By GJIA Online November 6, 2013

Princeton University Professor Jacob Shapiro sat down with the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs to discuss his recent book, The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations.

GJIA: Which factors, either practical or philosophical, do you think shape the decisions made by the leaders of terrorist groups?

JS: I think in most cases, terrorist group leaders ask themselves: How do I advance my political goals? What actions can I take, or what things can I ask my people to do, that will push towards whatever it is I’m trying to achieve? A second consideration then becomes: Which of those can I do while still maintaining cohesion in my organization? Sometimes these two are in tension.

One of the things that Donatella Della Porta [an expert on European terrorist groups] talks about, which she realized years ago while studying the Red Brigades and the Red Army Faction terrorist groups from the 1970s and 1980s, was that oftentimes groups, particularly small groups, will undertake activities that are intended at cementing group cohesion and not at actually sending a political message or achieving something politically. There are disagreements among people who study terrorism about whether group cohesion trumps political success or the other way around.

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