In the study of terrorism, there is a widespread belief that I call the “Strategic Model”. It posits that groups adopt terrorism because it offers the best chance of having their grievances redressed. More specifically, the Strategic Model maintains that attacking civilians with acts of terrorism is a successful way for groups to pressure governments into meeting their political demands. Despite the prevalence of this rationalist perspective, it actually rests on very weak empirical foundations. In the face of terrorism, target countries seldom make strategic concessions to the perpetrators of the attacks. On the contrary, they generally dig in their political heels and go on the offensive. This article looks at why so many scholars assume that terrorism pays despite its political futility.
Key words: terrorism, resilience, bargaining,international relations theory
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