Towards Understanding Terrorism: A Theoretical Examination of Internal Cohesion in Terrorist Groups and the Negative Dynamic of Violence   [open pdf - 5MB]

Terrorism, like other forms of political violence, has an organizational context. Few studies, however, have considered the influence of organizational life upon the outward behavior of the terrorist group. This thesis explores the possibility that terrorism, in addition to its political context, reflects the internal dynamics of the terrorist group. Assuming that action is what binds the terrorist group together, the use of violence may oftentimes be dictated more by the need to satisfy the internal goal of group survival than to directly further the group's external political agenda. Focusing upon internal cohesion as the critical mediating variable for group survival, this paper examines how the terrorist group's efforts to maintain itself drives violent behavior that transcends political considerations and operational prudence. When external and internal requirements become contradictory, the terrorist group faces a dilemma. Caught in a vicious cycle of reacting to strategic failure with more violent action in order to maintain itself, the terrorist group generates a negative dynamic of violence that not only undermines its chances of achieving stated long-term goals but also accelerates its decline.

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