What is the Impact of Foreign Military Intervention on Radicalization?


  • Tom Pettinger University of Hull


Foreign Military Intervention, Radicalization


In an era where the use of military intervention is being debated by governments and societies all around the globe, the potentially radicalizing impact of the specific form of intervention has remained chronically underexplored. The article addresses this lack of research, by examining the radicalizing effects of full-scale military engagement and the consequences of more limited, aerial intervention. In an effort to inform the contentious discussion around foreign military intervention, it draws examples from the ‘War on Terror’ in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the more recent airstrikes employed through the US drone programme against Al-Qaeda and coalition strikes against the so-called Islamic State, illustrating the risks and outcomes of ‘boots on the ground’ versus engaging in more ‘distant’ warfare. It concludes that whilst other factors clearly play a role in an individual’s journey towards extremism, intervention by a foreign power can encourage the process of radicalization, or ‘de-pluralization’ - the developing perception that there exists only one solution, extreme violence - to take place. However, it finds that the type of intervention plays a critical role in determining how individuals experience this process of de-pluralization; full-scale intervention can result in a lack of monitoring alongside frustrations (about lost sovereignty for example), a combination which paves the way for radical ideology. Conversely, airstrikes present those underneath with unequal and unassailable power that cannot be fairly fought, fuelling interest in exporting terrorism back to the intervening countries.

Author Biography

Tom Pettinger, University of Hull

Master's student from the University of Hull, passionate about examining the causes behind radicalization and how to counter it, and is planning to begin a PhD from September 2016 in this field.


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