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How Terrorism Ends

How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns

Audrey Kurth Cronin
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: STU - Student edition
https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt7rjbs
Pages: 432
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7rjbs
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  • Book Info
    How Terrorism Ends
    Book Description:

    Amid the fear following 9/11 and other recent terror attacks, it is easy to forget the most important fact about terrorist campaigns: they always come to an end--and often far more quickly than expected. Contrary to what many assume, when it comes to dealing with terrorism it may be more important to understand how it ends than how it begins. Only by understanding the common ways in which terrorist movements have died out or been eradicated in the past can we hope to figure out how to speed the decline of today's terrorist groups, while avoiding unnecessary fears and costly overreactions. InHow Terrorism Ends, Audrey Kurth Cronin examines how terrorist campaigns have met their demise over the past two centuries, and applies these enduring lessons to outline a new strategy against al-Qaeda.

    This book answers questions such as: How long do terrorist campaigns last? When does targeting the leadership finish a group? When do negotiations lead to the end? Under what conditions do groups transition to other forms of violence, such as insurgency or civil war? How and when do they succeed or fail, and then disappear? Examining a wide range of historical examples--including the anti-tsarist Narodnaya Volya, the Provisional IRA, Peru's Shining Path, Japan's Aum Shinrikyo, and various Palestinian groups--Cronin identifies the ways in which almost all terrorist groups die out, including decapitation (catching or killing the leader), negotiation, repression, and implosion.

    How Terrorism Endsis the only comprehensive book on its subject and a rarity among all the books on terrorism--at once practical, optimistic, rigorous, and historical.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3114-2
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    Terrorist campaigns may seem endless, but they always end. Why?

    There is vast historical experience with the decline and ending of terrorist campaigns over the past two centuries, yet few are familiar with it. Analysis of the lessons of that experience is vital if we are to inoculate ourselves against the psychological manipulation of terrorist violence, rise above unfounded assumptions and short-term passions in the wake of attacks, and think strategically about dealing with current and future threats. Modern terrorism draws its power from the nation-state, and the only way to avoid being drawn into a tactical dynamic of attack...

  2. CHAPTER ONE Decapitation: CATCHING OR KILLING THE LEADER
    (pp. 14-34)

    Leaders of terrorist groups are often captured or killed in the final months of terrorist campaigns, dealing a death blow to the group and precipitating the demise of the movement. But the specific techniques of targeting vary, and the long-term effects of decapitation are inconsistent. While many campaigns end as a result, others barely falter and may even gain strength.²

    The immediate effects of removing a leader vary, depending on the structure of the organization, the degree to which it fosters a cult of personality, the availability of a viable successor, the nature of its ideology, the political context, and...

  3. CHAPTER TWO Negotiations: TRANSITION TOWARD A LEGITIMATE POLITICAL PROCESS
    (pp. 35-72)

    Democracies do not negotiate with terrorists. At least that is what many officials claim. The idea of negotiating with groups that deliberately kill civilians to advance their political goals is repulsive to most people. Who could blame them for such a view? Showing firmness in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, refusing to talk to the perpetrators or consider their demands, could contribute to the future safety of other potential victims, by removing incentives for future attacks and demonstrating that terrorism “does not pay.”² It also avoids granting recognition to a group that uses terrorism, satisfying a righteous impulse to reject...

  4. CHAPTER THREE Success: ACHIEVING THE OBJECTIVE
    (pp. 73-93)

    Sometimes terrorism ends because it succeeds. Terrorist groups achieve their political aims and either disband or stop engaging in violence. This is an awkward reality that can be difficult to analyze objectively, not least because history is written by the “winners.” Leaders of groups that were engaged in terrorist attacks sometimes become revered statesmen, and their organizations become respected political parties or even ruling governments. Terrorism has periodically been used as a means to pursue admirable ends, such as the freedom and self-determination of an oppressed or displaced people, and the groups that engaged in those means have occasionally gained...

  5. CHAPTER FOUR Failure: IMPLODING, PROVOKING A BACKLASH, OR BECOMING MARGINALIZED
    (pp. 94-114)

    Terrorism can be self-defeating. Most terrorism ends because the group employing the tactic fails and eventually disintegrates. The short life-span and limited success of most groups that use terrorism demonstrate that violence deliberately targeted against civilians repels rather than attracts popular support. Indiscriminate killing creates a backlash and undermines political staying power. Terrorism creates havoc, murders innocent people, draws morbid fascination; but it is insufficient to achieve political or social change. Even when it is combined with more traditional methods of securing power, historical case studies indicate that the tactic most often worksagainstthe desired outcome and eventually has...

  6. CHAPTER FIVE Repression: CRUSHING TERRORISM WITH FORCE
    (pp. 115-145)

    Answering the threat of terrorism with repression, a state’s strongest means of defending itself, is natural—even instinctive. Terrorism is meant to frighten and provoke, and state leaders are among those who get scared and angry. It is a basic human instinct to fight fire with fire, force with force, and terror with terrifying responses. The state’s response takes the form of intervention, when the threat is based beyond the borders of the target state (as with Israel’s 1982 involvement in Lebanon); or internal repression, when the threat is mainly domestic (as in Turkey with the PKK); or, as is...

  7. CHAPTER SIX Reorientation: TRANSITIONING TO ANOTHER MODUS OPERANDI
    (pp. 146-166)

    Terrorism can “end” when the violence continues but takes another form. Groups may transition out of a primary reliance on terrorist tactics toward either criminal behavior or more classic types of regular or irregular warfare. This transformation may be good or bad news for the state. It is good news when a violent group stops killing civilians and turns to petty criminality, as occurred with elements of the PIRA following the Good Friday Accords.² The state is better designed to deal with this kind of criminal behavior, which falls squarely within a legal framework and usually does not intimidate its...

  8. CHAPTER SEVEN How Al-Qaeda Ends: THE RELEVANCE AND IRRELEVANCE OF HISTORY
    (pp. 167-196)

    How does one put an end to al-Qaeda when Western analysts cannot even agree upon what precisely al-Qaeda is? Al-Qaeda began in the 1980s as a computer database with the names of foreign fighters in Afghanistan so that a wealthy Saudi dilettante would have a way to inform their next of kin if they were killed, and over the course of the next two decades it became a global entity capable of bloodying a superpower on its own soil and frightening millions of people into supporting a “war on terror.” Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, the United States and...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 197-206)

    Understanding how terrorism ends is the necessary first step to fashioning an effective grand strategy againstanyterrorist campaign. We are learning at our peril that analyzing war termination is at least as important as dissecting the causes of war. Likewise, processes of ending for terrorist groups hold within them the best insights into which strategies succeed, which fail, and why. So the important question with respect to the current terrorist campaign and its counterterrorist response is not “How are we doing?” but “How will it end?” And, with classic strategies of leverage in mind, the second most important question...

  10. APPENDIX: Statistical Analysis of Terrorist Campaigns
    (pp. 207-222)