Articles and Posts from ISQ

Friday the 13th has the reputation of being a somewhat campy day of foreboding. I don’t think anyone was prepared for what actually took place in Paris that night. Six coordinated terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS that ultimately killed 132 people with several hundreds in critical condition. The ongoing manhunts and police raids have left France and Belgium, not to mention Europe and the international community more broadly, on edge and on high alert. But it is not just the attacks on November 13th that make the current situation so dire. It is the accumulation of recent violence by ISIS that has officials worried: Sharm el-Sheikh, Beirut, ongoing attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Paris. Below is a compilation of scholarly articles published in International Studies Quarterly that might give readers a better background understanding of the current situation.


Are Syrian refugees to blame?

Led by politicians like Marine Le Pen of France’s extreme right, many blame the recent influx of Syrian refugees for the attacks. But as others note, these Syrians are trying to escape from the very same terrorists, not to mention the daily threat of the ongoing civil war. Adhikari (2012) examines the specific circumstances beyond civil war – or perhaps within it – that push people onto the path of migration.


Other politicians are calling for a more stringent screening process of incoming refugees. This typically means greater scrutiny of the male refugees. But as the female who blew herself up during the Saint Denis police raid demonstrates, the traditionally emotive pull of suffering “women and children” might not be as effective as it once was. Carpenter 2005


Even if the refugees are blamed for Paris, the migration crisis is not going away anytime soon. As liberal societies, the “West” must now confront its self-proclaimed moral precepts regarding asylum-seekers with the perceived risk of future security threats. Parker & Brassett 2005


Meanwhile, U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump has recently called for the creation of a database to keep tabs on refugees (because that doesn’t smack of the various horrors of Japanese internment and the Holocaust at all…). Back in France, President Hollande’s state of emergency has been approved for three more months. Should we anticipate new security policies akin to the USA PATRIOT Act and other post-9/11 measures? While examining transnational terrorist attacks, Piazza & Walsh (2009) suggest that the answer is mixed.




It’s not the symptoms, stupid! It’s the underlying conditions


If Syria is the source of both the refugee crisis and ISIS, then it makes sense to address the civil war. So far, the coalition’s refrain has been: Assad must go! But will he? Colaresi (2004) examines leader survival after war.


No one wants to live and raise a family in a warzone, but not all wars have produced such a massive exodus. Heger & Salehyan (2007) offer a possible explanation for why the Syrian civil war has been so violent.


Given the chaos and violence of the civil war, is it any wonder that ISIS has been able to flourish? States plagued by chronic failure to establish order and effective rule of law are statistically more likely to host transnational terrorist groups on their territory, have their citizens participate in transnational attacks, and be the target of transnational terrorists. Piazza 2008 




Is ISIS here to stay?


ISIS has now committed attacks across the MENA region and in Europe, all within a two-week period. Is this escalation indicative of growth in the organization? The longevity of terrorist groups seems to be related to the number of cooperative relationships a group has with other similar organizations, although this is conditioned by the characteristics of the state in which the group operates. Phillips 2014


Is the problem Islam? While this question has been circulated and answered ad nauseam since 2001, every new attack seems to bring it once more to the fore. Soysa & Nordås (2007) attempt to lay this dog to rest… again.





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Representing 100 countries, ISA has over 6,500 members worldwide and is the most respected and widely known scholarly association in this field. Endeavoring to create communities of scholars dedicated to international studies, ISA is divided into 7 geographic subdivisions of ISA (Regions), 29 thematic groups (Sections) and 4 Caucuses which provide opportunities to exchange ideas and research with local colleagues and within specific subject areas.
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