Breaking terrorists’ will to fight
Barba, Paulo E. Santa
Gregg, Heather S.
Giordano, Frank R.
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This thesis examines which variables give terrorists their will to fight in order to determine if such motivations can be eroded through a counterterrorist campaign. Drawing from the expansive literature on the causes of terrorism, and using Bertalanffy’s theory of open systems, the study posits that the will to fight is a function of the following variables: a belief in a cause, a desire for revenge, a search for satisfaction (reputation, joy, and money), and cultural attributes. The thesis tests these variables through the use of a longitudinal case study of the rise and fall of the Sendero Luminoso—Shining Path—and its will to fight. It finds that religious beliefs and desire for revenge were particularly important in this case. Building on these findings, this thesis recommends specific strategies that aim to undermine terrorists’ will to fight by identifying the key variables and their level of influence on terrorists’ will to fight: making all instruments of statecraft work in unison; adapting to the situation on an ongoing basis; being consistent; and not overreacting.
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