To Fight or Not to Fight: Examining Violence as an Organizational Choice

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To Fight or Not to Fight:

Examining Violence as an Organizational Choice

Abstract: Non-governmental organizations have become a key concern for international relations theorists and comparative thinkers. While most NGO’s promote their social, political, and economic interests through peaceful means, some use violence; this study seeks to understand why. I assert that the use of violence is a tactical decision made at the dyadic level in consideration of resources that are vital to the organization’s survival. This investigation uses principles from the theory of resource dependency to analyze cases where one NGO uses violence in the same ‘system’ as another that does not. I conclude that organizations dependent on social actors for vital resources are less likely to use violent tactics to achieve their goals. These results and future studies built upon them could be used to compile a behavioral model for both violent and nonviolent organizational behavior.

Jayson Kratoville

Department of Political Science

Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy

University at Albany, SUNY

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Faculty Adviser: Victor Asal, PhD.

Leaders of organizations are constantly making operational choices based on their needs: “should we add a new office in this neighborhood?” “Should we change our marketing campaign to reach a younger demographic?” “Would we be better served by reaching out to other sources for funding?” For those organizations with political objectives, there is often another deliberation: “should we use violence to make our point?” I am not claiming that the leadership sits down in a conference room and drafts the pros and cons of a violent strategy on a color-coded white board, but there is certainly a calculus that shapes how different organizations behave. As these non-state become increasingly important in understanding the dynamics of the international system, understanding the factors that drive them is inherently important for modern policymakers. The goal of this investigation is to discern what factors contribute to this decision-making process through a comparative case study analysis of violent and nonviolent organizations.

My theoretical contention is simple: because non-state actors in similar environments with similar goals use both violence and nonviolence, the reasoning behind this divergence cannot be explained by variables at the systemic level. As I will discuss in greater detail later, many theorists have examined variables at this level of analysis (e.g. oppression) to find a trend in the behavior of violent non-state actors. I argue that the choice to use violence is made at the dyadic level using an informal cost-benefit analysis. Resource dependency theory, which is often applied to peaceful organizations by scholars within the business and public administration disciplines, may hold some explanatory power here. Advocacy groups goals’ center around a popular movement. As Pfeffer and Salancik put it, “because organizations are not self-contained or self-sufficient, the environment must be relied upon to provide support” (1978, p. 41). In other words, organizations’ actions are governed to an extent by external demands.

To explore this theory and its applicability to the behavior of violent non-state actors, I examine the organizations themselves to discern what factors specifically drive their decision-making processes. I conduct an in-depth analysis of an individual organization, comparing it to another that works toward the same goals in a similar environment with an opposite perspective on the use of force. The analysis is then expanded to other pairs of organizations in an attempt to test the applicability of the results. While other studies have looked at both violent and non-violent organizations, none have examined them in this way. By controlling for exogenous systemic variables, my research design will help me understand how organizations really answer the question “to fight or not to fight?”

The Effectiveness of Nonviolent Tactics

Studies of non-violence focus mainly on the relative success of this approach (Martin, Varney, & Vickers, 2001). Mohandas Gandhi is often credited with the first concerted use of nonviolence as a tactic against a perceived threat. In alluding to this case, it is important to note that non-violence does not mean non-contention. Gandhi was still working against the British colonial power structure; he simply was not using violence to do so. The power of Gandhi’s movement, like most successful instances of peaceful resistance, can be found in the organizational structure (Boulding, 1999).

Several key factors contribute to the success of non-violent movements. In South Africa, many of those oppressed by the apartheid government were workers in the highly lucrative (and indeed, economically necessary) diamond mines in the country. Because the anti-apartheid movement controlled the means of production in this manner, it had tremendous leverage over the government (Zunes, 1999; Greer, 2007). The size of the organization also plays a role. In larger groups, the focus on solidarity and communication diminish in complement to the returns. A caveat to this theory is that increased electronic communication has made it easier for groups to organize, and so the size of an organization that can be successful is growing (Boulding, 1999; Holzscheiter, 2005; Greer, 2007). This theory is supported by the success of the Golanian Druze, a small group that has slowly gained influence in the struggle against the Israeli state through concerted solidarity (Kennedy, 1984).

The structure around the organization can also have a crucial impact. Self-determinist movements in Scotland and Catalonia have achieved relatively high levels of political autonomy through peaceful mechanisms. This is because in both instances, the central governments outsourced direct regional control through democratic participation anyway, and so these groups were presented with the opportunity for regional control (Greer, 2007). An interesting question that arises from this study is that if the prospect for political autonomy through a representative system is indeed an explanatory variable for non-violent resistance, why is there still daily violence in Northern Ireland? The complex struggle in this region suggests that there are other factors at work here.

