The Democratic Framework
This study reflects an understanding that democratic states have, over the past two decades, accumulated enough experience dealing with terrorism to allow scholars to assess how effective their policies have been and what impact they have had on the fabric of democracy. The range of problems faced, measures introduced, and outcomes has been sufficiently broad to permit the assessment to take a comparative approach.
One feature of the debate over counter-terrorism has struck many observers: Decision-makers and even so-called informed observers frequently approach the problem in an analytically simple manner, which can easily inflate the threat posed by terrorism 1 and lead to serious consideration or actual adoption of similarly terrorist methods as a means of reacting to it. A central problem for democracies lies in accurately assessing the nature and extent of the terrorist threat facing them and in constructing rational, appropriate, and consistent countermeasures that deal with the threat without fundamentally undermining or changing the democratic practices and traditions that the measures are designed to protect.
A central weakness of much of the debate about how to deal with terrorism is that many of the contributions are clouded by political posturing, moral confusion, and wishful thinking. 2 In particular, the search for simple solutions has contributed to the proposal, and in some cases adoption, of naive, dangerous, and even terrorist countermeasures by countries that have been terrorist targets. This is apparent in several of the case studies that follow.
In order to arrive at policies that are appropriate for democratic states and as effective as it is possible to be (given the realities of the nature of terrorism, the limits on the powers of democratic governments, and the restraints imposed by being part of the international community), it is vital for governments first to distinguish among types and levels of terrorist threats. Even where it has been clear that some incidents, groups, or even campaigns pose less of a real threat than others