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

Group Desistance from Terrorism: A Dynamic Perspective


This paper examines recent efforts to conceptualize group-level desistance from terrorism, identifies relevant actors and actions in the competition of terrorist groups and the governments they target, and identifies the multiple forms of desistance that can emerge from this competition. This dynamic model of terrorist and state competition then informs consideration of the three preceding papers in this issue of Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict. The review of criminal desistance by LaFree and Miller highlights the importance of distinguishing individual desistance from group desistance and the wide appeal of rational choice models in criminology. The case studies of terrorist group desistance by Wheatley and McCauley (Egyptian Islamic Group) and by Dugan et al. (the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia and the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide) show that terrorist sympathizers and supporters sometimes generalize from one terrorist group's mistakes to disapproval of terrorism as a tactic for any group. It may be possible for governments to learn how to harness this kind of overgeneralization. Most generally, the dynamic model advanced here points to the need for research that can integrate, across multiple audiences and over time, the impact of terrorist actions and government responses.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

McCauley, Clark. 2009. "Group Desistance from Terrorism: A Dynamic Perspective." Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict 1 (November): 269-293. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17467580902948158#preview

START Author(s):