While successful attempts at non-violent resistance dominate the literature, they are not the only examples of this approach that may help explain its dynamics. An examination of non-violent resistance in Indonesia against the repressive Suharto regime in the 1960’s and 1990’s provide examples of failed and successful attempts (respectively) at subverting a regime through international support (Martin et al., 2001). Aptly referred to as ‘political jiu-jitsu,’ this process involves a tactical lack of violent resistance to violent repression. Theoretically, using the regime’s own aggression against it in this manner should aid in the development of international backlash, as it changes the conversation from one about civil conflict to one about political genocide.

Political jiu-jitsu was unsuccessful for the movement against the Jakarto Garrison commander, General Suharto, during his rise to power in the late 1960’s. A widespread fear of the spread of communism among western powers allowed Suharto to exterminate hundreds of thousands of communists within Indonesia without much international backlash (and even with some levels of international support). In contrast, the international environment in the 1990’s provided an ideal opportunity for the political jiu-jitsu tactic. While western powers had originally been supportive of Suharto, protests resulting from the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990’s caused an influx of international activists and NGO’s to support the anti-Saharto movement, leading to further repressive measures against internal dissidents. This increase in violence by the regime coupled with international support emboldened dissenters, eventually leading to Suharto’s resignation (Martin et al., 2001).

Killing to Prove a Point

In the post-Cold War era, the increasing relevance of non-state and sub-state actors has put them at the center of the political violence debate. As such, scholars have argued about why these organizations use violence from a plethora of perspectives. Violent non-state actors (VNSA’s) can both weaken and halt the rise in the power of individual states depending on the states’ resources. For these groups to be successful in this venture, however, they need to have a strong network and a steady stream of “human and material resources” (Bogatyrenko, 2006a, 2006b).

To cope with this emergent force in international relations, rationalists needed to adjust their argument. One contention is that some VNSA’s are not acting rationally at all. Corey evaluates terrorism (as a specific type of violence) as ultimately self-destructive; therefore, groups that use terrorism fall outside conventional rational-actor theory (Martin et al., 2001). Other theorists rely on the “modified rational actor model,” which accounts for the increasing variance in organizational goals and contends that a group’s motivation is defined by “factors that influence and constrain the course followed” (Kriesberg, 1973; Jabri, 1996). These factors could be “misunderstood signals, perceived changes in the balance of advantage…and the input of allies and others” (Jabri, 1996). This means that while these organizations may not seem to be acting rationally through the perspective of an American college student, for example, they may be influenced by seemingly unconventional goals or their own perceptions of the power structure within the situation.

As an addendum to this capacity argument, theorists claim that organizational history can contribute to the development of violence. If an organization has had failed negotiations in the past, it is more likely to resort to violence. This contributes to a greater cycle where violent conditions lead to negotiations and failed negotiations lead to more violent conflict. This is especially true in U.K./Irish relations, which have experienced periods of both heavy violence and relative peace. This theory suggests that non-violent groups can emerge when violent groups and the government are in heavy conflict and that violent groups can emerge when non-violent groups have failed at negotiating (Tilly, 2003).

Literature focusing on the structural components of political violence discusses both the internal makeup and external influences surrounding violent organizations. Among the most compelling of these arguments is that socio-economic repression is a strong determinant in the outbreak of violence (Sambanis & Zinn, 2005; Zaidise, Canetti-Nisim, & Pedahzur, 2007). As a result, groups that do not have a say in government or are not allowed basic freedoms afforded to other groups are much more likely to become violent. Others claim that the situation is slightly more complicated. Post, Ruby, and Shaw test 32 variables in an attempt to gain a broad understanding of the structural components of political violence. They conclude that “group ideology and goals; experience with violence; authoritarian leadership and decision making; organizational processes such as recruitment, training, and attrition; and group psychological processes such as humiliation and need for revenge; and sense of threat and negative characterization of the enemy were rated consistently as highly important” (2002).

There has been an ongoing debate about the role of culture, specifically religion, in the choice to use violence. Ghadbian provides the most compelling argument against this explanation, contending that in the case of political Islam, both non-violent and violent groups use the Quran to justify their respective approaches (2000). This is an interesting argument because it distinguishes between the role of religion as an explanatory variable and as a tool for organizational leaders to garner support, claiming the latter. This claim is supported by Zaidise, et al. who conclude that religion is a strong factor in the level of support for violent tactics, which points to Ghadbian’s explanation (2007).

