17.S950 | Fall 2016 | Graduate

Social Science and the Iraq and Syrian Wars


Required Text

Buy at MIT Press [HAS] = Hashemi, Nader, and Danny Postel, eds. The Syria Dilemma. MIT Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780262026833.

1: Broad Theory

Fisher, Max. “Syria’s Paradox: Why the War Only Ever Seems to Get Worse.” The New York Times. August 26, 2016.

Posen, Barry R. “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict.” Survival 35, no. 1 (1993): 27-47.

Chapters 1 and 2 in Christia, Fotini. Alliance Formation in Civil Wars. Cambridge University Press, 2012. ISBN: 9781107683488.

Fearon, James D., and David D. Laitin. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.” American Political Science Review 97, no. 01 (2003): 75-90.

Pages 69-91 in Schelling, Thomas C. Arms and Influence. Yale University Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780300143379.

Walter, Barbara F. “The Critical Barrier to Civil War Settlement.” International Organization 51, no. 03 (1997): 335-364.

Chapters 4 and 5 in Kalyvas, Stathis N. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780521670043.

Anderson, Noel Thomas. “Competitive Intervention and Its Consequences for Civil Wars.” PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2016.

2: Iraq Background and Empirical Overview

International Crisis Group reports have a short executive summary and a full report. Read the executive summaries from the reports below and skim over the full reports.

  1. Iraq Policy Briefing: Is There An Alternative To War?” ICG Middle East Report No. 9, February 24, 2003.
  2. War In Iraq: Political Challenges After The Conflict.” ICG Middle East Report No. 11, March 25, 2003.
  3. Reconstructing Iraq.” ICG Middle East Report No. 30, September 2, 2004.
  4. What Can the U.S. Do in Iraq?” ICG Middle East Report No. 34, December 22, 2004.
  5. Unmaking Iraq: A Constitutional Process Gone Awry.” ICG Middle East Report No. 19, September 26, 2005.
  6. In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency.” ICG Middle East Report No. 50, February 15, 2006.
  7. The Next Iraqi War? Sectarianism and Civil Conflict.” ICG Middle East Report No. 52, February 27, 2006.
  8. Where Is Iraq Heading? Lessons from Basra.” ICG Middle East Report No. 67, June 25, 2007.
  9. Iraq After the Surge II: The Need for a New Political Strategy.” ICG Middle East Report No. 75, April 30, 2008.
  10. Iraq’s Provincial Elections: The Stakes.” ICG Middle East Report No. 82, January 27, 2009.
  11. Iraq’s Uncertain Future: Elections and Beyond.” ICG Middle East Report No. 94, February 2010.
  12. Failing Oversight: Iraq’s Unchecked Government.” ICG Middle East Report No. 113, September 26, 2011.
  13. Déjà Vu All Over Again: Iraq’s Escalating Political Crisis.” ICG Middle East Report No. 126, July 30, 2012.

Go to the ICG homepage on Iraq for more current reports:

Rosen, Nir. “On the Ground in Iraq.” Boston Review. March/April 2006.

-- –. “Anatomy of a Civil War.” Boston Review. November 8, 2006.

Fearon, James D. “Iraq: Democracy or Civil War? (PDF)” Testimony to U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations. September 15, 2006.

Shapiro, Jacob N. “Iraq Overview.” Princeton University, Empirical Studies of Conflict. 2017.

Nader, Alireza. “Iran’s Role in Iraq (PDF).” Perspective. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation. 2015.

3: State-Building, Nation-Building, Democracy

Diamond, Larry. “Transition to Democracy in Iraq? Averting the Slide into Civil War.” Presentation to the Hoover Institution/Woodrow Wilson International Center, Session on Prospects for Democracy in the Middle East. April 6, 2004.

Lawson, Chappell. “How Best to Build Democracy: Laying a Foundation for the New Iraq.” Foreign Affairs. July/August 2003.

Waldner, David. “The Limits of Institutional Engineering: Lessons from Iraq.” United States Institute of Peace. May 1, 2009.

Mansfield, Edward, and Jack Snyder. “Democratization and War.” Foreign Affairs. May/June 1995.

Mansfield, Edward D., and Jack L. Snyder. “The Sequencing ‘Fallacy’.” Journal of Democracy 18, no. 3 (2007): 5-10.

Diamond, Larry. “What Went Wrong in Iraq.” Foreign Affairs. September/October 2004.

Ellis, David C., and James Sisco. “Implementing COIN Doctrine in the Absence of a Legitimate State.” Small Wars Journal 6, no. 10 (2010).

