Social Network Analysis in the Study of Terrorism and Insurgency: From Organization to Politics
Steven T. Zech and Michael Gabbay
Summary and critique by Jillian J
Zech and Gabbay conclude that social network analysis (SNA) has made significant contributions to understanding militant operations, particularly regarding the merits and implications of "centralized and decentralized structures, the relationship between efficiency and security, the network signatures of key individuals, and the factors that shape network structure." They go on to criticize the lack of alignment between theoretical and empirical studies about SNA, calling for better integration of network concepts and more precise data and a focus on temporal factors.
Their study "applies network analysis to intrinsically political questions, entailing a focus on group-level nodes engaged in the same conflict." They focus on militant fragmentation, specifically infighting, outbidding, alliance formation, and group constituencies. They discuss how the similarities in terminology highlight a hybrid nature of fragmented militant groups wherein aspects of international systems blend with political party competition e.g. rival constituents or winning a "state".
The authors aim to enhance the understanding of fragmented civil wars and insurgencies. The charts below shows their connections and findings from other papers and cases.
Zech and Gabbay's analysis was insightful and organized. I think they did a good job of pulling specific analytical claims from each case to support what could have easily been a long-winded analogy. I do wonder if it's a situation similar to the saying, "when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Even so, the points they assert through the organized charts are useful in understanding SNA in terrorism and insurgency cases.