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Terrorism as a Desperate Game - Fear, Bargaining, and Communication in the Terrorist Event

NCJ Number
Journal of Conflict Resolution Volume: 25 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1981) Pages: 47-85
J R Corsi
Date Published
39 pages
Political terrorism is examined theoretically and empirically, with a focus on violent acts initiated on behalf of minority interests and committed by individuals or small cadres to harm establishment persons or elite property.
The discussion implicitly assumes that the terrorist act is meant to affect a large audience, so emphasis is placed on the theatricality of terrorist acts and the importance of communication. A typology presented considers 2 dimensions: the terrorist intention to capture or not to capture persons or property and the known versus the unknown location of the target. Each of these types is examined with respect to the following characteristics: immediate damage to the target, subsequent threat to the target, short-term danger to the terrorists when demands are likely to be made, law enforcement response, negotiations, and duration of the incident. Assumptions of the model are tested using the ITERATE data set, which covers 539 events of international terrorism occurring between 1970 and 1974. Decision routes are mapped as a method for conceptualizing the tactics involved in bargaining. Formal game theory is used to explore the complexities of modeling government terrorist interactions with regard to developing an extensive game form, specifying utilities, and constructing illustrative games. Probability functions for an empirically based decision model are generated using responses and outcomes for the cases in the data set. Discriminant function analysis is used to specify quantitatively the degree to which the types are distinct as posited. Emphasized is the significance of communications (implicit and direct, calculated and manipulative) which result from terrorist-target bargaining interaction. Tabular data and 51 references are provided. (Author abstract modified)