I’ve followed S.M. Amadae‘s work for several years. Her 2016 book Prisoners of Reason informs Chapter 1 of my PhD on theory-building in strategic culture. Now, I’m reading her 1999 PhD dissertation from the University of California Berkeley on the 1944-85 history of rational choice theory. I know that rational choice frameworks have influenced Jack Snyder’s later work and Martha Crenshaw’s analysis of terrorist organisations. I also note that Amadae thanks Philip Mirowski in her acknowledgments. Amadae and Mirowski’s work are writing models for possible future research. For example, it may be possible to write a similar history of strategic culture research that goes beyond Alastair Iain Johnston’s influential generations framework.
I’ve followed Stanford’s Amy Zegart since discovering her insightful research on analytical misperception in the United States intelligence community.
Zegart writes in The Atlantic:
Is Kim Jong Un crazy or hyper-rational? Is he bent on destroying America or deterring America? Is his model Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who averted nuclear war by building a large arsenal and threatening to use it? Or is Kim looking at the cautionary tales of Muammar Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein—two men who lost their power and their lives because American presidents either didn’t believe or didn’t care that they had given up their nuclear weapons programs?
Answering these kinds of questions is in part what Jack Snyder‘s original policy work on strategic culture sought to do. It’s also what Jeffrey Lantis and colleagues have done in their policy formulation advice for the Defense Threat Reducation Agency. Finally, Jerrold M. Post has published several political psychology books on individual leaders and how they interact with strategic culture.
Zegart’s insight gives the so-called fourth generation of strategic culture a new relevance: (1) the proliferation of nuclear weapons to nation-states outside the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; and (2) the crisis decision-making of foreign political leaders who are driven by different ideational factors: beliefs, norms, values, and worldviews.
This will inform post-PhD research.
A few research notes from my PhD thesis draft:
- The journal International Affairs may be a source for Russian perspectives on Jack Snyder’s original conceptualisation of strategic culture, and the SALT nuclear arms reduction talks. In particular, a comparative US-Russia historical perspective is needed.
- Robert Jay Lifton and Haruki Murakami’s interviews with Aum Shinrikyo renunciates provide possible secondary data to identify possible hypnotisibility. The APA Division 30 definition of hypnotisibility (2014): “An individual’s ability to experience suggested alterations in physiology, sensations, emotions, thoughts, or behavior during hypnosis.”
- Coercive persuasion sequelae in Aum Shinrikyo and Islamic State would be coded as Other Specified Dissociative Disorder in DSM V (following the work of Robert Jay Lifton and Edgar Schein).
- A social psychological perspective suggests that the renunciates were sensitised to Aum Shinrikyo’s leader Shoko Asahara from Aum propaganda such as media reports, books, and short anime films. Haruki Murakami documents how Aum renunciates often provided the labour for this media to be produced and disseminated.
For several months I’ve been thinking about how Jack Snyder’s original research on strategic culture might be applied to Putin era Russia. John Ehrman’s review of two books from 2012 on Putin suggests: (1) the existence of several organisational subcultures in the KGB; and (2) the existence of folklore and glamour in Russia in the 1960s which may have influenced Putin’s socialisation as a KGB officer in the Andropov era. I see a possible integration of Snyder’s area studies with Jerrold M. Post’s work on the psychological profiling of political and terrorist leaders. Noted for future research.
Each year I do a 20-minute presentation to the SPS Symposium in Monash University’s School of Political and Social Inquiry on my in-progress PhD research. Below is the outline for this year’s proposed presentation due to occur in October:
Aum Shinrikyo’s Failed Strategic Subculture
Alex Burns (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Key Words: Aum Shinrikyo; strategic culture; terrorist groups
In 1977, RAND’s Jack Snyder proposed strategic subcultures as a unit of analysis to understand distinct beliefs, analytical traditions, institutions, and socialisation norms in a strategic community. Recently, the so-called fourth generation of strategic culture scholarship has – via Alan Bloomfield, David Haglund, Jeffrey Lantis, and others – applied Snyder’s unit of analysis to examine new foreign policy actors. This presentation applies Snyder’s strategic subcultures to advance a new understanding of the militant Japanese religious sect Aum Shinrikyo, and its 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system. I use narrative analysis and qualitative thematic coding to re-examine two theory-building explanations about Aum Shinrikyo’s decision-making: Robert Jay Lifton’s psychohistory (Destroying the World to Save It) and Haruki Murakami’s oral history interviews (Underground). I also develop a new strategic subculture explanation of Aum Shinrikyo’s failure that builds on Frederick M. Smith’s research into South Asian deity and spirit possession experiences (The Self Possessed).
Paper Type: Full Paper
Working Title: Terrorist Groups as Strategic Subcultures
Supervisor: Luke Howie
I missed the Saturday sale of political science publishers at ISA 2014.
One of the books on my post-conference reading list is Anne L. Clunan‘s book The Construction of Russia’s Resurgence (John Hopkins University Press, 2009). Jack Snyder‘s original paper for RAND in 1977 focused on Soviet strategic culture and the socialisation of politico-military elites during nuclear detente negotiations (PDF). Clunan’s book looks like a useful social construction approach to contemporary issues of leadership and national image that Snyder, Colin S. Gray, Ken Booth and others explored in the first generation of strategic culture scholarship.