Statistical Analysis of Terrorist Campaigns
A COMPREHENSIVE COMPARISON of terrorist organizations worldwide is a necessary complement to the case studies developed through this book in the effort for broader comparative perspective on the dynamics of terrorist group activity. The analysis developed here is a step toward an empirical exploration of common assumptions about the trajectories of terrorist organizations, examining basic dynamics of 457 terrorist organizations active since 1968. This statistical study provides information about the endings of groups, including how many engage in negotiations, the distribution of life spans of terrorist organizations, and to what extent groups achieve their strategic aims. But it is also a first step, uncovering questions as well as answers about the endings of campaigns; it is not meant to imply greater precision than can be offered by the imperfect information upon which it is based.
This discussion of broad patterns in the experiences of terrorist groups draws upon a unique database of terrorist organizations developed for this book from information available in the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT)'s Terrorism Knowledge Base. The MIPT database has been one of the most comprehensive databases on modern terrorism publicly available to the general researcher. However, the groups that it attempts to document and track provide by design an uncertain and changeable field of information, with name changes, aliases, splinter groups, and multiple or false claims of responsibility by different groups for single attacks. In addition to the repetition and incompleteness inherent in the study of terrorism, the MIPT database itself suffers from unevenness of detail across different groups, as well as consistent underreporting of incidents attributable to specific groups. Nevertheless, this database was the best and arguably most objective resource widely available online for the study of terrorism worldwide at the time this analysis was completed, particularly when cross-checked by other available journalistic sources. Following the completion of this study, the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base was transferred to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, at http://www.start.umd.edu/.
The specific database developed for this project is concerned with organizations rather than incidents, drawing on the information provided by