Choosing Terror: Rebels’ Use of Terrorism in Internal Armed Conflict



Page Fortna, Columbia University

Date and Time

January 14, 2016 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: Why do some rebel groups use terrorism as a tactic while others do not? Why some opposition groups engage in terrorism while others do not is of obvious importance both to the study of terrorism more generally, and to policy makers. But most existing studies of terrorism are not well-equipped to answer this question as they lack an appropriate comparison category. This project examines terrorism in the context of civil war to remedy this problem. I argue that terrorism is more likely to be used when it is expected to be most effective, namely against democratic governments and those most reliant on tourism, and when the otherwise prohibitive legitimacy costs of using terrorism are expected to be lowest. I argue that legitimacy costs vary with factors such as government regime type, rebel aims, rebel funding sources, and government targeting of civilians/repression. I also explore prominent alternative arguments, including the notion that terrorism is a weapon of the weak, and that it is caused by competition among groups (outbidding).


About the Speaker: Page Fortna is Chair of the Political Science Department at Columbia University. Her research focuses on terrorism, the durability of peace in the aftermath of both civil and interstate wars, and war termination. She is the author of two books: Does Peacekeeping Work? Shaping Belligerents Choices after Civil War (Princeton University Press, 2008) and Peace Time: Cease-Fire Agreements and the Durability of Peace (Princeton University Press, 2004). She has published articles in journals such as World Politics, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, and International Studies Review. She is currently working on a project on terrorism in civil wars. 

Fortna is a member of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. She received the Karl Deutsch Award from the International Studies Association in 2010. She has held fellowships at the Olin Institute at Harvard, the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Hoover Institution. She received her BA from Wesleyan University and her PhD from Harvard University in 1998.

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