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Cover Contemporary Terrorism Studies

11. Can Terrorism Be Rational?  

Max Abrahms

This chapter looks into the rationality of terrorism. It starts off by looking into the paradox of terrorism. Political scientists typically view terrorists as rational political actors. However, empirical research on terrorism suggests that terrorism is in fact an ineffective political tactic. Evidence indicates that in instances where there has been terrorist attacks on civilians, governments rarely grant concessions. This might explain why terrorism is often selected as a tactic only if alternative options are no longer viable. The chapter uses Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State as case studies to examine broader patterns of terrorism. Knowing the priority of terrorists is vital for governments when considering counterterrorism actions. Having an understanding of the grievances of terrorists helps political actors predict which targets the terrorists will attack.

Chapter

Cover Strategy in the Contemporary World

5. The Causes of War  

John Garnett and John Baylis

This chapter examines theories that explain the causes of war. It considers ideas advanced by political scientists, sociologists, biologists, and philosophers, showing that different explanations of war give rise to different requirements or conditions for peace. After highlighting the difficulties in studying war, the chapter discusses human nature explanations of war, citing such factors as frustration, misperception, misunderstanding, miscalculation, and errors of judgement as well as the role of human collectives including factions, tribes, nations, and states. It then describes the bargaining model of war before turning to inter-state wars, intra-state conflicts, and ethnic conflicts. It also explores the debate over whether ‘greed’ or ‘grievance’ are the main causes of civil wars. The chapter concludes that identifying a single cause appropriate to all wars is an exercise in futility and that a worldwide ‘just’ peace is unattainable.