Interestingly, an exception to the cultural and structural arguments may exist in the case of the Golan Heights Druze, which was previously mentioned as a situation where non-violence has worked well. Because the Druze do not really fit into the Christian, Muslim, or Jewish belief structures, they are in a different, possibly worse situation than groups that fall into those categories. Despite the fact that they are persecuted against as much as if not more than violent Muslim groups in the area, they remain nonviolent (Kennedy, 1984). This provides an interesting counter to the argument that repression causes violence. Furthermore, Zaidise, et al. contend that cultural differences between dominant and repressed groups act as a catalyst for violence, and yet the Druze are non-violent. While this case can certainly be written off as an outlier when viewed on its own, it is part of a general trend that cannot be ignored.

As previously mentioned, most of the literature focuses on why non-violent organizations develop into violent groups. Sambanis and Zinn conclude that cultural repression is a strong reason, and non-violent political protest is a strong indicator (2005). While this is a theoretically interesting model, it does not directly compare violent organizations with non-violent organizations; therefore, it overlooks the fact that an organization could chose violence under much the same systemic conditions as one that does not. Raines attacks the question more directly using case studies of violent and non-violent terrorist organizations, and concludes that non-violent tactics are probabilistically more effective. She adds that the objective of violent tactics is exposure, and they are utilized when the organization does not have as much support (Raines, 2005). This conclusion misses the main point, however, as organizations still continually chose violence over peaceful mechanisms even if they have a strong base (e.g. the IRA).

Graham’s case study analysis on the decision to use violence over nonviolence is the closest to what I am trying to achieve. She examines several cases where organizations have shifted between violent and non-violent tactics, concluding that “political exclusion, state repression and sources of support” determine these organizations’ decision-making process at any given time (2008). Nevertheless, Graham fails to explain the phenomenon I plan to study, that groups in similar situations make opposite decisions using violence.

Overall, the literature has failed to adequately explain what causes groups to become violent; nevertheless, there has been an increased emphasis on the topic, especially in the literature on terrorism. The Minorities at Risk (MAR) database project focuses on socially, politically, or economically oppressed ethnic groups and the organizations they use to mobilize. The MAR Organizational Behavior (MAROB) dataset examines these organizations and could be used to compare nonviolent and violent organizations that are in the same ethnic group. In the way of materialized studies, Asal and Rethemeyer conclude that “ideology, capabilities, and ‘dilettantism’ explain a significant proportion of the variation in whether an organization chooses to kill or not to kill” (2008, p. 1). It is important to note, however, that all of the NGO’s analyzed in this study are terrorist organizations (which, based on the authors’ definition, do not need to kill) (Asal & Rethemeyer, 2008). For my study, I expand the analysis to all NGO’s in an attempt to address the broader context of the choice between violence and nonviolence.

Adjusting the Lens: Studying Organizations as Organizations

To adapt the old adage, “violent NGO’s are people too.” There has been an unwritten yet highly practiced dichotomy in the literature between organizations that fight and ones that do not. To study NGO’s in this disjointed manner creates the risk of overlooking key explanatory variables that may be found in other areas of study. Despite the fact that combined studies have not caught on in a broad sense, some theorists have begun to combine the study of violent NGO’s with theories applied to peaceful groups. Asal, Nussbaum, and Harrington apply Keck and Sikkink’s discussion of transnational advocacy networks (TANs) to their own observations on terrorist network behavior (2007). This type of analysis “will allow comparison of violent and nonviolent TANs, increasing variance and allowing researchers to ask why some TANs turn to violence and others do not” (Asal et al., 2007). Studying nonviolent and violent NGO’s together can have a similar effect.

Resource Dependency

An aspect of resource dependence theory focusing on social actors’ control of organizations is particularly useful in examining political NGO’s decision making processes. Many organizations are dependent on their constituencies for resources (usually in the form of money). A political party in the United States, for example, depends on its core constituency to make donations in order to build up its election coffers. A party candidate will often shift his or her agenda to make sure it falls in line with his or her constituency. If, however, the candidate is retiring, he or she will be less likely to conform if his or her beliefs are slightly different. This is because the candidate will not need the funds to be re-elected for the following term. While this is an oversimplification of the dynamics of money and resources in American politics, it suffices in outlining the basic principles of resource dependency theory.

