Militants Going Through Changes: A Qualitative Analysis of Ideological Modification and Group Splintering

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Virginia Tech


The probability of militant group splintering is a relatively rare phenomenon that exponentially increases with the introduction of a peace process and associated negotiations (Duursma and Fliervoet, 2021). Militant groups that do splinter hold the potential for increased violence that can spoil negotiations, prolong conflict, incite more citizens to join militant causes, and erode the credibility of the state (Stedman, 1997; Duursma and Fliervoet, 2021; Rudloff and Findley, 2016; Cronin, 2011). Negotiations inherently require some type of concession from one or more parties involved, and for militant groups, they often require modifying components of or entire ideological objectives. This research explores intergroup dynamics surrounding militant ideological modifications made during negotiations that lead to splintering. The author examines ideological modification across three militant groups identified through an empirical case selection process: Al-Fatah, the FARC, and the PKK. Diagnostic evidence resulting from congruence procedures coupled with theory-building process tracing allowed for the inference of 'militant perceived ideological betrayal' acting as a sufficient causal mechanism that connects negotiations to militant splintering. This dissertation examined intergroup dynamics surrounding ideological modifications, when militants perceive modifications as concessions, and the relative importance of group enforcement measures meant to maintain militant cohesion. Findings provide important evidence related to the relational nature of militant ideology, and raise credible questions surrounding ideological devotion by hardliners depending upon the framing of changes and their legitimacy, and if said changes occur in the face of an adversary or on the militant group's own accord.



Splintering, negotiations, ideology, militant, rebellion