The Unlikely Weapon: Unmasking the Cause of State-sponsored Terrorism

Open Access
Dooling, Douglas William
Area of Honors:
International Politics
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • James A Piazza, Thesis Supervisor
  • Gretchen Casper, Honors Advisor
  • terrorism
  • sponsorship
  • political violence
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Saddam Hussein
  • State Department
  • Middle East
  • Africa
  • authoritarian
State-sponsored terrorism is an understudied form of political violence. Although states can use war as a legitimate approach to punish their opponents, some countries solicit the assistance of international terrorist organizations. In this paper, the author uses several variables that could determine if a state appears on the US State Department’s “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list or if Daniel Byman mentioned them as a state sponsor at the end of his book, Deadly Connections (2005). The author supposed that economically weak states were more likely to be state sponsors. Data were collected in a spreadsheet, and then analyzed through the statistics software Stata. The unit of measurement was a country-year. The analysis included all states and, to gather enough data, consisted of the years 1979-2005. GDP, GDP per capita and economic growth were invalid indicators of state sponsorship, as were military expenditures. This disproved the author’s assumption that state-sponsored terrorism was a “weapon of the weak.” States that had low Polity scores, indicating more authoritarian regimes, were more likely to appear on one of the lists. In addition, being a state in the Middle East and North Africa also meant a better chance of appearing on one of the lists.