  1. The focal organization is aware of the demands

  2. The focal organization receives some resources from the social actor making the demands.

  3. The resource is a critical or important aspect of the focal organization’s operation.

  4. The social actor controls the allocation, access, or use of the resource; alternative sources for the resource are not available to the focal organization.

  5. The focal organization does not control the allocation, access, or use of other resources critical to the social actor’s operation and survival.

  6. The actions or outputs of the focal organization are visible and can be assessed by the social actor to judge whether the actions comply with its demands.

  7. The focal organization’s satisfaction of the social actor’s requests are not in conflict with the satisfaction of demands from other components of the environment with which it is interdependent.

  8. The focal organization does not control the determination, formulation, or expression of the social actor’s demands.

  9. The focal organization is capable of developing actions or outcomes that will satisfy the external demands.

  10. The organization desires to survive.

Figure 1: Criteria pointing to external control from a social actor (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978 p.44)
Pfeffer and Salancik provide a ten-criterion framework for evaluating the extent to which an organization is dependant on a social actor; i.e. “the extent to which the organization will comply with control attempts” (1978, p. 44). The list of criteria can be found in Figure 1. It is worth noting that not every criterion needs to be fulfilled for the organization to be considered dependent on the social actor; rather, they are used to assess the extent to which the organization is beholden to the social actor.

So what is this ‘social actor’ Pfeffer and Salancik discuss and how does it apply to political NGO’s? McCarthy and Zald provide an interesting answer in their discussion of social movements and resource mobilization. Social movements usually depend on outside sources of income, and have two groups associated with them, adherents and constituents. “Adherents are those individuals and organizations that believe in the goals of the movement,” constituents provide the resources (McCarthy & Zald, 1977, p. 1221). For this investigation, the constituents are the social actors. This is not to say that there is a static line between a constituent and an adherent; after all, someone who provides resources can believe in the cause very deeply. For the most part, however, constituents are sympathizers from the societal elite (McCarthy & Zald, 1977). Here again, there is a line to be drawn. Sympathizers support causes that line up with their beliefs, meaning that if the organization also supporting the cause strays from their social mores, they will not follow it. Adherents, on the other hand, believe what the organization believes and will change their social mores in allegiance to the organization. As I will demonstrate later when discussing the cases in detail, the distinction between constituent and adherent has a significant impact on whether or not an organization is dependent on a social actor.

This framework is largely based on the assertion that resources are critical to an organization. While Pfeffer and Salancik adequately support this from a business standpoint, it is important to reframe it from a political perspective. They note that “an organization that creates variety of outputs that are being disposed of in a variety of markets” are particularly susceptible to outside influence. They use the example of universities, which primarily cater to high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 22. If there were to be a drop in educated students aged 18-22, this would be an issue for universities (1978, p. 46). This type of discussion is where the bridge between business and political science becomes slightly murky because political groups do not produce a ‘product,’ per se. To discuss McCarthy and Zald’s analysis in a business context, the constituents are the customers looking for a product. Most constituents are probably not following the organization on a daily basis; rather, they noticed them in some major, agreed with the cause, and decided to provide resources. As a result, they simply expect the organization to remain active in support of the greater cause. Tactics become a question in this case, as we will later explore, as many constituents do not want to be associated with certain tactics that are socially unsavory (McCarthy & Zald, 1977).

Research dependency theory can be usefully applied to both violent and nonviolent organizations through a discussion of social actors’ influence. As already stated, it is my assertion that organizations that are dependent on social actors are less likely to use violent tactics. This is because social actors, defined herein as constituents rather than adherents, will not support violent tactics by an NGO en masse. This is because “potentially sympathetic publics perceive violent militants as having maximalist or extremist goals beyond accommodation, but they perceive nonviolent resistance groups as less extreme, thereby enhancing their appeal and facilitating the extraction of concessions through bargaining” (Stephan & Chenoweth, 2008, p. 9). As a result, organizations dependent on social actors for resources will be more reluctant to use violence, lest they lose the support of their constituents. Pfeffer and Salancik’s framework for gauging organizations’ dependence will be particularly useful in testing this hypothesis.

Research Design

My research design is set up to achieve two goals in testing my hypothesis: remove systemic variables from the discussion and test the relationship between social actor dependence and the use of violence. The most effective way to do this would be with a multivariate regression analysis on data compiled from hundreds of organizations; however, such data do not exist. Instead, I take a qualitative approach relying largely on interpretive data rather than statistical coding. Because I cannot do a formal statistical significance test on the relationship outlined in my hypothesis, my goal is to discern whether or not the relationship warrants further study.

