Attacks on domestic soil have never motivated the United States government to deal with foreign elements until the attacks of 9/11 resulted in a change in policy. Historically, terrorist attacks were an ineffective means of political coercion as the government maintained a policy of non- negotiation.
The events of 9/11 were significant in that there was no longer an attempt to coerce the United States, but rather to seek retribution against it. This essay will offer an analysis that seeks to explore the political factors that have been the source of such terrorist expression.A major problem for governments, in setting counterterrorism policy, is not where to allocate resources, but how to use those resources without creating adverse indirect effects. The dilemma is that counterterrorism tactics increases short-run security may diminish long-run security by fanning the flames of conflict for example border closings, bombings that kill innocent bystanders. Both empirical and theoretical political economists have made efforts to understand this problem and its implications for the politics of terrorism. Several theoretic models studies this problem under the assumption that counter terrorism measures always radicalize terrorist supporters. Rosendorff and Sandler (2004) argue that, because harsh government crackdowns increase support for terrorists, they also increase the risk that the terrorists will have the capacity to engage in large scale attacks that do significant damage. Of course, they argue, such crackdowns also increase the probability that the government prevents terrorist attacks more generally, creating a trade-off for the government.
In addition, Figueiredo and Weingast (2001) also assume that counterterrorism radicalizes moderates, making negotiation more difficult. They then show how this assumption can give rise to cycles of violence between terrorists and a government in equilibrium. Other theoretical models attempt to endogenize the effects of counterterrorism on terrorist mobilization, allowing for competing effects.
Lichbach (1987) focuses on the consistency of government policies over time to explain variance in mobilization responses. When government policies are inconsistent, he claims, “government counterterror increases violence” (Lichbach, 1987). Anothe theorist Bueno de Mesquita (2005) also argues that “government crackdowns can lead to an increase or decrease in support for terrorism”. In his model, counterterrorism can increase terrorism by diminishing economic opportunities for potential terrorists by destroying infrastructure and thereby lowering the opportunity costs of mobilization and by ideologically inflaming the population of terrorist supporters. Furthermore, it can decrease terrorism by decreasing the likelihood that the terrorist organization succeeds at achieving its goals thereby making mobilization less attractive. In the model, whether crackdowns increases or decrease terrorist violence depends on their relative impact on these competing margins. The mechanisms underlying these models suggest a further question about terrorist tactics.
In particular, it is often argued, by scholars and practitioners alike, that terrorists can exploit the government’s counterterrorism dilemma by using violence to provoke governments into harsh and indiscriminate counterterrorism responses in order to radicalize and mobilize a population whose interests the terrorists claim to represent. In other words, as suggested by the 19th century anarchists, terrorism is powerful in part because it is “propaganda of the deed.” Of course, such examples raise the question, why do governments engage in counterterrorism if and when it might be counterproductive? Bueno de Mesquita and Dickson (2007) model a scenario in which an extremist faction considers attacking a government in the hopes of provoking a counterterror response that will radicalize the population, increasing the extremists’ support at the expense of a more moderate faction. In their signaling model, such radicalization can result either from the economic damage caused by counterterror operations or by the way in which such operations change the population’s assessment of the government’s motivations. They find that terrorism is likely to be useful as a tool for mobilization when the population the terrorists claim to represent live in ethnic enclaves, making it difficult for the government to engage in counterterrorism without inflicting negative externalities on the population. In addition, they also argue that terrorist vanguards are likely to emerge in situations where radicals have some, but not overwhelming, support reason to believe the government will crack down.
Siqueira and Sandler (2007) model a conflict between terrorists and governments in which governments face a trade-off between counterterror spending, which increases security, and the 8 provision of public goods, which bolsters moderation in public opinion. Terrorist attacks can increase radicalism by diverting government money toward counterterrorism and away from public goods. Two scenarios can occur in equilibrium in their model. In the first, the terrorist group’s grass roots support is “fickle” in the sense of diminishing if the government cracks down. As a result, terrorists take the initiative to diminish violence in order to avoid being crushed by the government and losing popular support. In the second scenario, government countermeasures increase support for the terrorists by diminishing social programs that would have benefited the population.
