Chapter 16 Discussion Question Pointers

End of Chapter Question Pointers

Chapter 16 – Terrorism by Insurgents and Rebels

Jakana Thomas

  1. Why is terrorism a distinct form of political violence from insurgency or guerrilla warfare?
  2. This question asks you to consider some of the key differences between terrorism and other forms of political violence. While this chapter acknowledges that these forms of domestic political violence often look the same and are utilized by the same actors, there are also some consequential differences.

    In answering this question, consider how the main targets of insurgents and guerrillas differ from terrorists’ targets, paying specific attention to the centrality of civilians or non-combatants.  

  3. Which actors use terrorism in civil wars?
  4. The chapter makes clear that there is no cohesive or narrow set of actors that can be labelled terrorists; even states terrorize. With this in mind, consider the circumstances that compel non-state armed groups to engage in acts of terror. For instance, which characteristics do many terrorist groups share? What are the specific strategies that non-state armed groups attempt to further when they use terrorism?   

  5. Which types of strategies can terrorism be used to further?
  6. This question encourages you to consider what terrorists hope to accomplish by using terrorism. The chapter assumes that organizations operate rationally and offers common strategies that terrorist groups involved in domestic struggles employ (section 16.5).

    A sufficient response to this question requires you to discern the differences between these strategies and understand how terrorism factors into the specific aims terrorists hope to achieve. It would be helpful to consider terrorism as a tactic (i.e., tool) used to advance broad political, social, or economic strategies (i.e., means to achieve a goal).

  7. Is terrorism an effective tactic for goal attainment in civil war? Why or why not?
  8. This question asks you to examine the debate on the effectiveness of terrorism and use available evidence to make a determination about whether terrorism is an efficient way for armed groups to attain their goals. Recall, terrorist organization goals can be classified as short-term process goals and longer-term strategic goals. You should address whether terrorism is effective at achieving either or both. 

  9. What are the major explanations for the use of violence against civilians during rebellions?
  10. This question encourages you to consider why armed groups rely on violence against non-combatants to further their war against the state. For example, how do rebel characteristics, such as a group’s relative strength, encourage rebel groups to view violence against civilians as their only or last resort? How might violence against civilians be viewed as productive for armed groups? 

  11. How do we understand the decision to govern and terrorize the civilian population?
  12. This question asks you to consider why armed groups such as the Taliban engage in governance activities that benefit the civilian population while also engaging in violence that specifically harms civilians. Consider why armed groups may view both types of effort as necessary to achieve their broad goals and how these activities may be mutually reinforcing.