Beirut Bombings Case

Beirut Bombings Case

Beiruit Bombings Case Study Directions. Please answer the questions below in 1 page including Categorizing Forms of Insurgency Worksheet.  On the second page reply to each student in 1 paragraph for each person you can agree or disagree with each reply. I will attach the reading ad student replies below.

Question; This discussion activity is an opportunity for you to consider how an insurgent event can be interpreted and communicated differently depending on the definitional perspective of the event. Using the case of “The Beirut Bombing Example”, consider the case in terms of what you have learned regarding categorizing forms of insurgency.

The Beirut Bombings Case refers to a series of bombings that occurred in the Lebanese capital of Beirut in the 1980s. The bombings were carried out by various extremist groups, including Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, and targeted civilians, government buildings, and military personnel. The bombings were aimed at creating chaos and destabilizing the government and caused mass casualties and widespread fear and panic among the population.

The bombings were part of the larger Lebanese Civil War, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 and involved multiple factions vying for power and control of the country. The war was characterized by sectarian violence and political turmoil, and the bombings were seen as a tactic used by extremist groups to further destabilize the country.

The bombings continued throughout the war, with one of the most notable incidents being the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 American servicemen. The bombings were widely condemned by the international community and were a major factor in the eventual withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon.

The war ended in 1990 with the Taif Agreement, but the bombings and the violence they caused had a lasting impact on the country and its people. The bombings and the war have left deep scars on Lebanese society and continue to shape the country’s political landscape to this day.

Part 2: Take a position on the type of insurgency that the ‘Beirut Bombings Case’ exemplifies. Present your case on the discussion forum taking into account the factors that are outlined in My Suggested Answers to the “Categorizing Forms of Insurgency Worksheet” found on the review page for this lesson.

The Beirut Bombing case can be classified as a terrorist insurgency. This classification is supported by the following factors:

  1. The bombings were carried out by a non-state actor, specifically an extremist group, rather than a government or organized military.

  2. The bombings were aimed at civilians, causing mass casualties and widespread fear and panic, which is a tactic commonly used by terrorist groups.

  3. The bombings did not have a clear political or ideological goal but rather aimed to create chaos and destabilize the government.

  4. The bombings were not part of a larger, organized rebellion or uprising against the government, but rather an isolated act of violence.

In conclusion, the Beirut Bombing case can be classified as a terrorist insurgency, as the bombings were carried out by a non-state actor, targeted civilians, aimed to create chaos and destabilize the government, and were not part of a larger, organized rebellion.

 Categorizing Forms of Insurgency Worksheet

Form of Insurgency Insurgency Level
Numbers Involved
Street Duration
Threat to Regime
Non Violent


 Merari, A. (1993, Winter). Terrorism as a strategy of insurgency. Terrorism and Political Violence5, 4, 213-251

Student replies;

Julie Zamudio (She/Her)

While there are many similarities between the multiple forms of insurgency the suicide bombings that occurred in Beirut from November 1982 to September 1984 can be classified as terrorism. There are many forms of insurgency, violent and non-violent, outlined in Ariel Merari’s paper. Merari defines six types of insurgent violence – coup d’etat, Leninist revolution, riots, non-violent revolution, guerrilla warfare, and terrorism. Merari also provides a table to help determine how to distinguish between the different types of insurgency. By applying this framework and definitions to the case study the type of insurgency can be narrowed down.

First, let us look at the six criteria used to categorize different types of insurgency. These criteria are level of insurgency, numbers involved, struggle duration, violence, a threat to the regime, and spontaneity. The bombings in Beirut were low in the level of insurgency. The attacks were carried out by individuals. The events in the case study occurred over two years. While the loss of life was high and devastating, the actual threat to the regimes involved was minimal. Lastly, the attacks were planned and not spontaneous. By comparing these answers to the table below we can start to understand how to classify the bombings from the case study. However, a look at the definitions will help to clear up where the different types overlap.

