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Conciliation, Counterterrorism, and Patterns of Terrorist Violence

- November 30, 2007

Governments make concessions to terrorist organizations. This often leads to an increase in the militancy of the terrorist organizations. So why do governments make concessions to terrorist organizations if it’s going to make the terrorist organizations more militant? Ethan Bueno de Mesquita of The Harris School at the University of Chicago uses a formal (mathematical) model to shed some insight on this puzzle (article here):

The model developed in this study yields three key results. First, it suggests an explanation of the observation that government concessions often lead to an increase in the militancy of terrorist organizations. Namely, concessions draw moderate terrorists away from the terrorist movement, leaving the organization in the control of extremists. Second, it provides an answer to the question of why governments make concessions in light of the increased militancy they engender. The government’s probability of succeeding in counterterrorism improves following concessions because of the help of former terrorists that directly improves counterterror and leads the government to invest more resources in its counterterror efforts. Thus terrorist conflicts in which concessions have been made are more violent but shorter. Third, it demonstrates how the ability of former terrorists to provide counterterror aid to the government can solve the credible commitment problem that governments face when offering concessions.