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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Does Terrorism Work?

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Terrorism is without doubt one of the most generally mentioned points within the twenty-first century because of the rising terrorist occurrences and its harmful impacts, particularly because the September 11, 2001, terrorist assaults. Terrorist incidences on the earth reached its peak in 2014 with about 16,903 assaults resulting in 32,658 fatalities (World Terrorism Index, 2015). Nonetheless, there was a fifty-two per cent discount within the variety of deaths related to terrorist incidences in 2018 in comparison with 2014 (World Terrorism Index, 2019). Whereas there’s a decline within the variety of deaths attributed to terrorism, its influence stays prevalent. As an illustration, there’s an upsurge within the variety of nations that skilled terrorism in 2018 with at the very least one causality from seventy-one nations, which is the second highest up to now twenty years (World Terrorism Index, 2019). The rising nature of terrorist assaults has led to the intensification of scholarly curiosity in terrorism and terrorism-related points.  To this finish, prior analysis has examined the definitions, causes, results and methods utilized by terrorist teams (Halliday, 2001; John, 2014; Elu and Gregory, 2015). Nonetheless, it appears that evidently the few research which have examined the effectiveness of terrorism as a method of political wrestle have been inconclusive.

To be able to perceive the rationale for the continued existence of terrorism and its proliferation, it’s essential to look at if terrorism works, that’s, if it achieves its said targets. This essay will contribute to the continued dialogue on the effectiveness of terrorism by arguing that the reply to the query “Does terrorism work?” relies on our definition of “terrorism” and “work”. These ideas are a topic of debate, and because of this, there might not be one components for measuring whether or not terrorism is efficient. Thus, the success-level of terrorism is decided by varied components, particularly by how it’s evaluated. For instance, whereas Dershowitz (2002:13) understands success when it comes to attracting media consideration and securing temporal concessions, Abrahms (2006:51) perceives it because the achievement the organisation’s central strategic targets. Consequently, this essay will contend that though terrorist organisations not often obtain their strategic targets, they typically succeed within the achievement of different targets.

The essay will undertake Richard English’s (2016) strategy to the understanding of success by classifying success into 4 ranges: strategic, partial strategic, tactical and inherent reward. This classification is suitable as a result of it permits for the mixing of views and arguments of students, who’ve contributed to the talk on whether or not terrorism is an efficient technique of political wrestle. The examine shall be divided into three sections. First is a conceptualisation of “terrorism”, adopted by a dialogue of scholarly views on the effectiveness of terrorism. Moreover, there shall be an evaluation of the success of terrorism utilizing Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Boko Haram as case research.

The Idea of Terrorism

To be able to look at whether or not terrorism works, it’s pertinent to provide a working definition of terrorism. Terrorism is basically a contested idea, which lacks a universally accepted definition (Schmid, 2004:383). The definition of terrorism typically mirrors the considerations of the definers, labellers and the labelled, who selectively exempt themselves and their actions and embrace others underneath the time period (John, 2014:2). Subsequently, the existence of a number of and often-conflicting definitions makes the classification of terrorist acts and actions difficult, which subsequently impacts how we measure if terrorism works. Pape (2003:345) discovered terrorism to be an efficient technique as a result of he focuses on suicide terrorism and defines terrorism because the utilisation of violence by non-state organisations to threaten and intimidate the inhabitants. Then again, Abrahms (2006:55) perceives terrorist organisations as non-state actors, who perform violence in opposition to civilians and, because of this, maintains that terrorism doesn’t work. The concentrate on completely different facets of terrorist acts by Pape and Abrahms led to the completely different categorisation of terrorist organisations, which influenced their conclusion. Therefore, their findings would have been completely different if they’d perceived terrorism and terrorists otherwise.

The definitions of terrorism will be broadly categorised into actor and technique primarily based and it appears that evidently neither of those approaches is completely satisfactory. For instance, the US Division of State (2010) defines terrorism as deliberate, politically pushed violence perpetrated in opposition to civilians by non-state actors or secret brokers, normally to affect the general public. Nonetheless, this actor-centric definition is slender as a result of it doesn’t embrace violent acts dedicated in opposition to combatants and violence perpetrated by the state. Consequently, the adoption of this conception when evaluating the effectiveness of terrorism will result in the exclusion of teams that focus on combatants. In addition to, violent acts carried out by states in opposition to different states or their residents shall be rejected when assessing the success of terrorism as a result of the definition doesn’t see state actors as terrorists.

