We thank Michael Horowitz for his response to our article, “The Spread of Military Innovations: Adoption Capacity Theory, Tactical Incentive and the Case of Suicide Terrorism.”[2] We are glad for Horowitz’s close reading of our work, and for the several insightful and constructive comments that he has offered. Such comments significantly contribute to the academic debate on the diffusion of military innovations and should drive further research in the field. However, Horowitz’s response to our article fails to address the problems we originally raised. As a result, the conclusions we reached in our article are still valid: because of the problems in Horowitz’s research design, we cannot conclude that the variation in organizational constraints across terrorist groups explains the variation in adoption and non-adoption of suicide bombing.

Continue reading

In “The Spread of Military Innovations,” Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli question the importance of organizational factors in explaining whether violent non-state actors decide to use suicide bombing. Instead, they argue that the strategic environment faced by groups generates tactical incentives that better explain who adopts suicide bombing. While they are right to point out that tactical incentives shape the choices made by groups (a perspective shared by adoption capacity theory, the argument they criticize), their argument is based on a misunderstanding of the way that adoption capacity theory functions in the case of suicide bombing. Reassessing their evidence shows that Gilli and Gilli’s results actually demonstrate the strong robustness of adoption capacity theory, showing how organizational factors significantly influenced whether violent non-state actors adopted suicide bombing between 1981-2007. It is only their alternative measure of organization size, one inappropriate for testing adoption capacity theory, that is not significant. This reassessment also reveals new insights about the overall relationship between organizational politics and military innovation for both state and non-state actors, including the conceptual risks involved when importing ideas from the business innovation literature, and the utility of accounting for both capacity and interests in future research.

Continue reading