Abrahms, Max. “Why Terrorism does not work.” International Security 31(2) (Fall 2006): pp. 42-78.
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Terrorist campaigns come in two varieties:
•strategic terrorism aims to coerce a government into changing its policies
•redemptive terrorism is intended solely to attain specific human or material resources
such as prisoners or money
Terrorism's effectiveness can be measured along two dimensions:
•combat effectiveness describes the level of damage inflicted by the coercing power
•strategic effectiveness refers to the extent to which the coercing power achieves its policy
Terrorists: members of their societies who are the most optimistic about the usefulness of
violence for achieving goals that many, and often most, support.
Key variable for terrorist success was a tactical one: target selection. Groups whose attacks on
civilian targets outnumbered attacks on military targets systematically failed to achieve their
In the international mediation literature, limited objectives typically refer to demands over
territory (and other natural resources); maximalist objectives, on the other hand, refer to demands
over beliefs, values, and ideology, which are more difficult to divide and relinquish.
Foreign Terrorist Organizations: groups that engage in "premeditated, politically motivated
violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets."
Guerrilla groups: mostly attack military and diplomatic targets, such as military assets,
diplomatic personnel, and police forces.
"civilian-centric terrorist groups" (CCTGs): primarily attack innocent bystanders and businesses.
Terrorism is a coercive instrument intended to communicate to target countries the costs of
noncompliance with their policy demands.
(1) target countries infer that groups have maximalist objectives when they target civilians, and
(2) the resultant belief that terrorist groups have maximalist objectives dissuades target countries
from making political concessions. The two methodological approaches combine to offer an
externally valid theory for why terrorist groups, when their attacks are directed against civilians,
do not achieve their policy goals regardless of their nature.
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