment of these events has been done. Thus, this study develops the JCET Evaluation Framework (JEF)—a tool based on the Eight-Step and ADDIE training models to examine the effectiveness of JCETs. Uniquely, this study compares the post-training reports from both the PH and US SOF units to validate the evaluation design, and provides recommendations for the improvement of future JCETs: improving after-action report formats, developing an overall engagement strategy, improving resource sustainment and the human rights vetting processes, and conducting and bilaterally sharing post-engagement surveys.

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Mapping Libyan Jihadist Networks for UW

The post-Gaddafi Libyan war continues along fractured lines of allegiance. Various militia networks are in open armed conflict with each other and pitted against other jihadist networks. The central government is split in two and the United Nations is working to broker a unity government that can offer at least a partial solution. One of the contributing factors to this conflict and the pervasiveness of jihadist networks in Libya is a Libyan history of conflict stretching back to World War I. These jihadist networks arose both before and during the civil war. The latest jihadist organization to entrench itself in the civil war is the Daesh. In this thesis, Daesh’s expansion in Libya is explored through the lens of a political process model. Then, jihadist networks in Libya are mapped. Their social ties between each other and other non-jihadist elements of Libyan civil society are illuminated in a search of candidate brokers. The most influential jihadist brokers are identified and ranked in terms of their relative influence. Finally, these insights are used to help define new strategies for contending with jihadists in Libya.

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Moving Forward by Looking in the Rearview Mirror

The U.S. military remains a premier conventional fighting force, but success in counterinsurgency has proved to be beyond its grasp on numerous occasions. Consequently, this research investigates preconditions that could increase the likelihood of success for a U.S.-supported counterinsurgency. The selected factors include the host government's level of legitimacy, its capacity and willingness to deny sanctuary, and whether it shares key objectives with the United States. In all four cases of this comparative analysis, the United States functioned as the external supporter to the counterinsurgency forces. The cases include conflicts in the Philippines (2002Ð2014), El Salvador (1981Ð1992), Afghanistan (2001Ð2009), and Iraq (2003Ð2006). In the cases of the Philippines and El Salvador, both governments demonstrated a degree of legitimacy, the capacity and willingness to deny sanctuary, and shared critical objectives with the United States. In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, both governments were relatively illegitimate and lacked the willingness and capacity to deny sanctuary. Moreover, while the host governments shared some objectives with the United States, the local populations did not embrace these ideals. Arguably, the Philippine and El Salvador cases reached acceptable outcomes, while the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have not. Therefore, this thesis recommends that the United States should not commit significant military support unless all three pre-conditions are satisfied.

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My Brother's Keeper: Forging SOF Operators Through Developmental Relationships

The U.S. military remains a premier conventional fighting force, but success in counterinsurgency has proved to be beyond its grasp on numerous occasions. Consequently, this research investigates preconditions that could increase the likelihood of success for a U.S.-supported counterinsurgency. The selected factors include the host government's level of legitimacy, its capacity and willingness to deny sanctuary, and whether it shares key objectives with the United States. In all four cases of this comparative analysis, the United States functioned as the external supporter to the counterinsurgency forces. The cases include conflicts in the Philippines (2002Ð2014), El Salvador (1981Ð1992), Afghanistan (2001Ð2009), and Iraq (2003Ð2006). In the cases of the Philippines and El Salvador, both governments demonstrated a degree of legitimacy, the capacity and willingness to deny sanctuary, and shared critical objectives with the United States. In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, both governments were relatively illegitimate and lacked the willingness and capacity to deny sanctuary. Moreover, while the host governments shared some objectives with the United States, the local populations did not embrace these ideals. Arguably, the Philippine and El Salvador cases reached acceptable outcomes, while the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have not. Therefore, this thesis recommends that the United States should not commit significant military support unless all three pre-conditions are satisfied.