Comparison of Forms of Insurgency

Form of Insurgency Level of Insurgency Number Involved Struggle Duration Violence Threat to Regime Spontaneity
Coup d’etat High Few Short Varies Great No
Leninist Revolution Low Many Short – typically Great Great No
Riot Low Medium Short Little Small Yes
Non-Violent Resistance Low Many Long No Varies No
Guerilla Low Medium Long Great Varies No
Terrorism Low Few Long Little Small No

The suicide bombings were not spontaneous in nature. There would have been more planning needed. From this, we can determine that the bombings were not part of a riot. Riots are typically unorganized mob violence, unlike the planned, individual attacks that occurred in Beirut. Riots, like coup d’etat, are short in duration. A Coup d’etat is meant to be a swift action preferably with little to no violence. Coups are carried out at a high level of the state’s rank and typically involve the cooperation of the military. There are similarities between the coup d’etat and the suicide bombings. For instance, they both require a level of surprise and secrecy and rely on a small group rather than a large one. However, that is where the similarities stop. The bombings in Beirut were an attack on military apparatus from outside the state rather than from within the state. The bombings also continued over a period of two years whereas a coup is meant to be brief.

Neither is the bombing comparable to the Leninist Revolution or Non-violent resistance. Both require long periods of preparation and planning and can continue for long periods of time. Both also depend on many people to back the movement. The bombings in Beirut only required a few individuals. The bombings could have been hoping to spark a revolution, but at the stage discussed in the case study, the bombings do not fit the definition of a revolution. The sheer amount of death and casualties disqualifies the bombings as non-violent resistance.

As Merari states, “the real world…is always more complex than academic classifications.” Where things begin to become more complex is when we look at the difference between guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Some groups use multiple forms of insurgency further complicating matters. However, this difficulty lies in looking at the broad picture rather than the individual actions. If we take the Beirut suicide bombings as individual actions apart from the wider conflict they can be defined as terrorism.  First, the actions were carried out by individuals using car bombs while guerrilla relies on larger unit sizes and weapons similar to traditional warfare.

There are similarities with guerrilla warfare. For instance, both bombings are guerrilla warfare is meant to wear down a stronger, larger enemy. The United States Marine Corps was obviously a much larger military force. A direct attack or guerrilla attack would have been thwarted immediately. The only hope the insurgents had was to use terroristic attacks such as suicide bombings. While the entire conflict might have consisted of multiple forms of insurgency, the suicide bombings that were carried out in Beirut from November 1982 to September 1984 can be categorized as terrorism.


Merari, A. (1993). Terrorism as a strategy of insurgency. Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 5(4): 213-251.

Louis Small

After reviewing the case study on the Beirut Bombings, multiple indicators can be seen that point toward a classification of two different types of insurgencies.  These two insurgencies with similarities are guerrilla warfare and terrorism.  In today’s world, many throughout the world would quickly classify the specific scenario of the 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut as terrorism.  It however remains the opinion of this student that the Beirut Bombings as discussed in the case study from 1982 to 1985 instead of a form of guerrilla warfare.  The following points will be used to justify my case:

1.     First, we come to understand that the genesis of the case study begins with Israel taking over southern Lebanon with the intent to force the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Syrian troops out of Lebanon.  Though early support was earned from the Lebanese Shi’a Muslims, resentment ensued when it became clear that Israel would not relinquish southern Lebanon. The territory remains a key separation point to differentiate and point towards guerrilla warfare over terrorism.

2.     As discussed by Merari, it remains known that guerrillas often conduct their warfare tactically similar to how an infantry would operate.  At first consideration of conventional or western infantry, would highlight that the Beirut Bombings were an insurgency type of terrorism.  Alternatively, it seems important to highlight that every infantry has its own defined signature. We know that Ayatollah Khomeini contributed to aid in the Islamic revolution by sending hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Lebanon.  These higher numbers highlight key criteria that differentiate an insurgency type of guerrilla from terrorism(Merari, 1993).  Khomeini is also well known as a heavy influencer of suicide bombing, almost as a defining signature.  I, therefore, deduce that for Khomeini and the IR Guards, their method of guerrilla warfare would include suicide bombers as part of their standard infantry.  

3.     Lastly, guerrilla warfare often has the objective of trying to wear out and outlast the enemy. With this specific case study, we see that three years after the start of the conflict, and following the suicide bombings we know that the US, Italy, France, and eventually Israel pull out of Beirut and southern Lebanon.  

Through these three points, I conclude my case that the type of insurgency which best describes the case study of the Beirut bombings was in deed guerrilla warfare.