A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Carrots, Sticks, and Insurgent Targeting of Civilians


How do conciliatory and coercive counterinsurgency tactics affect militant group violence against civilians? Scholars of civil war increasingly seek to understand intentional civilian targeting, often referred to as terrorism. Extant research emphasizes group weakness, or general state attributes such as regime type. We focus on terrorism as violent communication and as a response to government actions. State tactics toward groups, carrots and sticks, should be important for explaining insurgent terror. We test the argument using new data on terrorism by insurgent groups, with many time-varying variables, covering 1998 through 2012. Results suggest government coercion against a group is associated with subsequent terrorism by that group. However, this is only the case for larger insurgent groups, which raises questions about the notion of terrorism as a weapon of the weak. Carrots are often negatively related to group terrorism. Other factors associated with insurgent terrorism include holding territory, ethnic motivation, and social service provision.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Asal, Victor, Brian J. Phillips, R. Karl Rethemeyer, Corina Simonelli, and Joseph K. Young. 2018. "Carrots, Sticks, and Insurgent Targeting of Civilians." Journal of Conflict Resolution (August). http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022002718789748