Chapter 19 Discussion Question Pointers

End of Chapter Question Pointers

Chapter 19 – Is Terrorism Effective?

Diego Muro

  1. Why is there no agreement on the effectiveness debate?
  2. This question asks you to consider some of the issues that divide scholars working on the efficacy of indiscriminate violence against civilians. This chapter has identified some substantive issues but has also highlighted a number of methodological disagreements: definition of terrorism and effectiveness, samples, ethno-centrism, etc.

    In answering this question, consider how each scholar has framed and discussed the issue of effectiveness.

  3. Does terrorism work in delivering tactical and strategic goals?
  4. This chapter has highlighted the substantial divergences in the field when concluding whether terrorism is effective or not. However, it has also suggested that there is an emerging consensus in the field when considering terrorism as a tactic that can extract some concessions in the short-term while generally failing in the long-term.

    In order to answer this question effectively one needs to have good understanding of the difference between tactics and strategy.

  5. Why has terrorism increased since the 1970s if this tactic is ineffective in delivering political goals?
  6. This question encouraged you to consider an apparent paradox. If some of the authors reviewed here are right in arguing that terrorism cannot deliver the long-term goals perpetrators set for themselves, how can we explain the increasing number of terrorist incidents worldwide? Does this mean that terrorists do not really know the world they live in? What does this tell us about their own rationality? Are they ‘irrational’ or ‘crazy’? Or does violence serve some other purpose that has been neglected by scholars? Consider using a terrorism database when answering this question.

  7. Does success depend on whether the terrorist’s goals are negotiable or non-negotiable?
  8. This question echoes Paul Wilkinson’s distinction between corrigible and incorrigible terrorists. Are some political objectives easier to accomplish than others? An examination of religious vs. non-religious goals might be illuminating when elaborating this point. You should address the historical record to address the essay prompt.

  9. What does ‘efficacy’ or ‘success’ mean for a terrorist organization?
  10. Scholars often focus on long-term political goals (e.g., secession, weakening the state, targeting a particular ethnic or racial group, etc.). However, it is also important to notice that terrorist groups are organizations that need funding, recruitment, unity, etc. Ultimately, any organization wants to survive and some of what they do may be accounted for by this need to survive. Consider using literature from other fields that also focus on political actors as organizations.

  11. How would you describe the transformation of a terrorist group into a political party? As success or failure?
  12. One of the ‘modes of decline’ for a terrorist group is the political transformation into a political party. Giving up weapons and joining the political process is seen as a victory by the status quo as bullets are abandoned in favour of ballots. However, it is also possible to see the survival of the doctrine or programme as an instance of success. The group may have to die in order for the ideology to survive.