The “stratergic model” of terrorism holds that people become terrorists for political reasons. People, according to this model, resort to terrorism when they belive that no other method could bring them closer to their political goals. This is the dominant view amoung most contemporary ‘experts’. Max Abrahms, a predoctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security, begs to differ. By studying terrorist organizations around the world (including it seems, the LTTE) Abrahms offers seven tendencies of terrorists which seems to contradict this mainstrem view.
According to Abrahms, terrorists, (1) attack civilians, a policy that has a lousy track record of convincing those civilians to give the terrorists what they want;(2) treat terrorism as a first resort, not a last resort, failing to embrace nonviolent alternatives like elections; (3) don’t compromise with their target country, even when those compromises are in their best interest politically; (4) have protean political platforms, which regularly, and sometimes radically, change; (5) often engage in anonymous attacks, which precludes the target countries making political concessions to them; (6) regularly attack other terrorist groups with the same political platform; and (7) resist disbanding, even when they consistently fail to achieve their political objectives or when their stated political objectives have been achieved.
The complete paper (pdf) is here. It explains explains things in more detail. Bruce Schneier writing for the wired has an excellent summary. Incidentally, the article has the same title as this blog post. We might have accidentally copied it.
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