Incubators of Terror: Do Failed and Failing States Promote Transnational Terrorism?


  • Author’s note :The author would like to thank John Szmer, Jim Walsh, Aidan Hehir and the three anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions on drafts of the paper. Replication data and documentation of additional empirical tests are available at the ISA data archive page: (, and the Dataverse Network: (


A growing body of scholars and policymakers have raised concerns that failed and failing states pose a danger to international security because they produce conditions under which transnational terrorist groups can thrive. This study devises an empirical test of this proposition, along with counter-theories, using simple descriptive statistics and a time-series, cross-national negative binomial analysis of 197 countries from 1973 to 2003. It finds that states plagued by chronic state failures are statistically more likely to host terrorist groups that commit transnational attacks, have their nationals commit transnational attacks, and are more likely to be targeted by transnational terrorists themselves.