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Nationalist to Transnational Insurgency: State Repression and Violent Extremist Scale Shift

The phenomenon of global jihad, a transnational conflict often emerging from intra-state insurgency, highlights a weakness in states' security apparatus that non-state actors have exploited. In this study, I examine insurgencies that widen their objectives from nationalist or regional focus to transnational violent extremism - a process of scale shift - under conditions of state repression. The study shows that scale shift accelerates when state security forces repress and co-opt nationalist elements of an insurgency, insurgents in other countries support a transnational faction of the insurgency, and the transnational element becomes predominant. This suggests that the process of scale shift is characterized by decades of evolution based on transnational relationships, gradual replacement of nationalist goals, and diversification of resources to include external sources. I also fmd that the intervening variables of factional disunity, state repression, and state co-optation are key mechanisms for speeding and completing the scale shift. For counterinsurgency to be completely effective, an additional line of effort must address factions with transnational relationships, even though these are likely to be weak compared to more powerful nationalist groups.

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New Challenges to Authoritarian State Stability: The Proliferation of Modern Information Communications Technology

Numerous political commentators have proclaimed the rapid proliferation of information and communications technology (ICT) as the harbinger of instability to undemocratic governments. But does the spread of ICT necessarily destabilize authoritarian regimes, and does it impact different types of autocracies to the same degree? To determine the effect of ICT on governments, this study adopts a quantitative approach. The relationship between state stability and ICT penetration in countries from 1990 to 2013 is examined using logistic regression techniques. The results of the analysis indicate a statistically significant negative relationship between the onset of violence and ICT presence. Authoritarian regimes, specifically those with institutionalized succession regimes, such as monarchies and one-party states, appear to experience less violence as ICT levels increase, whereas stability changes only marginally in democratic countries. Governments and individuals may utilize ICT in disparate manners in pursuit of opposing objectives, but the spread of ICT to authoritarian regimes seems to favor existing institutions rather than the populace. To better understand the relationship between the stability of authoritarian regimes and ICT penetration, it is recommended that future research blend qualitative analysis with an examination of more specific elements of ICT.

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Peaceful Protest, Political Regimes, and the Social Media Challenge

Information and communication technologies (ICT) have transformed with the advent of the Internet and the diffusion of cellular-based communications. Previous research has examined the effects of horizontal ICT on collective violence, but the effects on non-violent expressions are not well understood. Using social conflict data from Africa and Latin America between 1990 and 2011, this study employs negative binomial regression models to explore the distinct effects of the spread of social media on peaceful protests within democratic, anocratic, and autocratic regimes. Multiple regression models find strong statistical evidence in support of a positive relationship between social media and peaceful protest in anocratic regimes. Autocratic and anocratic states will thus increasingly find themselves in a social media challengeÑrepress horizontal ICT or embrace it and its effectsÑas their populations seek democratization.

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Perception is Reality: Special Operations Forces in the Gray Zone

As conflicts increasingly fall within the Gray ZoneÑthat is, outside the traditional peace-or-war constructÑthe U.S. military must understand how to succeed in this ambiguous environment and counter its threats. A key challenge is understanding how to employ the tools available in the Gray ZoneÑthe primary tool being Special Operation Forces (SOF). This research finds that policymakers and others outside of SOF have often misapplied this tool, due to limited understanding of SOF roles and competencies. This limited understanding or misperception of SOF may have a detrimental effect on the ability of the Unites States to reach its foreign policy goals. This research analyzes U.S. SOF employment in the Gray Zone, breaking down constituent components and identifying those of greater importance. Characteristics of the Gray Zone and irregular warfare are considered, and a holistic approach to the use of irregular warfare in the Gray Zone is proposed. Graham Allison and Morton Halperin's bureaucratic politics model is used to discern the factors that shape the perception of SOF. Two historical cases are viewed through the lens of the bureaucratic politics model to show how SOF capabilities must be well understood and properly employed to achieve desired U.S. policy goals.

