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Don’t negotiate with terrorists, study says

“We will not negotiate with terrorists” is one of the golden rules of state policy. But a new study from Michigan University assistant professor Jakana Thomas shows that
acts of violence can actually help get terrorist groups to the negotiating table
in conflict — and can even earn them greater concessions. Terrorism works, concludes Thomas, but only if states let it.

Published in the American Journal of Political Science, the study looks at the impact of terrorism on negotiations and bargaining through monthly data on civil conflicts in Africa from 1989 to 2010. Comparing incidences of violence and the number of concessions violent groups are offered, the study shows a correlation between acts of terror and concessions afforded.

Why is terrorism effective?

“In short, it is because it hurts. Recurrent acts of terrorism undermine the state’s credibility and control by underscoring that the government is either unwilling or unable to protect civilians from violence,” wrote Thomas for the Washington Post’s blog The Monkey Cage.

Thomas suggests governments should avoid legitimizing violent groups by bolstering their counterterrorism measures and living by the old adage — do not negotiate with terrorists.

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