'Like a Phoenix from the Ashes': The IRA as a Multi-Generational Movement and Its Relevance for the War on Terror

Hoyt, Timothy D.
June 2012
At the Interface / Probing the Boundaries;2012, Vol. 80, p193
Academic Journal
The 21st century and the War on Terror have revitalized interest in terrorist groups, irregular warfare, transnational movements and insurgency. Many analysts and scholars have focused their attention on how terrorism can be defeated and how and when terrorist groups cease to exist. This chapter will examine a different phenomenon—how terrorist or insurgent groups can persist and become multi-generational revolutionary movements. The Irish Republican movement and its armed wing, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), continue to exist after at least four separate armed campaigns, two of which can only be termed abject failures. Surviving both defeat and sometimes partial success, the IRA continued to re-emerge each generation, like a phoenix from the ashes—adjusting its new campaigns each time to an internal analysis of the reasons for its success or failure. Assessing the IRA as both a strategic actor and as a multi-generational movement, therefore, may provide useful insights for how to combat Al Qaeda—another transnational movement based on a seductive but rigid and militaristic ideology—and perhaps how to avoid making a multi-generational movement out of our current adversaries.


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