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Precipitating the Decline of Al-Shabaab: A Case Study in Leadership Decapitation

The tactic of leadership decapitation, using military action to capture or kill terrorist leadership, is a key component ofUnited States counterterrorism strategy. Policymakers argue that eliminating terrorist leadership is an effective way to disrupt, and, ultimately, destroy terrorist organizations. Since 2001, hundreds of terrorist leaders have been captured or killed by U.S. counterterrorism operations. In spite of this, the spread of violent, radical jihadist groups like Al-Shabaab has expanded and grown in strength. This thesis analyzes the United States’ approach of leadership targeting toward Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and asks the research question: Under what conditions are leadership decapitation effective in degrading the terrorist group Al-Shabaab? This thesis finds that leadership decapitation operations have a limited effect in disrupting and preventing future acts of terrorism. It argues for a more analytical approach to leadership decapitation in order to improve its effectiveness. This thesis argues for leadership targeting principles that are likely to be effective counterterrorism strategies and lead to the long-term decline of the group, including basing targeting decisions on understanding the group’s internal dynamics, integrating decapitation operations into comprehensive counterterrorism strategies, and capitalizing on existing leadership divisions, which can be as effective as lethal military action.

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Sowing the Seeds of Soft Power: The United States and India in the Next Great Game

In both the 2010 and 2015 National Security Strategy, the White House published President Barack Obama’s remarks emphasizing that the United States must integrate all the tools of national power to further U.S. strategic interests. This is especially true in a dynamic and increasingly multipolar world. In what this thesis calls the Next Great Game, the future key players in this emerging geopolitical scenario are Iran, Russia, China, and India. This thesis focuses on India. Using Joseph Nye’s concept of hard power and soft power, this thesis explores what bonds can and do serve to align the United States and India. In doing so, this thesis makes it clear that the United States and India share several soft power bonds as a result of their respective historic connections to British colonialism, which to a certain degree has already set the conditions for the integration of all the tools of U.S. national power with India. Though historic disagreements and complex regional relations stymie the process, the United States must be cognizant of the type of relationship that is presenting itself and understand that the tools of government may be less important than the form of power being exercised.

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Special Warfare: Restructuring for the Future

The special forces operational detachment-alpha (SFODA) has remained virtually unchanged since its inception in 1956. However, throughout its history, the SFODA has frequently been augmented with various assets, particularly civil affairs. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the SFODA in its current form and make recommendations for its future composition and focusing of resources. Throughout its history, the SFODA has been augmented to accomplish its missions during conflicts. Particularly frequent has been augmentation by civil affairs and psychological warfare personnel. As special forces plays an important if not leading role in low-intensity conflict, they will continue to rely upon these assets. This thesis approaches the challenge of restructuring the SFODA by examining three cases in which special forces, or special operations forces, were used: World War II (the Jedburghs and Detachment 101), Vietnam (special forces), and Afghanistan (special forces). Based on an examination of these cases, this thesis offers recommendations on force structure, recruiting, and training for the future.

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Terrorist Group Brands: Understanding Terrorist Group Strategies Through Brand Exposure

Much as commercial firms do, terrorist groups use branding to increase support and thus their capacity to conduct operations. This thesis introduces the new concept terrorist brand exposure, as a reflection of effective brand management strategies and communications among terrorist groups. In that regard, this thesis seeks to merge two vastly different theories, brand theory and terrorism studies, into one package. The research involves a quantitative analysis of the terrorist brand exposure of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in the news media published on the Internet between April 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015. The results of this thesis validate that terrorist groups can influence their brand exposure through violent terrorist actions and manage their brand strategies to differentiate themselves from other groups in the global competition for resources.

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The Army National Guard: Part of the Operational Force and Strategic Reserve

This monograph reviews changes, specific to Army National Guard (ARNG) capabilities, required to optimize ARNG performance while serving in an operational role. These changes include a more encompassing mobilization strategy, continued equipping of the ARNG in line with the AC, investment in ARNG maintenance facilities and programs, increasing fulltime manning levels in the ARNG, providing predictable budgets to support operational requirements, and a review of the mobilization process. This monograph focuses on ARNG issues and is intended to improve understanding of the issues faced when managing and employing the ARNG in an operational role.

