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Dealing with Terrorism – Stick or Carrot?

Bruno S. Frey

Emphasising a positive approach to dealing with terrorism (the carrot), this book provides a critique of deterrence policy (the stick) which can be ineffective and even counterproductive, and proposes three alternative and effective anti-terrorist policies: Decentralisation reduces vulnerability to terrorist attacks. A system with many different centres is more stable due to its diversity, enabling one part to substitute for another; Positive incentives can be offered to actual and prospective terrorists not to engage in violent acts. Incentives include: reintegrating terrorists into society, welcoming repentents and offering them valued opportunities; and Diverting attention by naming several terrorist groups potentially responsible for a particular terrorist act. The government thus supplies more information than the terrorist responsible would wish.
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Chapter 9: Conclusions

Bruno S. Frey


A CONTINUOUS STRUGGLE It is impossible to imagine a world without terrorism. There will always be groups and individuals wanting to further their cause by violent means. ‘Dealing with terrorism’ does not mean its total elimination, but rather reducing the number and severity of terrorist acts, and mitigating its effects. The objective must be to contain and manage terrorism. No policy can eradicate terrorism. This holds even when the government, in conjunction with the military, the police and the secret services, uses the most extreme coercive measures. Terrorists learn and quickly adjust to new policies and circumstances. They are innovative and able to identify and exploit new vulnerabilities. Due to the small size of their operational units, they are not restricted by bureaucratic rules and regulations. This enables them often to adjust more quickly than the anti-terrorist side, frustrating or defeating the security measures put in place. As a result, many terrorist groups are able to inflict a huge amount of damage with little cost to their own side. The attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade towers and Pentagon are a case in point. The direct and indirect human and economic costs were large in absolute terms, while the costs to the terrorists were minimal. They were able to use an innovation (kidnapping large civilian aircraft and using them as rockets directed against seemingly stable skyscrapers) with devastating effect. The fact that the techniques were rather primitive (it was relatively simple to overwhelm the...

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