My name is Chloe Thompson and I’m about to be a senior at Carnegie Mellon University. I’m still a bit shocked and very delighted to have received the Dietrich College Honors Fellowship for this upcoming year. I’m thrilled to be able to sink myself fully into my research, to devote all of my mental energy to untangling the complex issue that I’m going to pursue.
My thesis is a comparison between the Lebanese terrorist group/political party Hezbollah and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). Hezbollah holds 12 seats in the Lebanese Parliament, but is still an active militant group, which is an interesting and very unique confluence of identities. The PIRA was a militant group, but now is only a political party. That’s a more normal or intuitive development, insofar as violent militant groups have normal developments. I want to compare the two and see what looking at them side-by-side shows me.
Violent non-state actors have always interested me, but I’ve always had trouble fully understanding them. I’ve never experienced that level of desperation or that level of political rage. And even when I contemplate that depth of feeling, the practical expression of such opinions still eludes me. How are violent attacks and political movements be coordinated from the grassroots level? How are those acts planned and hidden at the same time? And once a violent state actor is established, what encourages those people to lay down their arms and become part of the system they passionately protested?
Non-state actors and how they interact with states are hardly easy to understand. Both Hezbollah and the PIRA were born from unique circumstances and oppressions, and then grew into complex organizations. But I get to spend the summer chewing them over and seeing what I learn.