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NCJ Number: 69567 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Terrorists' Dilemmas - Some Implicit Rules of the Game
Journal: Terrorism  Volume:4  Issue:1-4  Dated:(1980)  Pages:195-222
Author(s): J N Knutson
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 28
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
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Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Terrorists face the dilemmas of identification with violence, choice of level of terror, maintenance of objectivity within a group characterized by conformity, and preservation of the historic victim identity.
Abstract: Awareness of terrorists' dilemmas may help to provide governments with options and information about the psychology, values, and perspectives of the terrorists. The initial dilemma involves the terrorists' assessment of their inner readiness for violence--a preconscious and even conscious stocktaking of each player's ability to assume responsibility for the death of another. In this respect, nonviolent terrorists may be unwilling to cause deaths but still seek to instill mortal fear. A second dilemma involves whether to attack authorities through a 'fait accompli' or to begin an ongoing, negotiated act in which multiple possible outcomes and uncertainty on both sides exist. In any case, the game is continuous; only when seen as a segment of continuous attrition is the fait accompli of importance in the overall calculations of the terrorists. Another dilemma is how to establish adequate strength and credibility vis-a-vis the government in order to force negotiation and an acknowledgement of the terrorist viewpoint, and what level of terror to inflict. In considering the upper limits of threat, terrorists estimate the government's perception of the group's capabilities. Within the group itself, a fourth dilemma is faced--that of maintaining objectivity when the group's isolation fosters a process of 'groupthink' and pressures the individual to abandon his personal opinions and values. Finally, the terrorists must establish themselves as historic victims to gain the respect and identification of the public they presume to represent. Government decisionmakers must move beyond a focus on discrete events to improve their overall position against terrorists. Moreover, governments must be flexible in recognizing the many different persons and group options involved in any terrorist action. Notes and 23 references are provided.
Index Term(s): Counter-terrorism tactics; Criminal methods; Crisis management; Psychological warfare; Revolutionary or terrorist groups; Terrorism/Mass Violence; Terrorist tactics; Threat assessment
Note: Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Pro-Seminar in Political Psychology held at Wright Institute, Berkeley (CA) (November 1978) and, through the sponsorship of the Institute for International Scientific Exchange, before the Berlin Psychoanalytic Society (December 1978).
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