Defining ‘Violence’ and ‘Dependence’

As already mentioned, this investigation will be designed to study the dynamics of non-state and sub-state organizations. In order to draw as sharp a distinction as possible, I define a violent organization as having been responsible for a fatality. Conversely, a non-violent organization is defined as not having been involved in any violent incident. Involvement includes actually carrying out an attack or supporting one through financial or logistical means. Regarding explicit or implicit support of a violent organization, there is a great deal of gray area, which will be addressed on a case by case basis. I recognize that “violence” as a broader concept exists as a spectrum rather than a simple black and white dichotomy, but drawing this sharp distinction in my case selection will provide more efficient results.

First, I discuss whether or not the organization is dependent on a social actor for resources. Because much of what I am discussing as ‘resources’ is monetary, a small amount can come from donations without the organization being beholden to the donators. To establish the extent to which an organization is dependent on a social actor, I use Pfeffer and Salancik’s ten indicators designed to gauge this very phenomenon (outlined above). For simplicity’s sake, an organization fulfilling none of the criteria is defined as not dependent; 1-3 is a low level of dependency1, 4-6 is medium, and 7-9 is high. In addition to this basic rubric, the case studies discuss the organization’s dependence in greater detail.

Sources of Information

Structuring my research design as a comparative case study allows me to investigate each organization very closely with information from a wide range of data. For violent organizations, I primarily use data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) and the Terrorist Organization Profiles (TOPS) compiled by the Terrorism Knowledge Base (TKB) and furnished by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). For non-violent organizations and any data on violent ones not contained in the aforementioned databases, I will retrieve this information through other open-source resources, such as organization websites, journal articles, and news article databases.


The basis of my study is the analysis of two organizations with similar goals in similar situations that use divergent tactics. I will do this using the “Most Similar Systems Design (MSSD),” which “seeks to control for those factors that are similar across the [subjects of] the study, while focusing on only those factors that are different” (Landman, 2007; Przeworski & Teune, 1970). Additionally, I will expand this study to other pairs of similar organizations with divergent tactics in an attempt to see if my results are replicated in these cases.

A successful implementation of MSSD is predicated on controlling for relevant variables so that the differences discerned in the data analysis can reasonably be seen as causal and not spurious (Landman, 2007). To do so, I will utilize a selective range of cases based on their country or region, ideology, religion (if applicable), and goals. The objective here is to make sure that the organizations being compared represent the same group of people in conditions that are as similar as possible. Controlling for these variables removes many of the external variables that are seen as causal in the literature, especially level of repression (Graham, 2008; Zaidise et al., 2007).

In addition to controlling for alternative variables that are potentially causal, it is important to diversify the pairs of cases I am analyzing. If I were to look simply at separatist groups, for example, I would be building a theory on separatist violence, not violence in general; therefore, in my case selection, I will be sure to diversify my pairs of cases as much as possible. This objective, however, is tertiary to ensuring that I effectively utilize my control variables and maintain the stark contrast between violence and nonviolence.

Case Selection

Pro-Life Organizations in the United States

Since the United States Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade in 1973 that a woman’s choice to abort a pregnancy falls under individual privacy rights, there has been an influx of ‘pro-life’ organizations advocating against the legality of abortion in the United States. Many of the pro-life movements that have emerged are religious, and can often have additional goals (independent of abortion policy) which are also based on their religious beliefs. Most of these organizations focus on resources for women to dissuade them from choosing abortion coupled with strong denouncement of pro-choice policies through protest (Neitz, 1981). Some, however, have turned to violence to further their agenda.

The organizations I focus on within this group are the Army of God and the Gospel of Life Ministries. The Army of God is a religious anti-abortion organization that perceives itself as an army with “God as its commander in chief” and sees violence as necessary to ‘save’ the United States (START, 2008). The Gospel of Life Ministries, on the other hand, sees itself as simply an “interdenominational effort to end abortion,” which it sees as the “greatest crisis of modern times” (Gospel of Life Ministries, 2009). Both of these organizations are based in inter-denominational Christian beliefs and share the same goals, making them ideal for this case study.