Conversely, Jackson (2007:17) defines terrorism when it comes to technique or techniques utilized by each state and non-state actors for political functions. He perceives terrorism as a method to attain some stipulated political ends. Thus, terrorism is seen as a technique of using varied strategies to instil concern in a audience. A number of the methods employed by terrorists embrace intimidation, attrition, provocation, spoiling and outbidding (Kydd and Walter, 2006:51). Furthermore, the strategic account of terrorism opens up the concept of state terrorism, which signifies that violent acts dedicated or sponsored by states are categorised as terrorism. Nonetheless, this definition is problematic as a result of it fails to differentiate terrorist acts from related actions dedicated by different entities (Freedman, 2007:315). For instance, describing terrorism as a way implies that there isn’t a clear distinction between terrorists and freedom fighters, who can use menace and violence to additional their trigger. Subsequently, defining terrorist teams in reference to their methods will create an issue of differentiation of their categorisation, which may have an effect on how the success of terrorism is measured.

Terrorism on this essay shall be understood by integrating the actor and strategy-based views. Will probably be seen as using varied techniques by state and non-state organisations in opposition to each combatants and non-combatants within the pursuance of social, political, financial and spiritual targets. From this definition, it’s observable that terrorists pursue varied targets. Using completely different reference factors when it comes to the targets of terrorists by students contributes to their contrasting conclusions about its effectiveness. Whereas Abrahms (2006) focuses on the power of terrorist teams to attain their central strategic targets, Pape (2003) concentrates on the effectiveness of suicide terrorism, a tactical goal.

Keeney and Winterfeldt (2010:1804) learning the targets of Al-Qaeda, divides them into three classes: means, basic and strategic. They check with the expulsion of Western states from the Center East and the institution of an Islamic caliphate as a strategic goal. The attainment of a few of Al-Qaeda’s basic targets, comparable to recruitments and the infliction of financial loss on the US, is prerequisite to the achievement of the strategic targets. Lastly, means targets embrace the coaching of insurgents and profitable of media battle (Keeney and Winterfeldt, 2010:1812). The truth that a lot of the targets are ignored by students when measuring the success of terrorism signifies that there’s extra to be recognized earlier than deciding whether or not terrorism works (Krause, 2018:3).

Theoretical Background

There are two opposing views on the effectiveness of terrorism. The primary view argues that the rationale for the expansion in terrorism is as a result of it really works. Dershowitz (2002:12) contend that terrorists are rational people who take part in terrorism when it pays for them and desist from the act when the associated fee is just too excessive. He argues that terrorist teams typically interact in a calculation of the associated fee and good thing about their determination to assault civilians as a result of they imagine that it’s efficient (Dershowitz, 2017:13). Moreover, he concludes that terrorism will persist if the worldwide neighborhood continues to reward it by providing concessions to terrorists. Equally, Pape (2003:349) asserts that terrorism is efficient in opposition to democracies as a result of the inhabitants is delicate to civilian casualties, which immediate governments to grant concessions. 

Furthermore, Gould and Klor (2010:1507) opine that terrorism is an efficient technique as a result of it led to the willingness of nations like Israel to accommodate a few of the terrorists’ calls for, comparable to granting territorial concessions. Echoing this view, Rose and Murphy (2007:186) understand the Madrid Prepare Bombings on March 11, 2004, as an example of terrorist success as a result of it led to the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq. Some students comparable to Hoffman (2006:55) subsequently conclude that the continued use of terrorism by teams is an proof that it really works. Nonetheless, it must be famous that the continued use of terrorism doesn’t essentially imply that it really works. The continued prevalence of terrorist assaults may also imply that the causes of earlier assaults weren’t resolved or that the situations for the emergence or continued existence of terrorism have continued to exist in some areas, comparable to political instability, discrimination of teams, poverty, insecurity or state failure, amongst others (Gurr, 1993; Thurston, 2017, UNDP, 2017).

