Why Choose Terrorism? Rebels and Terrorists

Principal Investigator: 
Performance Period: 
October 2007 to September 2008
Commercialization Status: 
Evidence for the club theory has been collected on four groups: the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah and Sadr’s Militia (Berman, 2003; Berman and Laitin, 2005).  One goal of this research project is to broaden the scope of the argument, looking at domestic conflicts beyond the four cases listed above, including nonreligious organizations in the analysis, and examining target choice by terrorists.  Our theoretical goal is to explain festering insurgencies, ongoing terrorism and peace as three separate, stable equilibria.  From a practical standpoint, our purpose is to develop a theory of insurgent organizations which will inform counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts, including a realistic analysis of the vulnerability of particular targets to attack by specific organizations.   Theory: We have worked out one theoretical model of terrorist groups (the club model) and are working through another (the rational peasant or “hearts and minds” model). The former has been tested and published (Berman and Laitin 2008). The latter will be submitted as an NBER working paper and submitted for publication in December 2008 (Berman, Shapiro and Felter, 2008).   Data: A. We have coded and cleaned organizational data for a total of 80 terrorist groups worldwide. It has been matched with the final version of the MIPT and used in analysis reported in a book manuscript which is in the final stages of acceptance at the MIT Press (Berman 2009).   Data B. We have declassified, coded, cleaned and combined data on attacks and reconstruction spending in Iraq, in order to test a theory of “hearts and minds.”