Uniting to fight against ISIS and the regime of Bashar al-Assad has led the Kurds to form a more cohesive movement to create a state, according to Peter Krause, an assistant professor of political science at Boston College.
Last week, Krause published his first book, Rebel Power: Why National Movements Compete, Fight, and Win, which addresses the many conflicts in the Middle East. It was the No. 1 book about nationalism on Amazon in November when it was available for preorder.
Krause will speak at a book launch event on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Devlin 101 to promote it.
Krause spent a decade researching nationalism and political violence and conducted over 150 interviews across the world to write the book, which seeks to address several questions, including why some groups have states and others don’t, why some groups cooperate with each other while others use violence, and what makes a successful national movement.
His interest in terrorism, nationalism, and political violence began when he was studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005 to attain his master’s degree. Krause also obtained his Ph.D. from MIT.
While he performed research for his dissertation, he was particularly interested in whether terrorism and political violence were effective strategies for forming a successful state. As he read literature on the topic, he felt it was too narrow because it often looked at an individual organization’s attacks and their effects rather than at the wider picture.
Krause believed that most of this violence was embedded in broader national and social movements. His research focused on how multiple groups that all sought independence used violence to achieve their goals. Over the course of the last 10 years, Krause has published several articles about the topic, but he wanted to put his ideas in a cohesive text, so he decided to write the book.
“I care much more about people reading it than buying it,” Krause said. “It’s something that I have put so much of my life into and I feel like it’s the best work that I’ve done [so I would] feel so honored if people read it.”
The book has seven chapters, which include the Zionists in Israel, Palestinians in Palestine, Algerians in Algeria, and Irish in Ireland. During his summers, Krause travelled to Algeria, Northern Ireland, and many other countries to conduct research and hold interviews with people embedded in national movements.
His most insightful interviews were with two famous female terrorists: Leila Khaled, the first woman to hijack an airplane, and Zohra Drif. In 1969, Khaled hijacked an Israeli airplane as a part of Black September to put pressure on both Israel and Jordan’s monarch.
Krause said female terrorists were unique in their time. The two women’s attacks challenged the stereotypes about political violence that were in place at the time, namely that terrorists are uneducated. Drif spoke French and went to law school.
Krause said it was fascinating to interview the two women about the attacks they carried out and whether they perceived them as effective.
In his book, Krause seeks to address what makes a national movement successful.
“It’s all about the balance of power behind the movement,” Krause said.
Krause believes movements with lots of organizations have more competition, so more time is spent on internal fights, making conflicts with other states more difficult to resolve.
In his book, Krause writes about what he calls the hegemonic movement, in which there is one dominant organization that spends its time and resources on external conflicts so it can gain power. This, Krause believes, is a recipe for success.
When looking at the current state of national movements in the Middle East, Krause believes that the Kurds are having more success forming a movement to create a state despite their fragmentation.
“They have shown more cohesion in the fight against ISIS and against the Assad Regime, so I think in many ways, that’s why they’re getting closer to having an independent Kurdistan,” he said.
Krause said the struggles between the different states in the Middle East relate closely to the United States’s fight against terrorism. He believes that the U.S. must understand the complex relationships between the different groups to predict where they will strike next.
He said that Americans believe terrorism is all about the U.S., when in reality, the fighting between these groups usually isn’t. Their concerns are much more local, Krause believes.
“I think that understanding the internal dynamics of these movements and how these groups think can really lead to better foreign policy,” he said.
Corrections: A previous version of this article stated that Krause’s book had only four chapters, but it actually has seven. The article also incorrectly stated that the Kurds have a state, which they do not.
Featured Image Courtesy of Peter Krause