The second perspective argues that terrorism doesn’t work. Abrahms (2006:44) argues that the success charge of terrorist teams is extraordinarily low, which is a sign that they not often accomplish their coverage targets. Utilizing the twenty-eight teams designated by the US Division of States, he discovered that the terrorist organisations achieved solely three of the forty-two political targets and none of those that assault civilians achieved their targets. In a later article, Abrahms (2007:225) contends that terrorism is an ineffective tactic in opposition to democratic states as a result of democracies aren’t more likely to make territorial concessions. Moreover, Cronin (2009), who studied 450 terrorist campaigns recorded within the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism database, discovered that eighty-seven per cent of the teams failed to attain their strategic targets. He additional states that a lot of the successes achieved by the organisations are tactical. In the identical vein, Fortna (2015:520) maintains that using terrorism as a tactic in civil struggle could also be profitable in prolonging the struggle however is unlikely to attain the terrorists’ final political targets.

On account of restricted analysis, there’s a disagreement over the efficacy of terrorism as a way of political wrestle. Subsequently, it’s crucial to contemplate an alternate technique of evaluating terrorist effectiveness, which integrates the works of those students.

Measuring the Success of Terrorism

The time period “success” is subjective and value-laden, making it tough to reach at a consensus definition. The nebulous targets of some terrorist teams, comparable to ISIS, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda, typically contributes to the issue concerned in assessing the effectiveness of terrorism (Krause, 2010:3). The vast majority of analysis on whether or not terrorism works embrace a unitary strategy by specializing in the strategic targets of terrorist teams, thereby ignoring the potential for attaining their means and basic targets. Consequently, researchers will proceed to reach at completely different conclusions because of the lack of settlement on what it means for terrorism to work. Subsequently, it’s essential to make clear the which means of success when discussing the effectiveness of terrorist teams. English (2016) offers a balanced evaluation by dividing success into 4 ranges, which intention to accommodate the arguments made by varied research with a view to create a complete understanding of whether or not terrorism works. The 4 classifications of success embrace strategic, partial strategic, tactical and inherent reward. These ranges of success allow us to see the result of terrorism not solely from the angle of students and the federal government but in addition from terrorists’ standpoint.

Strategic Success

The primary degree recognized by Richard English is Strategic success. Strategic victory implies the achievement of the said central targets of terrorist organisations. These targets, which are sometimes ideological, range between terrorist teams however normally, intention to compel coverage change. The measurement of strategic success of terrorism typically requires long-term evaluation as a result of the main target is normally on the influence of terrorist acts in opposition to states and society (Krause, 2010:4). Prevailing research point out that terrorism is ineffective within the attainment of some strategic targets such because the creation of a brand new state, ending army occupation and profitable of warfare. Al-Qaeda, for example, has not been in a position to obtain their final targets of expelling the US from the Center East, the destruction of Israel and institution of an Islamic caliphate (Keeney and Winterfeldt, 2010:1806). Abrahms (2006:65) blames the failure of Al-Qaeda on their poor communication technique, which frequently results in the general public misperception of their motive. He notes that the US inhabitants inferred from the 9/11 assaults that the first aim of Al-Qaeda is to kill and destroy, which didn’t result in public sympathy with their trigger (Abrahms, 2006:56). Thus, the strategic targets of Osama Bin Laden weren’t achieved by the technique of violence, as illustrated in desk 1.

Furthermore, the strategic targets of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which have been initially affiliated with Al-Qaida’s, embrace the formation of a regional caliphate in Iraq and the Levant, worldwide growth of Islam and the recreation of the facility and glory of Islam (Siebert, von Winterfeldt, and John, 2016:31). Siebert et al. (2015:23) state that the numerous distinction between ISIS and Al-Qaeda is the previous’s demand for energy. Though ISIS and its associates have efficiently carried out assaults and partially management some territories, the group is but to attain any of their overarching targets. In keeping with the RAND Company (2017), ISIS managed about one-third of Syria and forty per cent of Iraq throughout its peak in 2014. Nonetheless, the group was defeated after shedding its final territory to US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in 2019, casting doubt on the potential for establishing a worldwide Islamic caliphate and attaining their strategic targets. Subsequently, these examples demonstrated that the attainment of strategic success is normally elusive.

