Exploring Terrorist Targeting Preferences

Exploring Terrorist Targeting Preferences

Martin C. Libicki
Peter Chalk
Melanie Sisson
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 130
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  • Book Info
    Exploring Terrorist Targeting Preferences
    Book Description:

    Governments spend billions to protect against terrorism. Might it help to understand what al Qaeda would achieve with each specific attack? This book examines various hypotheses of terrorist targeting: is it (1) to coerce, (2) to damage economies, (3) to rally the faithful, or (4) a decision left to affiliates? This book analyzes past attacks, post hoc justifications, and expert opinion to weigh each hypothesis.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4248-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Glossary
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This parable illustrates how one might apply a rational allocation process to manage risk efficiently. The farmer, faced with a threat to his herds, chooses that course of action he believes will best leverage his limited resources against loss. When mitigating the risk posed by a hurricane—a random event dictated by uncontrollable atmospheric and environmental factors—the only variable that should affect the farmer’s decision is the value of each asset. When considering the risk posed by a band of thieves, however, comparing the relative value of each asset alone may not ensure the most efficient use of the...

  10. CHAPTER TWO What Drives al Qaeda’s Choice of Targets?
    (pp. 5-23)

    To establish a meaningful link between al Qaeda’s strategic goals and how it uses terrorism as a means to achieve them, it is first necessary to establish that al Qaeda is, in fact, a goal-driven organization. In our definition, a group is goal-driven if its actions are undertaken in an effort to affect the future state of the world.Worldcan be locally or globally defined—a man can rob in order to improve his own circumstances; Chechen terrorists took schoolchildren hostage to put pressure on Russia to leave Chechnya. In both instances, the actor has identified a goal and...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Hypothesis Testing: Quantitative and Qualitative Measures
    (pp. 24-48)

    The hypotheses established in Chapter Two define four possible relationships between al Qaeda’s goals and the criteria by which it evaluates alternative targets and attack modalities. This chapter is dedicated to testing the explanatory power of each of these hypotheses. It begins by identifying and defining quantitatively and qualitatively the effects a terrorist attack are intended to produce. These measures are structured into a model that describes the relevance of each attribute to, respectively, the rally, coercion, damage, and franchise hypotheses. Past al Qaeda and affiliate attacks are then tested against this model. As such, the model treats each attack...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Hypothesis Testing: Al Qaeda Statements and Expert Observations
    (pp. 49-72)

    Can one infer al Qaeda’s strategic motivations for the targets they attack—be it to coerce, to damage, or to rally—by analyzing what they say or what those who have studied terrorists say about them? Or, alternatively, is target selection largely in the hands of franchisees?

    To be sure, al Qaeda—not atypically for a terrorist organization—is a clandestine entity and, thus, not given to making its plans transparent. There is no authoritative body of strategic work that carefully lays out options for achieving the caliphate or driving the United States out of the Muslim world, and evaluates...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Ramifications for al Qaeda Attack Planning in the United States
    (pp. 73-94)

    Chapter Two expressed certain assumptions about the rationality and organizational structure of al Qaeda. The next two chapters determined that past selections of modalities and targets for attack have been motivated by al Qaeda’s desire to coerce and damage the United States and its allies, and, secondly, to energize current or potential militant jihadists. This chapter is dedicated to relating these findings to plausible attacks within the United States.

    The precise form that future al Qaeda–instigated acts of aggression might take in the United States is impossible to predict, and the number of targets vulnerable to attack is limitless....

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 95-108)