Contending with Terrorism

Contending with Terrorism: Roots, Strategies, and Responses

Michael E. Brown
Owen R. Coté
Sean M. Lynn-Jones
Steven E. Miller
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    Contending with Terrorism
    Book Description:

    Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, scholars and policy analysts in national security have turned their attention to terrorism, considering not only how to prevent future attacks but also the roots of the problem. This book offers some of the latest research in terrorism studies. The contributors examine the sources of contemporary terrorism, discussing the impact of globalization, the influence of religious beliefs, and the increasing dissatisfaction felt by the world's powerless. They consider the strategies and motivations of terrorists, offering contending perspectives on whether or not terrorists can be said to achieve their goals; explore different responses to the threat of terrorism, discussing such topics as how the United States can work more effectively with its allies; and contemplate the future of al-Qaida, asking if its networked structure is an asset or a liability. The essays in Contending with Terrorism address some of the central topics in the analysis of contemporary terrorism. They promise to guide future policy and inspire further research into one of most important security issues of the twenty-first century. Contributors Max Abrahms, Daniel Byman, Erica Chenoweth, Audrey Kurth Cronin, Renée de Nevers, Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Hillel Frisch, Calvert Jones, Andrew Kydd, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Elizabeth McClellan, Nicholas Miller, Assaf Moghadam, Michael Mousseau, Rysia Murphy, William Rose, Paul Staniland, Robert Trager, Barbara Walter, Dessislava Zagorcheva

    eISBN: 978-0-262-28926-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. The Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xlii)
    Sean M. Lynn-Jones
    • Market Civilization and Its Clash with Terror
      (pp. 3-27)
      Michael Mousseau

      Clausewitz’s dictum that war is politics by other means is a reminder that the primary goal of the war against terror is not to defeat and eliminate those who aim to attack the United States and its allies. Rather it is to enhance the security of the American people and their allies. These goals are the same only if terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda are isolated groups of criminals that need only be found and dealt with swiftly. But if al-Qaeda and its associated groups represent the values and beliefs of substantial numbers of people, and all signs indicate that...

    • Behind the Curve: Globalization and International Terrorism
      (pp. 28-56)
      Audrey Kurth Cronin

      The coincidence between the evolving changes of globalization, the inherent weaknesses of the Arab region, and the inadequate American response to both ensures that terrorism will continue to be the most serious threat to U.S. and Western interests in the twenty-first century. There has been little creative thinking, however, about how to confront the growing terrorist backlash that has been unleashed. Terrorism is a complicated, eclectic phenomenon, requiring a sophisticated strategy oriented toward influencing its means and ends over the long term. Few members of the U.S. policymaking and academic communities, however, have the political capital, intellectual background, or inclination...

    • Motives for Martyrdom: Al-Qaida, Salafi Jihad, and the Spread of Suicide Attacks
      (pp. 57-90)
      Assaf Moghadam

      Suicide missions—or attacks whose success is dependent on the death of their perpetrator/s—are one of the most lethal tactics employed by terrorist and insurgent groups today. Moreover, they have demonstrated great potential to create turbulence in international affairs.¹ The four suicide attacks of September 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq—where suicide operations have become the signature mode of attack—have highlighted how this tactic can lead to considerable losses of human life and physical infrastructure while influencing the course of global events in their wake.

      During the 1980s and 1990s, suicide missions wreaked considerable havoc on...

    • The Strategies of Terrorism
      (pp. 93-124)
      Andrew H. Kydd and Barbara F. Walter

      Terrorism often works. Extremist organizations such as al-Qaida, Hamas, and the Tamil Tigers engage in terrorism because it frequently delivers the desired response. The October 1983 suicide attack against the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, for example, convinced the United States to withdraw its soldiers from Lebanon.¹ The United States pulled its soldiers out of Saudi Arabia two years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, even though the U.S. military had been building up its forces in that country for more than a decade.² The Philippines recalled its troops from Iraq nearly a month early after a Filipino...

    • Why Terrorism Does Not Work
      (pp. 125-161)
      Max Abrahms

      Terrorist groups attack civilians to coerce their governments into making policy concessions, but does this strategy work?¹ If target countries systematically resist rewarding terrorism, the international community is armed with a powerful message to deter groups from terrorizing civilians. The prevailing view within the field of political science, however, is that terrorism is an effective coercive strategy. The implications of this perspective are grim; as target countries are routinely coerced into making important strategic and ideological concessions to terrorists, their victories will reinforce the strategic logic for groups to attack civilians, spawning even more terrorist attacks.²

      This pessimistic outlook is...

