Nunn School Undergraduate Presents Research on WMD Terrorism at West Point
On Tuesday, 27 March, third year International Affairs and Spanish major Ms. Lucia Bird presented the results of undergraduate research on WMD terrorism in the Middle East at the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at United States Military Academy(USMA).
Bird was selected to present at West Point’s 2nd annual Cadet/Student Conference on Terrorism, Insurgency, and Asymmetric Conflicts. The conference aims to enable a high level forum for undergraduate and graduate students to present research focusing on the characteristics, causes, and implications of terrorism and insurgency and to discuss the larger issues associated with asymmetric conflicts. Those in the reviewing panel included West Point faculty and experts in the field.
Working under the advisement of Nunn School Assistant Professor Margaret E. Kosal,Bird has explored acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by non-state actors in the Middle East. She has empirically chronicled the acquisition, attempts, and use of WMD by Hamas and Hezbollah from available literature and media sources. They further studied existing evidence on the suspected relationships between these two organizations and potential state supporters (Iran and Syria). Comparing the different success rates of the two organizations and taking into account the different levels of state support, the research probes the extent to which state support of terrorist groups seriously impacts WMD acquisition, development, and use.
Conventional theories suggest that non-state actors do benefit from state assistance in the pursuit of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents. Bird and Kosal, however, found that an unanticipated trend appears: Hamas, which lacks significant state support, seems freer to pursue WMD activity; while there are limited attempts to attain or employ WMD by Hezbollah, which may be restricted because of its relationship with Iran and Syria.
This work challenges traditional thoughts on the relationship between WMD terrorism and state support and improved understanding of terrorist organizations’ WMD motivations and capabilities. The broader impact relates to the strategy and policies of the U.S. to deter and pursuit and prevents acquisition or use of WMD by non-state actors.