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Effective Counterterrorism: What Have We Learned so Far?


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  • Eric van Um
  • Daniela Pisoiu
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    The fight against terrorism, in particular of Islamist nature, has become a focus area of foreign and security policies in Western countries and around the world. This substantial effort is however only to a limited extent matched by adequate evaluations as to its actual success. This paper offers an overview of the counterterrorism effectiveness literature in terms of main areas of interest, conceptualisation and operationalisation difficulties as well as methodological considerations regarding the types of methods used, validity and reliability evaluations. It discusses the different understandings of causality and proposes a working definition of counterterrorism effectiveness. We find that a main focus of the literature lies on the impact component of effectiveness, often in the sense of a reduction of terrorist attacks in general or a reduction of certain methods of terrorism such as suicide attacks. Our model article "What Happened to Suicide Bombings in Israel? Insights from a Terror Stock Model" by Kaplan et al. (2005) illustrates the above-mentioned issues and reflects the mainstream approach in this field. The article uses econometric methods to determine the impact-effectiveness of counter-terrorism and reflects the problematique associated with attempts to infer a causal relationship between counterterrorism policies and the occurrence of terrorism.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its series Economics of Security Working Paper Series with number 55.

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    Length: 23 p.
    Date of creation: 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:diw:diweos:diweos55

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    Keywords: Counterterrorism; effectiveness; causality; quantitative and qualitative research methods;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


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    1. Todd Sandler & Daniel G. Arce & Walter Enders, 2011. "An Evaluation of Interpol’s Cooperative-Based Counterterrorism Linkages," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(1), pages 79 - 110.
    2. Carlos Pestana Barros, 2003. "An intervention analysis of terrorism: The spanish eta case," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(6), pages 401-412.
    3. Asaf Zussman & Noam Zussman, 2006. "Assassinations: Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Israeli Counterterrorism Policy Using Stock Market Data," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 193-206, Spring.
    4. Landes, William M, 1978. "An Economic Study of U.S. Aircraft Hijacking, 1961-1976," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-31, April.
    5. David A. Jaeger & M. Daniele Paserman, 2007. "The Shape of Things to Come? Assessing the Effectiveness of Suicide Attacks and Targeted Killings," Working Papers, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary 54, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
    6. Konstantinos Drakos & Nicholas Giannakopoulos, 2009. "An econometric analysis of counterterrorism effectiveness: the impact on life and property losses," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 139(1), pages 135-151, April.
    7. Efraim Benmelech & Claude Berrebi & Esteban Klor, 2010. "Counter-Suicide-Terrorism: Evidence from House Demolitions," NBER Working Papers 16493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Teun van Dongen, 2009. "Break it Down: An Alternative Approach to Measuring Effectiveness in Counterterrorism," Economics of Security Working Paper Series, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research 23, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
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