Study: Conciliatory tactics more effective than punishment in reducing terrorism

Jul 31, 2012

Policies that reward abstinence from terrorism are more successful in reducing such acts of violence than tactics that aim to punish terrorists, suggests a new study in the August issue of the American Sociological Review.

Titled, "Moving Beyond : The Effectiveness of Raising the Expected Utility of Abstaining from Terrorism in Israel," the study looked specifically at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and found that between 1987 and 2004, Israeli policies and actions that encouraged and rewarded refrain from terrorist acts were more successful in reducing terrorism than policies focused on punishment.

"Our argument begins to challenge the very common view that to combat terrorism, you have to meet violence with violence," said Erica Chenoweth, study co-author and Assistant Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International studies at the University of Denver.

The study is the first to empirically evaluate the potential of conciliatory tactics in reducing terrorism. It relies on data from the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism's (START) Global (GTD) and from the Government Actions in a Terrorist Environment-Israel (GATE-Israel) dataset. The GTD records global terrorist attacks, including Palestinian terrorist acts, while the GATE-Israel dataset, which the study authors developed, identifies counterterrorism strategies that Israel used against Palestinian targets and places them on a seven point scale from violent acts resulting in death to conciliatory acts involving peaceful gestures.

Examples of Israel's conciliatory tactics that rewarded refrain from terrorist acts included: providing social services to potential terrorist constituencies, encouraging peace talks, withdrawing troops, releasing prisoners, and promoting cultural freedoms.

Israel's repressive and punishment centered attempts to reduce terrorism included: passage of anti-terrorism laws, extension of prison sentences, assassination, deportation, and military retaliation.

The study found these repressive and punishment based methods to be less effective in reducing terrorism. Yet, in an average month between 1987 and 2004, Israel took approximately 18 repressive or punishment based actions against Palestinian targets and less than eight conciliatory actions.

Chenoweth and her co-author Laura Dugan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, said they hope their findings encourage policymakers to give more consideration to conciliatory actions.

"The general consensus across the political spectrum is that when there is terrorism you have to fight back," Dugan said. "This study suggests that there is value in looking at the grievances, the people most affected by these grievances, and the constituencies of these terrorist organizations."

According to the study's authors, when policymakers focused on improving the living conditions for Palestinian constituents, those same constituents were encouraged not to participate in terrorist organizations and, consequently, terrorism rates fell.

"If the constituency of a terrorist organization no longer supports that organization, then the organization can't thrive," Dugan said.

In addition, Dugan and Chenoweth argue that terrorists do not commit terrorist acts for the same reasons that common criminals commit crimes. Therefore, they believe counterterrorism tactics should not mirror typical crime fighting approaches.

"Strategies that successfully deter common criminals may be ineffective for terrorists," Chenoweth said. "This is because terrorists are generally less concerned about being punished and more concerned about their role in ensuring the well-being of their movement and its constituency."

While Dugan and Chenoweth found conciliatory policies to be more successful than repressive and punishment centered actions in reducing incidents of , the study authors are not completely opposed to the use of repressive and punishment based strategies.

"We do not recommend that governments adopt purely conciliatory policies," Dugan said. "Our hope is that this research provides alternatives to solely focusing policy efforts on reducing the expected utility of bad behavior by also considering the value of raising the expected utility of good behavior."

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User comments : 8

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kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2012
But torture is what xtians prefer.
Deep_Cello_Coffee_Roasters
1 / 5 (2) Jul 31, 2012
They don't fight terrorism with violence as a deterrent, they do it to preserve their power in light of the anger and vengeance and bloodlust of their ignorant citizens.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (6) Jul 31, 2012
They don't fight terrorism with violence as a deterrent, they do it to preserve their power in light of the anger and vengeance and bloodlust of their ignorant citizens.

Companies don't care about the bloodlust of their citizens as a motive. Companies are in there for the profit (selling weapons).
'Fighting terror' is a perfect way to sell weapons because as soon as you kill a 'terrorist' you now have made terrorists of at least two more people in his family.
So all sides can now sell weapons (you to the military of your own country and your competitor(s) to the terroists and vice versa)

It's a never ending spiral of cash (and we, as taxpayers, foot the bill). Whether anyone is angry, violent or feels bloodlust is completely besides the point (other than to keep this scheme going).

It's like in medicine. Treatment is bad. Chronic illness is where the money is at.
Winning is bad in war. You want a war you cannot win and that goes on indefinitely. Voila TWAT.
ryggesogn2
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2012
Do what the terrorists want and they won't kill you.
Quite conciliatory.
when policymakers focused on improving the living conditions for Palestinian constituents, those same constituents were encouraged not to participate in terrorist organizations

So why are the terrorist leaders all multimillionaires?
Bewia
3 / 5 (4) Jul 31, 2012
Just before World War I, there were a number of terrorist attacks on the United States forces in the Philippines, by Muslim extremists. General Pershing captured 50 terrorists, and had them tied to posts for execution. He had his is men slaughter two pigs, in front of the horrified terrorists The soldiers soaked their bullets in the pig's blood, and proceeded to execute 49 of the terrorists by firing squad. The soldiers dug a big hole, dumped in the terrorist's bodies, and covered them in pig blood, entrails, etc. They let the 50th man go. And for the next 42 years, there was not a single Muslim extremist attack anywhere in the world. http://www.youtub...ArJfMTyc
jscroft
3 / 5 (4) Jul 31, 2012
Nothing solves the recidivism problem quite as permanently as a large-caliber bullet to the back of the head.
mrwolfe
1 / 5 (1) Jul 31, 2012
Unfortunately, politics is run by politicians, and politicians will do and say what they feel they must to win votes. After 911, the American public didn't want concilliation, they wanted revenge. A level headed regime would have done what many analysts were urging at the time: find out where the terrorist organisations were getting thier recruits from and attack the root causes of discontent in those areas. Instead, we got the "war on terror".

@Bewia Before you posted, a little bit of exploratory work on snopes.com or urbanlegends.about.com would have shown you that the story about Gen. Purshing and the terrorists is just that, a story with absolutely no basis in fact. Pershing was an honourable man and would never have condoned such an act of rank brutality.
Bewia
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2012
Pershing was an honourable man and would never have condoned such an act of rank brutality.
OK, just replace his name with Tasker_H._Bliss who served before him and the whole principle will remain the same. Later Pershing went more famous, which may explain, why he got credit for punishment of Muslims. The moral of the whole story is, the punishment may be effective, if you prohibit the establishing of martyr cult.