The Construction of Security Through the Use of Terror

David C. Ellis, University of Florida

Far from the end of history, the 1990s are remembered as a decade of intense inter-ethnic conflict. The passing of the Cold War unleashed latent civil conflicts in numerous states resulting in the deaths of millions of people. The question this paper asks is, "How did ethnic leaders and elites frame their constitutents' worldviews in such a way that ethnic cleansing and genocide seemed like appropriate policy alternatives?: The hypothesis asserts that leaders and elites instrumentally constructed the perception that multiethnic regions represented "zones of danger" to their groups and that the only way to create "zones of safety" was to rid them of the potentially dangerous elements. Thus, terror was a primary tool used by leaders and elites to mobilize their constitutents in order to achieve their political objectives. Three sections comprise this paper. The first section develops the theoretical framework of the paper, drawing upon leadership theory, social learning theory, and construtivism. The second section discusses why leaders and elites employ terror int he construction of security. Finally, the paper concludes with a case study of this framework, using the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1990 to 1994. By understanding the link between terror and security, conflict resolution efforts can be better designed to treat the causes of violence instead of just its symptoms.

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Updated 05/20/2006