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The Role of Taxation in Insurgent Movements

This paper examines the degree to which an insurgency’s ability to establish and extract financing from a tax base impacts prospects for achieving the movement’s objectives. How important is a tax base to the success or failure of an insurgency? And to what extent is the ability of an insurgent movement to tax a given population indicative of its level of legitimacy? The literature in this specific area is underdeveloped, and what literature does exist does not take on these questions directly. Taxation is often used synonymously with extortion and other criminal activities in insurgent movements, which diminishes the ability to assess the role of taxation objectively. This paper, however, takes an alternative approach by assessing insurgent taxation as an indicator of legitimacy, as well as a means to sustain and solidify insurgent successes. It draws on research from the cases of the FARC insurgency in Colombia and the Afghan Taliban to spur discussion of insurgent tax bases and to illustrate the importance of economic factors in revolutionary warfare. This research finds that an insurgency’s ability to levy taxes on a population is decisive in building legitimacy and financing operations against the established government. However, predatory taxation, or over-taxation, that results in nominal return on investment for the population is decisive in degrading support for the insurgency. This research argues for a greater understanding of economic influencers in insurgency, especially as it relates to expanding the body of applicable knowledge and concepts available to policymakers and practitioners.

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Transitions From Violence to Politics: Conditions for the Politicization of Violent Non-state Actors

It is imperative for a nation to understand the most effective way to combat threats to its national security, and at times the best reaction to a violent atrocity could be diplomatic. This thesis examines the politicization process of violent non-state actors and the five statistical factors that contribute to the likelihood of a successful transition from violence to politics. These five salient factors include the occurrence of negotiations, the ideology of the organization, the motivations of the organization, the types of targets it selects to attack, and the longevity of the group. These factors are identified through a statistical analysis, and tested in successive chapters examining case studies of violent actors that have successfully politicized, are currently transitioning, or have failed. The objective of this thesis is to determine if the factors examined can be used to predict the likelihood of other violent non-state actors successfully transitioning to politics. Additionally, the case is made that politicization significantly reduces violence. The conclusion suggests how legitimate state actors that are combating violent non-state actors can gauge ripeness for politicization and suggests how to focus a state’s efforts in order to support either a political transition or facilitate a group’s collapse.

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Uprisings in an Age of Uncertainty: A Look at the Potential for US Sponsored Social Movements to Achieve Reform

Trends in American warfare indicate a gap between military operations in active war and military activities outside of war. Recent research identifies a space of state to state interaction that lies between diplomacy and war known as the gray zone. As state and non-state actors continue to resort to activities that threaten the interests of the United States but remain below the threshold of US commitment to military intervention, other options become necessary. Unconventional warfare, an option to disrupt, coerce, or replace an existing regime, is an activity executed historically in this gray zone. Due to its very nature, it lies in the spectrum nearer to war. But what options are available that lie nearer to diplomacy? This monograph seeks to show that there can also be an option which leans closer to peace, a gray zone activity which provides space for policy and diplomacy. It argues that by exploiting vulnerabilities that exist within a target state, the United States can leverage a specific group or groups within that state to rise against a targeted policy or individual and enact moderate change through social movement for the sake of United States interests. This monograph generates a hypothesis of a specific type of activity called targeted collective action, which can capitalize on vulnerabilities during peace time with the purpose of enacting a social movement aimed at reform-oriented change for the sake of US interests through persuading and/or co-opting existing organizations. The Arab Spring provides countries impacted by social movements with variable outcomes. This phenomenon allows substantial case studies for analysis to test the facets of targeted collective action.

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Watch out for the Children: Army Policy and Child Soldiers

According to the United Nations, there are over 300,000 child soldiers operating throughout the world and the potential that U.S. soldiers will interact with child soldiers remains significant. Military doctrine, policy, and training have been updated to take the current operational environment into consideration. The same cannot be said for the interaction with child soldiers. This thesis will begin to identify and address gaps in the current Army policy and doctrine concerning child soldiers. Additionally, this thesis will begin to identify ways to bridge the gaps identified in order to address how U.S. soldiers can best be prepared when they confront child soldiers on the battlefield. This research identifies that there is a rising issue concerning child soldiers, but that the U.S. Army has failed to implement the necessary changes to support its soldiers in dealing with this when they deploy. The Army references international treaties that the United States is not a party to in order to provide guidance to soldiers concerning child soldiers. This guidance needs to be codified, implemented, and distributed to support soldiers that might be faced with the choice about whether to take the life of a child.

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