Darden, Keith, and Harris Mylonas. “The Promethean Dilemma: Third-Party State-Building in Occupied Territories.” Ethnopolitics 11, no. 1 (2012): 85-93.

Chapters 3 and 4 in Tilly, Charles. Coercion, Capital, and European States. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992. ISBN: 9781557863683.

Jackson, Colin. “Government in a Box? Counterinsurgency, State Building, and the Technocratic Conceit” in Gventer, Celeste Ward, David Jones, and M. Smith, eds. The New Counter-Insurgency Era in Critical Perspective. Springer, 2014. ISBN: 9781137336934.

4: Strategy I: Hearts and Minds; Not Winning Hearts and Minds; Mechanization/Indiscriminate Violence

Berman, Eli, Jacob N. Shapiro, and Joseph H. Felter. “Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq.” Journal of Political Economy 119, no. 4 (2011): 766-819.

Berman, Eli, Michael Callen, Joseph H. Felter, and Jacob N. Shapiro. “Do Working Men Rebel? Insurgency and Unemployment in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 55, no. 4 (2011): 496-528.

Lyall, Jason, and Isaiah Wilson. “Rage Against the Machines: Explaining Outcomes in Counterinsurgency Wars.” International Organization 63, no. 01 (2009): 67-106.

Lynch, Marc. “Explaining the Awakening: Engagement, Publicity, and the Transformation of Iraqi Sunni Political Attitudes.” Security Studies 20, no. 1 (2011): 36-72.

Lyall, Jason. “Does Indiscriminate Violence Incite Insurgent Attacks? Evidence from Chechnya.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 53, no. 3 (2009): 331-362.

Boyle, Michael J. “Bargaining, Fear, and Denial: Explaining Violence Against Civilians in Iraq 2004–2007.” Terrorism and Political Violence 21, no. 2 (2009): 261-287.

5: Partition and Homogenization

Weidmann, Nils B., and Idean Salehyan. “Violence and Ethnic Segregation: A Computational Model Applied to Baghdad.” International Studies Quarterly 57, no. 1 (2013): 52-64.

Downes, Alexander B. “The Holy Land Divided: Defending Partition as a Solution to Ethnic Wars.” Security Studies 10, no. 4 (2001): 58-116.

Sambanis, Nicholas, and Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl. “What’s in a Line? Is Partition a Solution to Civil War?.” International Security 34, no. 2 (2009): 82-118.

6: Community Mobilization/Indirect Rule

Humphreys, Macartan, and Jeremy M. Weinstein. “Who Fights? The Determinants of Participation in Civil War.” American Journal of Political Science 52, no. 2 (2008): 436-455.

Pearlman, Wendy, and Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham. “Nonstate Actors, Fragmentation, and Conflict Processes.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 56, no. 1 (2012): 3-15.

Long, Austin. “The Anbar Awakening.” Survival 50, no. 2 (2008): 67-94.

Biddle, Stephen, Jeffrey A. Friedman, and Jacob N. Shapiro. “Testing the Surge: Why Did Violence Decline in Iraq in 2007?International Security 37, no. 1 (2012): 7-40.

Hagan, John, Joshua Kaiser, Anna Hanson, Jon R. Lindsay, Austin G. Long, Stephen Biddle, Jeffrey A. Friedman, and Jacob N. Shapiro. “Correspondence: Assessing the Synergy Thesis in Iraq.” International Security 37, no. 4 (2013): 173-198.

Stancati, Bernard. “Tribal Dynamics and the Iraq Surge (PDF).” Strategic Studies Quarterly 4, no. 2 (2010): 88-112.

Simon, Steven. “The Price of the Surge.” Foreign Affairs. May/June 2008.

Lynch, Marc. “The Dilemmas of Working With Iraqi Militias.” The Washington Post. June 25, 2015.

7: Decapitation and Collateral Damage

Long, Austin. “Whack-a-Mole or Coup de Grace? Institutionalization and Leadership Targeting in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Security Studies 23, no. 3 (2014): 471-512.

Condra, Luke N., and Jacob N. Shapiro. “Who Takes the Blame? The Strategic Effects of Collateral Damage.” American Journal of Political Science 56, no. 1 (2012): 167-187.

Khan, Jesmeen. “The Iraqi Tribal Structure: Background and Influence on Counter-Terrorism.” Perspectives on Terrorism 1, no. 1 (2009): 3-11.

8: Organizations and Networks

Worsnop, Alec. “Who Can Keep the Peace? Insurgent Organizational Control of Collective Violence (PDF).” Forthcoming in Security Studies.

