Dr. Peter Krause, a political science professor at Boston College, focuses his research and teaching on the study of national movements, political violence, insurgencies, and international relations. His recently published book, Rebel Power: Why National Movements Compete, Fight, and Win, examines the strategies and actions of four national movements in order to understand their successes and failures. Last week, Professor Krause gave a talk about Rebel Power at the Harvard Bookstore, in which he explained some of his findings regarding the behavior of national movements.
Rebel Power, which focuses on the Palestinian, Algerian, Zionist and Irish national movements, is the product of years of research and over 150 interviews with individuals involved with the movements. The book compares the four groups, presents explanations for their behavior and strategies, and analyzes how their actions have impacted their successes and failures.
When The Gavel spoke to Professor Krause, he explained one of the major findings of his research for the book.
“The key take-away in terms of when groups get states has to do with the internal balance of power,” he said. “Basically, if you have a hegemonic movement with one dominant group, which leads to a lack of internal competition, then you are more likely to get a state. If you have a fragmented or united movement which has multiple groups, you’re less likely to get a state because they groups will spend a lot of time fighting with each other as opposed to fighting against their common enemy.”
He also described what BC students might be able to learn from his research in order to bridge current cultural and ideological divides.
“One of the biggest things is simply that it’s not all about us, and what I mean by ‘us’ is the American people and our government,” he pointed out. “So much of the politics of these regions or of terrorism and political violence is internal. Trying to take the time to understand what life is like for the people in these regions, what their concerns are beyond just U.S. foreign policy will give people a much more sophisticated understanding and also lead to better conduct.”
These findings could also prove useful for U.S. foreign policy leaders. “If you want to prevent terrorism, you want to actually face a hegemonic movement, because then they won’t have those internal dynamics that lead to these groups wanting to escalate violence against you,” explained Professor Krause. “But, if you want to actually defeat the insurgency, then you want to divide and fragment it and have multiple factions.”
However, he cautions that attempting to achieve all foreign policy goals can be extremely difficult. “The U.S. is commonly trying to prevent terrorist attacks. They’re trying to prevent insurgent attacks. They’re trying to democratize states and they’re trying to defeat insurgencies,” described Professor Krause. “The U.S. and other states can potentially have some of these outcomes, but trying to get all of them is not going to be easy to do because they call for different types of movements.”
On campus, Professor Krause works with a team of students from BC and surrounding schools to conduct research for a project of his, entitled “The Project on National Movements and Political Violence.” The team researches and collects data on insurgencies all over the world.
Professor Krause was very complimentary of both his project team and of BC as a whole, saying, “BC is both a great research university and a great teaching university. I really make use of both of those things.”
“On the one hand, BC supports my research to the Middle East to go do field work, to interview people, and to work in archives,” he elaborated. “But at the same time, I have this great group of undergraduate students who are motivated to do research and work on this stuff as well, and I couldn’t do these really broad projects without that type of research support.”
In addition to his research, Professor Krause teaches several classes at BC, including “Introduction to International Studies,” “Terrorism, Insurgency, and Political Violence,” and “International Relations to the Middle East.”
Through his classes, he hopes to convey a passion for the subject. “I want to give [students] a more sophisticated understanding of Middle East politics, of the causes and effects of terrorism and political violence,” he explains. “I want them to have a better understanding of these really important topics, but beyond that I want them to be really passionate learners and really active thinkers and people who can articulately write or argue about these topics.”
It seems that Professor Krause is succeeding in inspiring his students. Naseem Moussavian, MCAS ‘19, an International Studies and Perspectives major who took Professor Krause’s Introduction to International Studies class, described the course as “enlightening.” She reflects, “I noticed that all of the information was not only understandable and relevant, but it was taught in a way where I was able to relate and interpret on my own. I certainly grew a lot as a student and global citizen having taken this course.”
Political struggles, terrorism, and international relations are extremely relevant topics that affect people’s lives all over the world. As global relations continue to shift and evolve over time, this research is very important, and for students, it is exciting to know that this type of groundbreaking research and teaching is taking place at Boston College.
For students who are interested in this type of work or political science as a whole, Professor Krause offers some advice. “Take classes that are relevant to these broader topics. But I would also look for extracurricular opportunities,” he explained. “Whether it’s researching with me or other professors, whether it’s doing some of the summer courses that Professor Bailey or Professor Landy or other professors run in other parts of the world, whether it’s interning with the government or things like that, find a way to get involved.”
He concluded, “There are so many opportunities while you’re a student to learn, not just in the classroom but outside of it, which is exactly what this stuff is all about.”
Professor Krause will continue to give talks off-campus in the future, including one at MIT on Oct. 17. He is working on another forthcoming book, Coercion: The Power to Hurt in International Politics, which comes out in December.