To answer the question of what would happen after the removal of bin Laden, I looked at a wide ranging of groups across time and space in an effort to get a generalizable answer. The primary finding that I explore in my paper is that violence seems to decrease after the removal of Tier One leaders and increase after the removal of midlevel leaders. The possible causal mechanisms for this are explained in the paper.
As mentioned before, my prediction for the coming months is this: no significant backlash against citizens in the continental US. Domestically we may see a few lone wolves who take this as a window of opportunity to air their own grievances, and internationally our troops may see sporadic, minor upticks in violence. But no reasonable person expects this to result in another 9/11: make no mistake, killing Osama is a victory.
There is plenty in my paper that can be critiqued, and has already at various conferences. I welcome any additional criticism or remarks here. In an effort to further test my theory, I am also nearly finished with a paper that explores the same question in Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations. So far, the Tier One/Tier Two distinction holds up well.
The ultimate test of my theory will be what happens in the coming months and weeks. Stay tuned.
1. Today's events notwithstanding, I have great appreciation and respect for the work that John and others do at The Monkey Cage. Many of my favorite political scientists have appeared there. They are in large part the inspiration for this blog. I was happy to read John's recent article [pdf] about blogging in April's issue of Political Science and Politics.
2. Standard disclaimer: all views and opinions on this blog and in my paper are my own. The University of Houston, Duke University, and the US Government in any of its agencies, offices, or contracts, are in no way responsible for the content, although I am deeply indebted to my colleagues and advisors for their support and guidance.