Here, terrorist violence is valuable because it forces the government to engage in countermeasures that further fan the flames of conflict. Empirical scholars have also invested considerable effort into assessing the relationship between political freedom, counterterrorism policy, and terrorist violence. What are the strategic issues associated with attempting to conciliate a militant adversary? How do the internal politics of terrorist organizations affect the dynamics of peace making? With whom should a government negotiate if it wants to end a terrorist conflict? A standard intuition, and a policy to which many governments claim to subscribe, is that governments should never negotiate with terrorists. If governments make such a commitment, the argument goes, potential terrorists will be deterred because they will believe that violence will be unlikely to further their goals. Lapan and Sandler (1988), however, argue that such a policy is not credible for example, terrorists have taken hostages, governments will want to negotiate, as long as the benefits of gaining the hostages release outweigh the costs in terms of concessions made as well as any signal of government irresoluteness that increases incentives for future terrorism. Atkinson, Sandler and Tschirhart (1987) present empirical results on how various features of the strategic environment such as terrorist demands, bluff attempts, types of hostages taken affects the ultimate willingness of governments to make concessions in hostage-taking environments. As an empirical matter, governments do negotiate with terrorists.
The question thus becomes what happens in such negotiations. Lapan and Sandler (1993) focus on the effects of private information, arguing that the level of violence chosen by terrorists may signal information about how strong or resource rich the terrorists are. Higher levels of violence, then, may lead to greater concessions by signaling information about expected future violence. Arce and Sandler (2007) consider a model where the government faces a tradeoff between target-specific counterterrorism and gathering intelligence, where intelligence does not prevent attacks, but informs the government about the terrorists’ type so the government can more accurately choose when conciliation is likely to be an effective counterterrorism strategy. Moreover, Bueno de Mesquita (2005) also focus on government uncertainty about the type of terrorist group they are facing. But they do so in the context of a terrorist movement made up of competing factions: one moderate and one extremist.
In both of these models, the government is uncertain whether the moderate terrorists with whom they are negotiating are willing and able to curtail extremist violence following concessions. Bueno de Mesquita attempts to identify situations in which the negotiating process is best able to provide incentives for moderates to crackdown on extremists. He finds that “both promised future concessions and the threat of replacement with a substitute negotiating partner provide incentives for moderates to exert effort in order to decrease extremist violence”. This is particularly true when the potential substitute negotiating partner’s expected capacity to curtail violence is moderate because in such a circumstance extra effort by the current negotiating partner can actually swing the government’s decision. Governments nonetheless are willing to make concessions because their counterterror capabilities improve because of the collusion of former terrorists. The model also allows the government to choose its level of investment in counterterrorism endogenously and explores how both the expected level of violence and the aid of former terrorists affects this investment decision. Berrebi and Klor (2006) present a model in which the public is uncertain whether terrorism is being produced by a moderate or an extremist faction.
Hence, the public is uncertain whether or not concessions are likely to be effective at curtailing violence because they are uncertain, after granting concessions, whether the terrorists are likely to keep the peace. Their model yields two key predictions: “First, the relative support for concessions is expected to decrease after periods with high levels of terrorism because the population concludes that the terrorists are extremists. Second, the expected level of terrorism is higher when a government inclined to make concessions is in office because the terrorists want to signal that not making concessions will be costly in the long run”. (Berrebi and Klor, 2006).
Interestingly, there is this concern how can governments and terrorists credibly commit to honor the terms of a negotiated settlement? In Bueno de Mesquita (2005), “negotiation is credible because terrorists who accept concessions use their knowledge of the inner workings of the remaining terrorist factions as bargaining leverage by withholding valuable counterterrorism aid if the government reneges on concessions”. Similarly, the government can withhold concessions if former terrorists do not aid in counterterror. One implication of this approach is that, since concessions may not be credible in the absence of ongoing violence, it may be difficult for a government to end a conflict by reaching a negotiated settlement with all terrorist factions. In particular, if target governments are able to credibly threaten sanctions against hosts of international terror groups that they cannot threaten against the terrorists themselves, the host governments may have an incentive to force the terrorists to honor negotiated settlements.