Reed, Brian. “A Social Network Approach to Understanding an Insurgency (PDF).” Parameters 37, no. 2 (2007).

Wood, Elisabeth Jean. “The Social Processes of Civil War: The Wartime Transformation of Social Networks.” Annual Review of Political Science 11 (2008): 539-561.

Staniland, Paul. “Organizing Insurgency: Networks, Resources, and Rebellion in South Asia.” International Security 37, no. 1 (2012): 142-177.

Costa, Christopher P. “Phoenix Rises Again: HUMINT Lessons for Counterinsurgency Operations (PDF). Defense Intelligence Journal 15, no. 1 (2006).

Gabbay, Michael. “Mapping the Factional Struture of the Sunni Insurgency in Iraq.” Counter Terrorism Center Sentinel 1, no. 4 (2008): 10-12.

Petersen, Roger. “A Community-Based Theory of Rebellion.” European Journal of Sociology 34, no. 01 (1993): 41-78.

Chapters 2 and 3 in Worsnop, Alec. “Organization and Community: Determinants of Insurgent Military Effectiveness.” (2014).

9: Syria Reports, Getting Up to Speed

Three sources put out reports that will present facts as well as brief analyses. Depending on the progression of the course, we will read specific reports and articles from all three. The sources are:

  1. Project on Middle East Political Science. “Political Science and Syria’s War Memos.”
  2. International Crisis Group. “Syria.”
  3. Institute for the Study of War.”

Leenders, Reinoud. “Master Frames of the Syrian Conflict: Early Violence and Sectarian Response Revisited.” Prepared for the workshop From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective. May 2016.

[HAS] “Why Syria Matters”; “Why There is No Military Solution to the Syrian Conflict”; “What Should Be Done About the Syrian Tragedy”; “Syria Is Not a Problem From Hell - But If We Don’t Act Quickly, It Will Be”; “A Syrian Case for Humanitarian Intervention”; “A Humanitarian Strategy Focused on Syrian Civilians”; “The Dangerous Price of Ignoring Syria.”

Zuhur, Sherifa. “The Syrian Opposition: Salafi and Nationalist Jihadism and Populist Idealism.” Contemporary Review of the Middle East 2, no. 1-2 (2015): 143-163.

10: Syria II Topics

Bakke, Kristin M, Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham, and Lee J. M. Seymour. “The Problem With Fragmented Insurgencies.” The Washington Post. May 13, 2015.

[HAS] “Syria: The Case for Staggered Decapitation”; “Supporting Unarmed Civil Insurrection in Syria”; “Shopping Option C for Syria: Against Arming the Rebels”; “The Price of Inaction in Syria.”

11: Syria III

Araabi, Samer and Leila Hilal. “Reconciliation, Reward, and Revenge: Analyzing National De-Escalation Through Syrian Local Ceasefire Dynamics (PDF - 3.1MB).” Conflict Dynamics International. 2016.

12: Comparing Across Space and Time

Biddle, Stephen. “Seeing Baghdad, Thinking Saigon.” Foreign Affairs. March/April 2006.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. and Matthew Adam Kocher. “Ethnic Cleavages and Irregular War: Iraq and Vietnam.” Politics & Society 35, no. 2 (2016): 183-223.

Enterline, Andrew J. and J. Michael Greig. “Perfect Storms? Political Instability in Imposed Polities and the Futures of Iraq and Afghanistan.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 52, no. 6 (2008): 880-915.

Tarrow, Sidney. “Inside Insurgencies: Politics and Violence in an Age of Civil War.” Perspectives on Politics 5, no. 3 (2007): 587-600.

[HAS] “Syria Is Not Iraq: Why the Legacy of the Iraq War Keeps Us From Doing the Right Thing in Syria”; “Bosnia and Syria: Intervention Then and Now”; “From Dayton to Damascus.”

Patel, David Siddhartha. “ISIS In Iraq: What We Get Wrong and Why 2015 Is Not 2007 Redux (PDF - 1.2MB).” Middle East Brief. Brandeis University: Crown Center for Middle East Studies (2015).

13: Conclusions

Pollack, Kenneth M. “The Seven Deadly Sins of Failure in Iraq: A Retrospective Analysis of the Reconstruction.” Brookings. December 1, 2006.

Greenhill, Kelly M. and Paul Staniland. “Ten Ways to Lose at Counterinsurgency.” Civil Wars 9, no. 4 (2003): 402-419.

Lindsay, Jon, and Roger Petersen. “Varieties of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq, 2003-2009.” Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups. U.S. Naval War College. 2011.