Moreover, the effectiveness of terrorist actions is a sign of the kind of targets they pursue (Özcan, 2018:96). Only some terrorist teams have achieved maximalist targets, which are sometimes ideological as a result of they typically require the goal authorities’s compliance. One doable explanation for the strategic failure of terrorist teams is that the majority of their main targets threaten state sovereignty. Subsequently, authorities tends to make use of draconian measures, that are designed to threaten the existence of terrorist teams and to counter the threats of violence. If terrorist operations haven’t any probability of undertaking central targets, there wouldn’t be an overreaction from the goal state. The World Battle in opposition to Terrorism declared by the US after 9/11 (O’Connell, 2004:350) is an instance of how a authorities response can have an effect on the strategic success of terrorist organisations as a result of it led to a worldwide collaboration to wage struggle on terrorism. Equally, the counter-terrorism methods of the nationwide and regional governments to the violent acts of Boko Haram, an ISIS aligned Jihadist group primarily based in North-East Nigeria, have prevented the group from attaining their main goal of making an Islamic state in Nigeria (Onapajo, 2017).

Nonetheless, this doesn’t imply that terrorism doesn’t obtain strategic success in any respect. Terrorism works however solely in uncommon circumstances. Traditionally, it could possibly be argued that the act of violence employed by the Zionists in opposition to the Palestinians in Mandate Palestine and the British, which then led to the creation of the state of Israel, was an act of profitable terrorism (English, 2016). Equally, Rose and Murphy (2017:187) understand the 2004 Madrid bombings, carried out by a gaggle affiliated to Al-Qaeda as a strategic victory as a result of it led to the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq. It appears, nonetheless, that these circumstances of strategic victory are minimal, in comparison with the bigger proof of common lack of strategic success, as mentioned earlier. As proven beneath, terrorist teams are extra profitable when it comes to the achievement of their different (non-strategic) targets.

Partial Strategic Success

Although terrorist organisations not often obtain their main strategic targets, they could partly obtain a diluted model of those targets (English, 2016). The achievement of partial strategic victories by terrorist teams may contribute to the attainment of strategic success. Thus, as an alternative of creating a caliphate or securing independence, terrorist organisations is perhaps profitable in securing better energy or autonomy from the state. As an illustration, the Irish Republican Military was in a position to obtain partial sovereignty for a lot of their territory within the early twentieth century (English, 2016). Equally, the management of some territories in Iraq and Syria by ISIS could possibly be seen for example of partial strategic victory. After gaining management of the territories, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the chief of the ISIS, declared the organisation a caliphate in 2014 having its army, economic system and authorities (Jones, 2017:56). A proper forms was established within the caliphate with establishments primarily based on strict adherence to Islamic rules. In keeping with Duyvesteyn and Peeters (2015:1), the caliphate attracted over 31,000 overseas fighters who travelled to Iraq and Syria to hitch the Islamic state. This determine doesn’t embrace different professionals who additionally travelled to hitch the caliphate. The flexibility to keep up state establishments and entice foreigners could possibly be seen as a hit. Therefore, the proclamation of an Islamic caliphate in these occupied territories represents a partial strategic success as a result of it may help the achievement of ISIS final targets of creating an Islamic caliphate within the Center East.

Partial strategic victory also can contain the attainment of secondary targets comparable to revenge in opposition to an adversary for perceived humiliation or damages. Croin (2017) contends that the 2004 Madrid bombings by teams linked to Al-Qaeda have been retaliation for Spain’s involvement within the struggle in Iraq. The assaults have been profitable and constituted a partial strategic victory as a result of it compelled coverage change in Spain by ending their army occupation in Iraq. In the identical vein, the November 2019 London Bridge knife assault was impressed by ISIS as revenge for the loss of life of their chief (Nikolic, 2019). Equally, the execution of 11 Christians by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a splinter group of Boko Haram in 2019, was believed to be a retaliation for the loss of life of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (BBC Information, 2019). The success of those retaliatory assaults is a sign of partial strategic victory of terrorist teams.

