Schneier Calls Out Papers on How Terroristist Groups End

Bruce Schneier noted some research by Rand about How Terrorist Groups End. The abstract

Abstract: How do terrorist groups end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that terrorist groups rarely cease to exist as a result of winning or losing a military campaign. Rather, most groups end because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they join the political process. This suggests that the United States should pursue a counterterrorism strategy against al Qa’ida that emphasizes policing and intelligence gathering rather than a “war on terrorism” approach that relies heavily on military force.

likely rings true to many who question the use of drones etc. (The comments on Bruce’s page get into some of this point).

To me the fact that RAND put the paper out is interesting. I can never tell whether RAND or what RAND is about. It would seem that claims that RAND is only going to support the government’s goals might be challenged here. Also Bruce calls out the work of Max Abrahms who in 2008 and 2011 addressed these ideas as well. I urge you read the 2008 post and here is the 2011 abstract

The basic narrative of bargaining theory predicts that, all else equal, anarchy favors concessions to challengers who demonstrate the will and ability to escalate against defenders. For this reason, post-9/11 political science research explained terrorism as rational strategic behavior for non-state challengers to induce government compliance given their constraints. Over the past decade, however, empirical research has consistently found that neither escalating to terrorism nor with terrorism helps non-state actors to achieve their demands. In fact, escalating to terrorism or with terrorism increases the odds that target countries will dig in their political heels, depriving the nonstate challengers of their given preferences. These empirical findings across disciplines, methodologies, as well as salient global events raise important research questions, with implications for counterterrorism strategy.

Bruce was cool enough to include a link to the paper.

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6 Responses

  1. See Scott Atran’s Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists (HarperCollins, 2010), and Omar Ashour’s The De-Radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements (Routledge, 2009).

  2. Deven says:

    As always, thanks, Patrick.

  3. Jordan J. Paust says:

    This is interesting, and I wonder whether there are differences that have been identified between “ordinary” users of the tactic of terrorism and those of a radical ideologic or religious bent.

  4. Deven Desai says:

    Jordan, I have not had a chance to dig into the papers, but I think Patrick’s suggestions go to your question. Given that Rand and Abrahms are looking at a large range of such groups starting back in the 1960s, I think they are looking at any type, political, religious or a mix.

    Hmm, maybe I should ask, what would “ordinary” be as you use it? As I write, I realize I am not sure I know. That would help sort the differences you raise (for me at least).

  5. Jordan J. Paust says:

    Devin: I am not sure either, that’s partly why I put the word ordinary in quotes.

  6. Deven Desai says:

    Ah that makes sense. Good question, wish I had an answer. But thanks for giving something more to think about.