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Analysis of a Strategic Terror Organization


  • Jonathan S. Feinstein

    (Yale School of Management, New Haven, CT,

  • Edward H. Kaplan

    (Yale School of Management, New Haven, CT)


The authors model a terrorist organization’s choice over the scale and planning horizon of terror attacks and the consequences for the organization’s evolution. The organization can engage in short-term attacks planned and executed in a single period, characterized by a low fixed cost and relatively high marginal cost, and longer term attacks planned and executed over two periods, having a high fixed cost but relatively low marginal cost. Longer term attacks require more resources and cause more damage if successful. Successful attacks increase the organization’s size; in addition, the organization has a natural growth rate. Attacks can fail because of failed execution or counterterror interdiction. In a two-period version of this model, the authors analyze the terror organization’s attack decisions. They use simulations to characterize optimal strategies and explore their implications for the growth of the organization. The authors identify a set of strategic regimes, and the results show that they always occur in a fixed order as a function of the organization’s initial strength.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan S. Feinstein & Edward H. Kaplan, 2010. "Analysis of a Strategic Terror Organization," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 54(2), pages 281-302, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jocore:v:54:y:2010:i:2:p:281-302

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kaplan, Edward H., 2013. "Staffing models for covert counterterrorism agencies," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 2-8.
    2. McBride, Michael & Hewitt, David, 2013. "The enemy you can’t see: An investigation of the disruption of dark networks," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 32-50.
    3. repec:eee:pubeco:v:153:y:2017:i:c:p:32-48 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Jonathan Feinstein & Edward Kaplan, 2011. "Counterterror intelligence operations and terror attacks," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 149(3), pages 281-295, December.
    5. Hendel, Ulrich, 2012. ""Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't": Mimicking behaviour of growth-oriented terrorist organizations," Discussion Papers in Economics 13998, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    6. S. Blomberg & Khusrav Gaibulloev & Todd Sandler, 2011. "Terrorist group survival: ideology, tactics, and base of operations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 149(3), pages 441-463, December.
    7. repec:spr:dyngam:v:7:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s13235-016-0195-1 is not listed on IDEAS


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