Dynamics of insurgent innovation: how Hezbollah and other non-state actors develop new capabilities

Marc R. DeVore, Armin B. Stähli, Ulrike Esther Franke

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Few issues are more important to security-studies scholars than understanding how violent non-state groups innovate. To shed new light on this subject, we examine Hezbollah’s innovations and the underlying processes that produced them. Based on this case, the most successful violent non-state groups are arguably those that systematically pursue incremental innovation. Although less dramatic than their discontinuous counterparts, a commitment to steadily improve an organizations' tactics and techniques can have dramatic effects. Indeed, even Hezbollah’s remarkable performance during the 2006 Lebanon War is attributable to the perfection of techniques utilized since the organization's inception. While innovations were incremental in character, a bottom-up process of learning and experimentation by field commanders was critical to generating most of these innovations. If generalizable to other violent non-state actors, these findings suggest that the most formidable insurgent and terrorist groups will actually be those that relentlessly pursue incremental innovations in a bottom-up fashion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-400
Number of pages30
JournalComparative Strategy
Issue number4
Early online date19 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Innovation
  • Terrorism
  • Hezbollah
  • Rockets
  • Suicide bombing
  • Adaptation
  • Military innovation


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