Moreover, English (2006) argues that partial strategic success additionally consists of influencing nationwide and worldwide dialogue with a view to divert international discourse to the trigger, points and acts of violence perpetrated by terrorist organisations. The 9/11 assaults helped to shift the eye of the US and her allies to the actions, motives, capabilities and calls for of Al-Qaeda greater than ever earlier than, which may help a complete withdrawal of western pressure from the Center East.Subsequently, some terrorist teams would possibly fail to attain their strategic targets however will be profitable in attaining their partial strategic targets.

Tactical Success

The achievement of strategic and partial strategic victory shall be tough with out the achievement of tactical success. Tactical victory refers back to the success of a single or sequence of terrorist operations (Marsden, 2012: 137). Krause (2010:5) argues that the tactical success of terrorism denotes the capability of terrorist teams to successfully execute assaults by delivering the specified price within the desired location to the specified goal and on the desired time. Tactical effectiveness is normally measured by the variety of terrorist assaults and causalities, amount of infrastructure harm and success of kidnapping operation. The most typical techniques utilized by terrorist teams are shootings, bombing, theft, kidnapping and assassination (Marsden, 2014:134). Sharif (1996) contends that there’s a excessive probability of tactical success if explosive units have been used over different techniques comparable to armed assault or hostage taking. Thus, the attainment of tactical targets might end result within the accomplishment of strategic targets.

Analysis has steered that terrorist organisations typically obtain tactical targets comparable to securing public sympathy and frightening emotional over-reaction from the focused state (Dershowitz 2002; Pape 2003). Suicide bombings is without doubt one of the most psychological effectual techniques attributable to its means to move the message that the attacker can’t be dissuaded. Pape (2003) opines that the continued use of suicide terrorism as a technique is because of the consciousness of its effectiveness. Suicide assaults have a excessive influence as a result of they permit terrorists to kill numerous folks and instil concern at little price. The World Extremism Monitoring (2017) discovered that Boko Haram carried out 189 profitable suicide assaults, which killed 449 folks in 2017, whereas ISIS carried out 411 suicide assaults killing 2299 folks in Iraq and Syria in the identical 12 months. The success of suicide terrorism is normally seen as a manner of gaining martyrdom or heavenly blessings by the perpetrator. Thus, the attainment of operational success by terrorist organisations may characterize a tactical victory.

Moreover, terrorist teams would possibly obtain tactical victory by securing publicity and attracting consideration to their trigger. Terrorism makes an attempt to achieve public consideration and sympathy by way of the media. The 9/11 assaults by Al-Qaeda are a tactical success as a result of they attracted worldwide publicity, generated consideration and nonetheless instilled concern within the public. Nonetheless, Hoffman (2006:184) argues that no proof means that the media reportage of terrorist actions results in a rise within the sympathy of the general public to the reason for the terrorist. As an alternative of sympathising with their trigger, the general public finally ends up misinterpreting the motives of the terrorist group by inferring that their overwhelming intention is to destroy (Abrahms, 2006). Hoffman (2006:184) additional states that terrorism has been more practical at spreading concern and gaining public consideration than every other technique of political wrestle. A brand new growth is the rising use of social media by most terrorist organisations to relay their message to a bigger variety of folks (Micheal, 2014:40). Using fashionable expertise by terrorists enhances their means to instigate concern, thereby rising their efficacy. As an illustration, ISIS used social media to additional their aim of instilling concern and gaining publicity by releasing movies of executions and violent acts (Barr and Herfroy-Mischler, 2018:948). Thus, media protection of terrorist violence may result in additional violent assaults, which could contribute to extra tactical wins.

