Beyond Revolution: Insurgencies and Revisionism in International Affairs

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Sanchez, Victor Morton
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Middle Tennessee State University
A common dichotomy in the international affairs literature pits status quo actors, who are satisfied with the current arrangement in international affairs, against revisionist actors, who desire to change it. While revisionism is considered important and is studied by scholars and analysts, the existing literature generally seeks to understand revisionism as it relates to great powers and other states. Studies on non-state actors are rare by comparison. This thesis adds to the literature a study on non-state revisionist actors. It argues that there are insurgents who are dissatisfied with the status quo and desire to alter, disrupt, or destroy the regional or international order, but that not all non-state armed groups are necessarily revisionist. Using structured, focused comparison, this study examines three contemporary transnational insurgent groups. Utilizing a generally accepted indicator of revisionism and violent insurgent tactics, the study gauges whether each group is are motivated by a revisionist strategy. The findings of this plausibility probe suggest that two of the cases – al Qaeda, and the Islamic State (ISIS) – merit the label “revisionist”. By contrast, the final case, Boko Haram, should be seen instead as revolutionary because it primarily seeks to disrupt governance dynamics at the state level.
Conflict, Insurgency, International Affairs, Revisionism, Revolution, International relations