The Project on Violent Conflict
Rockefeller researchers in the Project on Violent Conflict (PVC) have brought the study of terrorism and counterinsurgency strategy in new, innovative directions. PVC is co-directed by Professors Victor Asal and Karl Rethemeyer, whose singular research is mirrored in their novel partnership.
Asal, an expert in political violence, and Rethemeyer, a noted researcher studying social networks, joined forces to study terrorist networks and create a new way to look at the habits and methods of organizing adopted by these groups. With PVC's research director, Rockefeller graduate Ian Anderson (MPA, ’09) and staff, the research team works in tandem with scholars at other universities, providing research in support of initiatives of the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Naval Research. These projects and articles are supported by the work of other Rockefeller professors and students in the College’s undergraduate, Master’s, and doctoral programs.
PVC is currently building an extensive data set on terrorist groups worldwide, focusing on organizational and network dynamics. Ultimately, this data set, “Big, Allied, and Dangerous,” or BAAD, is expected to be merged with an incident-based database, becoming the most extensive data available in the field. This work has had the support of the US Department of Homeland Security, and the research results have been published widely in security and conflict management journals and presented at various academic conferences.
Another ongoing project, “Know Thyself: The Organizational Culture, Networks, and Behavior of Counterinsurgency and Stability Operations,” is a multi-method assessment of counterinsurgency and stabilization operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the first phase of this project (which was funded by the Office of Naval Research), the PVC team and collaborators at Penn State University reviewed much of the existing literature on counterinsurgency, collected data on Marine Corps unit activities in Iraq and Afghanistan from unit command chronologies, and designed a process to collect data from Marine company and regimental combat team (RCT) officers. Mitchel Abolafia, Rockefeller professor and prominent ethnographer, has joined with PVC to design and conduct interviews with Marine officers who have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
PVC is also in the early stages of researching the proliferation of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) technology through inter and intra-organizational networks. The study will focus on former Irish Republican Army members, building knowledge not only on the IRA, but also insight into studying IED proliferation in other contexts. PVC continues with other projects as well, and to date has brought to Rockefeller six major grant projects totaling more than two million dollars.