One other tactical success that may be achieved by terrorist organisations is the obtainment of temporal concessions from the goal authorities, which will be when it comes to securing ransom funds for hostages or the discharge of prisoners. Boko Haram, which is well-known for elevating funds by way of mass kidnapping, launched over 100 kidnapped Dapchi schoolgirls to the Nigerian authorities after amassing an enormous ransom in 2018 (Freeman, 2018). Equally, the United Nations Workplace on Medication and Crimes (2019) reported that Al-Qaeda acquired about $75 million by way of funds of ransom between 2010 and 2015. Furthermore, terrorist teams enter into negotiations with goal governments for the discharge of their members in change for these kidnapped. For instance, eighty-two kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls have been launched by Boko Haram in change for 5 of their leaders in 2017 (The Guardian, 2017). Subsequently, the effectiveness of terrorist teams at securing funds and releasing their fighters is a sign that terrorism works on the tactical degree.

Inherent Rewards

English (2016) states that terrorism can be profitable in securing some inherent rewards for his or her members and supporters comparable to a way of belonging, standing, status, comradeship, empowerment and martyrdom. Intrinsic rewards are with respect to psychological and ideological satisfaction of members of terrorist organisations. Crenshaw (2001:405) argues that psychological components comparable to thirst for pleasure, need for revenge and guilt, have been the principal components that drives people’ curiosity in terrorism. Subsequently, becoming a member of terrorist organisations may present folks, who would possibly really feel uncared for, alone or powerless with a way of neighborhood, id and energy. As an illustration, Akbar (2015) contends that some folks joined the Islamic State due to their alienation from the democratic system of presidency. Kruglanski et al. (2015:559) additional word that people who really feel excluded, victimised and alienated are pushed to revive their sense of self-worth by becoming a member of ISIS as a result of they have been satisfied that the potential for dwelling the lifetime of a “true Muslim” may solely be achieved within the caliphate. Thus, the recruitments of recent members could be a type of success for the terrorist group.

Terrorist organisations which can be motivated by non secular conviction see success when it comes to heavenly reward. Houmanfar (2012:67) notes that some terrorist teams understand loss of life as a pathway to an everlasting lifetime of heavenly bliss, the place they are going to benefit from the firm of seventy-two virgins. Moreover, Osama Bin Laden emphasised self-sacrifice when he formally declared struggle in opposition to the US in 1996 by making his followers imagine that the execution of suicide operations in opposition to infidels and apostates is the easiest way to wage jihad (Moghadam, 2008:46). Subsequently, the loss of life of a terrorist represents a victory for the group as a result of it can enable the terrorist to achieve heavenly reward even when they lose earthly battles. Nonetheless, Chapman (2017) argues that taking inherent rewards as a type of terrorist victory is subjective as a result of it could enable all terrorist organisations to be attributed to some type of success. However, there’s a want for the struggle in opposition to terrorism to contemplate inherent rewards in order that the issue that draws the perpetrators of terrorism will be weakened.


The response to the query of whether or not terrorism works relies upon how the time period “terrorism” is outlined and what it means for it to “work.” English’s (2016) measurement of terrorists’ success into strategic, partial strategic, tactical and inherent rewards helps to offer a complete response to the talk on the effectiveness of terrorism by addressing the loopholes in present research. The terrorist organisations examined on this examine achieved some extent of success of their partial strategic, tactical and inherent targets, however they principally failed to attain their strategic targets. As an illustration, whereas Al-Qaeda was in a position to obtain a tactical victory of instilling concern and diverting public consideration to their trigger by way of the 9/11 assaults, they have been unable to attain their central aim of expelling the US from the Center East. However, terrorism is efficient in compelling coverage change if “success” is seen because the attainment of partial success as an alternative of the achievement of the said central targets. This explains the rationale for the continued use of terrorism even when it has resulted in total strategic failure.

Tables and Figures


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Thurston, A. (2017). Boko Haram: the historical past of an African jihadist motion (Vol. 65). Princeton College Press.

United Nations Improvement Programme (UNDP). (2017). Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Level for Recruitment.

United Nations Workplace on Medication and Crimes (2019). Kidnapping for Ransom and Terrorism. Retrieved March 27 2020 from https://www.unodc.org/e4j/en/organized-crime/module-16/key-issues/kidnapping-for-ransom-and-terrorism.html

Additional Studying on E-Worldwide Relations

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