Subversion and Terrorism

Understanding and Countering the Threat

Published in: The MiPT Terrorism Annual, 2006, p. 53-69

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2005

by William Rosenau

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Not since the Cold War have government officials, scholars, and military officers expressed this level of interest in the problem of subversion. Yet despite this renewed recognition that terrorists and insurgents employ subversion--and a general agreement with the late J. Bowyer Bells assertion that armed rebels are practiced subversives --little systematic attention has been devoted to the topic in recent years. This is in sharp contrast to the broader subjects of insurgency and counterinsurgency. As a first step in developing a more complete understanding of subversion, and what is required to counter it, this article will first discuss the definitions of subversion. Next, it will use a set of case studies to analyze more fully the elements of subversion identified in the section on definitions. In conclusion, this article will provide a set of preliminary recommendations for combating subversive activities in the context of the long war against global terrorism. Although some definitions identify propaganda as a component of subversion, propaganda will not be considered directly in this article.

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