What_Terrorists_Really_Want_Terrorist_Motiv

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2 of 7 DOCUMENTS International Security Spring 2008 What Terrorists Really Want ; Terrorist Motives and Counterterrorism Strategy BYLINE: Max Abrahms. Max Abrahms is a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He conduc- ted research for this article when he was a Research Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.; The author would like to thank the following in- dividuals for their time and comments: Robert Goldberg, Matthew Gottfried, Rex Hudson, Peter Krause, Deborah Lar- son, Karen Levi, Charles Mahoney, David Rapoport, Steven Spiegel, Arthur Stein, Marc Trachtenberg, Robert Trager, Jeff Victoroff, and the anonymous reviewers. SECTION: TALIBS, TRIBES, AND TROUBLE IN SOUTH ASIA; Pg. 78 LENGTH: 14548 words What do terrorists want? No question is more fundamental for devising an effective counterterrorism strategy. The international community cannot expect to make terrorism unprofitable and thus scarce without knowing the incent- ive structure of its practitioners. The strategic model--the dominant paradigm in terrorism studies--posits that terrorists are political utility maximizers. According to this view, individuals resort to terrorism when the expected political gains minus the expected costs outweigh the net expected benefits of alternative forms of protest. The strategic model has widespread currency in the policy community; extant counterterrorism strategies seek to defeat terrorism by reducing its political utility. The most common strategies are to fight terrorism by decreasing its political benefits via a strict no con- cessions policy; decreasing its prospective political benefits via appeasement; or decreasing its political benefits relative to nonviolence via democracy promotion. Despite its policy relevance, the strategic model has not been tested. This is the first study to comprehensively assess its empirical validity. The actual record of terrorist behavior does not conform to the strategic model's premise that terrorists are rational actors primarily motivated to achieving political ends. The preponderance of empirical and theoretical evidence is that terrorists are rational people who use terrorism primarily to develop strong affective ties with fellow terrorists. Major revisions in both the dominant paradigm in terrorism studies and the policy community's basic approach to fighting terrorism are consequently in order. What do terrorists want? No question is more fundamental for devising an effective counterterrorism strategy. The international community cannot expect to make terrorism unprofitable and thus scarce without knowing the incent- ive structure of its practitioners. 1
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2010 for the course GOV 365N taught by Professor Moser during the Fall '06 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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