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The Civilitary Theory​​

Our thinking about the fight against terrorism is often hampered by the tension between continuity and change. We tend to embrace the known past and hold on to it, sometimes too tightly. Yet thinking about the evolution of certain terrorist groups has to be based on more than extrapolating from history and continued use of outdated terminology that no longer captures the changing reality.


We may be facing a new era. In the Middle East and Africa, we see new patterns in which traditional terrorist groups evolve from non-territorial to territorial entities that also govern the lives of civilians. They terrorize civilians not only within their own borders, but also in nearby states and across the globe.  When states realize the severity of the threat and use air campaigns against these groups, the groups acquire ballistic capabilities and embed the weapons in densely populated residential areas to shield them from attacks and to shoot at civilians from these residential areas.

Each of the six territorial terrorist groups— ISIL, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hezbollah, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, and the Houthies in Yemen—has already evolved, although each at its own pace. Exploring the groups in an organized and structured way, as Civilitary Theory does, reveals similar patterns of behavior. These patterns are identified, explained, labeled, and demonstrated in a way that can better capture the present state of play between the international community and radical forces that are rising in the Middle East, Africa and other places.

Civilitary Theory can open the door to further interdisciplinary scholarship and research. It poses a number of fundamental questions in key areas of academic interest. National security scholars and policy advisers can explore its impacts on national security strategy and decision-making at the highest level. Experts on terrorism can deepen the analysis on the notion of territorial terrorist groups and the classification of such groups as Model I, II, or III. 

Diplomats and speech writers can better recognize the new pattern of terrorism and also explore the use of certain terms in common diplomatic and public jargon. Foreign policy specialists, legal scholars and military experts may utilize the theory to develop scholarly work in the realm of international relations, international law and the law of armed conflict. Journalists, editors and media experts may use this analytic framework to generate inclusive journalism and better analyze the new reality in the global fight against terrorism.

Further development of analytic frameworks, including Civilitaty Theory will help the international community to predict future trends of violence in the 21st century and build contemporary national security strategies that better address the national security challenges of our time.

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Using the Theory