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Chapter

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 Contemporary Terrorism Studies

2. What Are Terrorism Studies?  

Tim Wilson

This chapter gives a basic overview of the field of terrorism studies. It looks at attempts to define the boundaries of terrorism as a subject. It traces the evolution of orthodox terrorism studies since the 1970s. The term terrorism was first coined during the French Revolution. Terrorism sparks powerful images of sudden, disruptive, and system-shaking political violence. The academic study of terrorism as it exists now reflects the shifting concerns of both governments and the public. Scolarship on terrorism has never been richer and more diverse than it is now. New research opportunties always raise new challenges so it will be interesting to see the field of terrorism studies evolve even further in the future.

Chapter

Cover Contemporary Terrorism Studies

7. Terrorism Open Source Databases  

Gary LaFree

This chapter explores open source databases on terrorism. These are created from unclassified, publicly available information retrieved from both print and digital media. The unit of analysis for these databases are events, organizations, or individuals. The advantage of event- and group-level databases is that they are worldwide in scope. In contrast, individual-level databases are more focused on perpetrators in a single country. However, open-source databases can be susceptible to media inaccuracies and government censorship. There is also the issue of a lack of systematic empirical validation. The chapter notes possible improvements that can be made to open-source databases such as better coverage of domestic terrorism, automated coding, use of geo-spatial information, and more detailed data on the effectiveness of countermeasures.