    • Correspondence: Does Terrorism Ever Work? The 2004 Madrid Train Bombings
      (pp. 162-170)
      William Rose, Rysia Murphy and Max Abrahms

      Max Abrahms’s argument that terrorism rarely works is compelling.¹ He is not correct, however, that terrorist groups that primarily attack civilians never achieve their political objectives. The March 2004 Madrid train bombings offer an exception to Abrahms’s thesis. The terrorist group that carried out the attack sought to compel Spain to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and especially Iraq. The result was a partial success, because Spain did withdraw its forces from Iraq. This case study, developed below, helps to identify the uncommon conditions under which at least partial terrorist success is possible, and the findings have implications for counterterrorism...

    • What Terrorists Really Want: Terrorist Motives and Counterterrorism Strategy
      (pp. 171-198)
      Max Abrahms

      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 incentive structure of its practitioners.¹ The strategic model—the dominant paradigm in terrorism studies—posits that terrorists are rational actors who attack civilians for political ends. According to this view, terrorists are political utility maximizers; people use terrorism when the expected political gains minus the expected costs outweigh the net expected benefits of alternative forms of protest.² The strategic model has widespread currency in the policy community; extant counterterrorism strategies...

    • Correspondence: What Makes Terrorists Tick
      (pp. 199-226)
      Erica Chenoweth, Nicholas Miller, Elizabeth McClellan, Hillel Frisch, Paul Staniland and Max Abrahms

      Max Abrahms’s article “What Terrorists Really Want: Terrorist Motives and Counterterrorism Strategy” is a welcome critique of the many points taken for granted by rational choice interpretations of terrorist group behavior.¹ His systematic review of the observable implications of rational choice perspectives on terrorism reveals some of the important shortfalls in the current literature. Abrahms overreaches, however, in rejecting strategic models of terrorism without providing ample empirical evidence or qualifications to his claims.

      Abrahms presents seven “puzzling” tendencies of terrorist organizations as anomalies for the strategic model. We argue, however, that a strategic perspective can account for these anomalous behaviors...

    • Deterring Terrorism: It Can Be Done
      (pp. 229-265)
      Robert F. Trager and Dessislava P. Zagorcheva

      Can deterrence work against contemporary terrorists? Many prominent international relations scholars and analysts have argued that deterrent strategies have no significant role to play in countering the new terrorist threat. Richard Betts, for example, writes that deterrence has “limited efficacy . . . for modern counterterrorism.”¹ A RAND study asserts, “The concept of deterrence is both too limiting and too naïve to be applicable to the war on terrorism.”² And the belief that deterrence is inadequate as a counterterrorist strategy is also shared by President George W. Bush and his administration, whose National Security Strategy states, “Traditional concepts of deterrence...

    • Friends Like These: Counterinsurgency and the War on Terrorism
      (pp. 266-302)
      Daniel L. Byman

      Throughout the 1980s, the United States poured money into El Salvador to check communist expansion in Central America. Although at that time the Salvador conflict was the costliest U.S. military effort since Vietnam, at the end of the decade the United States found itself spinning its wheels. Despite almost a decade of training, aid, and high-level pushes for reform, the Salvador armed forces still suffered basic flaws such as a mediocre and disengaged officer corps, widespread corruption, a poor promotion system, and conscripts who did not want to fight. These military weaknesses were only part of a broader problem. The...

    • NATO’s International Security Role in the Terrorist Era
      (pp. 303-335)
      Renée de Nevers

      The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s ongoing engagement in missions ranging from Bosnia to Darfur suggests that the alliance has overcome the doubts about its future that arose after the Cold War. The war on terror that followed al-Qaida’s attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, would appear further to reinforce NATO’s significance. While unilateral actions by the United States and U.S. cooperation with loose coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq have garnered the bulk of international attention, experts agree that multilateral cooperation is essential in fighting terrorism. Moreover, several of NATO’s current activities, such as its missions in Afghanistan...

    • Assessing the Dangers of Illicit Networks: Why al-Qaida May Be Less Threatening Than Many Think
      (pp. 336-374)
      Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni and Calvert Jones

      The globalization of transportation, communication, and finance has benefited not only licit businesses but also professional criminals and terrorists. Arms dealers, drug traffickers, money launderers, human traffickers, terrorists, and other sundry criminals, enabled by new, affordable technologies, are increasingly organizing into sprawling global networks. As a result, understanding international organized crime and terrorism in terms of networks has become a widely accepted paradigm in the field of international relations. In this article we seek to clarify that paradigm, probe deeper into the consequences of the network structure, and challenge conventional wisdom about network-based threats to states.

      A common theme in...

    • How al-Qaida Ends: The Decline and Demise of Terrorist Groups
      (pp. 377-418)
      Audrey Kurth Cronin

      The war on terrorism might be perpetual, but the war on al-Qaida will end. Although the al-Qaida network is in many ways distinct from its terrorist predecessors, especially in its protean ability to transform itself from a physical to a virtual organization, it is not completely without precedent. And the challenges of devising an effective response over the long term to a well-established international group are by no means unique. Al-Qaida shares elements of continuity and discontinuity with other terrorist groups, and lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of past and present counterterrorist responses may be applicable...

  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 419-419)