Sunni Islamic Organizations in the Middle East

With the United States’ conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East has become central to any discussion of violent conflict. At the center of violence in the Middle East is an organization known as al-Qaeda, which seeks to remove western influence from the region and establish an Islamic Caliphate. The leader of the organization, Osama bin-Laden, is a self-proclaimed imam who interprets Islamic scripture to support violence against non-Muslims (START, 2008). Hizb ut-Tahrir, on the other hand, exists in tactical contrast to al-Qaeda. This organization characterizes western influence as repressive and anti-Islamic, seeking its removal and calling for the establishment of a caliphate, similarly to al-Qaeda (Hizb-ut Tahrir, 2006). The difference, of course, is that al-Qaeda is violent while Hizb ut-Tahrir is not. Both organizations, while based in the Middle East, have very strong global networks.

As I will discuss later, al-Qaeda and Hizb ut-Tahrir came from two different parts of the Middle East. Analyzing them as two organizations founded under the same level of repression is not an attempt to gloss over the political situation in the region as uncomplicated (which any scholar of Middle Eastern politics would say is far from the truth). I had two options in this case. The first was to evaluate Hizb ut-Tahrir as Karagiannis and McCauley did, by discussing its regional operations alongside another regional actor (I could also have done the same for al-Qaeda) (2006). For this case study, this is a dangerous choice because it ignores the global organizational dynamic while attempting to discuss matters of organizational capacity and resource flow. I opted, therefore, for the second option, which is to consider the levels of repression for the two groups to be similar based on their goals. While Palestine and Afghanistan (Hizb ut-Tahrir and al-Qaeda’s regions of origin, respectively) are dynamically different, they are both areas where anti-western sentiment was developed in response to intervention. The United States maintains its material support for Israel in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip and currently controls the central government in Afghanistan. Being that both organizations share a common main grievance against the United States, I would argue that the repression is similar enough to be coded as a control variable.

Despite the differences in their origins, Hizb ut-Tahrir and al-Qaeda provide an important contrast in attempting to understand why some organizations fight and others do not. The two groups not only use divergent tactics, they condemn each other for it, further dividing them. I examine the roots and development of these organizations in the regions, as well as their current actions and statements in order to paint a more accurate picture. Then, as with the pro-life organizations, I analyze them through the lens of my hypotheses.

Communist Organizations in Colombia

The conflict for legitimacy in Colombia has been particularly ugly. Since the mid 1940’s, Colombia has been engulfed in both bilateral and unilateral violence. In the early 1960’s, left wing military groups started to emerge and push their agendas (Uppsala Conflict Data Program, 2008). One such organization is known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which was established in 1964. This organization acts as a destabilizing force for the Colombian democratic government and has advocated a shift to communist control, though its recent activities also suggest territorial goals (START, 2008).

The complicated nature of this conflict has resulted in many shifting alliances. One such alliance was between FARC and the Colombian Communist Party (PCC), which existed until the early 1990’s, when the two organizations parted along tactical lines. It is this split that I am interested in examining for these cases. While FARC and the PCC had always utilized divergent tactics, they supported each other until the PCC began to take a less hard-line approach. The reasoning behind this shift may provide valuable insight into the answer of my question.

Loyalists in Northern Ireland

The conflict between Ireland and the United Kingdom (Britain) and Ireland dates back centuries, and is multi-faceted. On one hand, there is a political conflict over territory and allegiance, on the other, there is a deeply-rooted tension between Catholics and Protestants, which also defines the conflict (Uppsala Conflict Data Program, 2008). In order to remove the religious variable from the equation, I intend to look at Protestant loyalist organizations based in Northern Ireland that advocate continued allegiance to the U.K.

The current strongest unionist party in Northern Ireland is also the most hard-line: the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Because it is an established political party in a democratic system, DUP focuses heavily on domestic issues in its current policy priorities, but has never abandoned its founding loyalist philosophy, which drives both its decisions and its actions. The violent organization is more complicated. Until the late nineties, the Ulster Defense Association /Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF) organization was the most prevalent violent organization in Northern Ireland. When the UDA/UFF singed peace accords, it is believed that their more violent members were shared between the Red Hand Defenders and, to a lesser degree, the Orange Volunteers.


Violent Organization

Non-violent Organization

Country / Region




Army of God

Gospel of Life Ministries

United States


Christian (both are multi-denominational)

Pro-Life / Anti-Abortion


Hizb ut-Tahrir

Middle East


Sunni Muslim

Islamic Caliphate

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)

Colombian Communist Party (PCC)


Communist / Socialist


Communist Government in Colombia

Violent Loyalist Organizations*

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)

U.K. (Northern Ireland)



U.K. Loyalist, Anti-Catholic

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