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Ideology Isn't Everything: Transnational Terrorism, Recruitment Incentives, and Attack Casualties


Journal of Terrorism and Political ViolenceJournal abstract

In the current literature, the primary determinants of terrorist attack casualty rates have been attributed to religious fundamentalism. While zealotry, martyrdom, and the pursuit of salvation certainly empower religious fundamentalists with the liberty to decimate human targets, I argue that the sustaining necessity to recruit more terrorists from within the population, not religious fundamentalism alone, is an important predictor of the brutality of an attack. When targets are located within a potential recruitment population, there is an imminent need to restrict violence, as unnecessary collateral damage turns potential supporters away, rather than attracts them. Conversely, transnational attacks occurring outside the recruitment population abrogate these restrictions on violence. I test this argument on terrorist attacks from 1998–2005 and find empirical evidence that transnational attacks are a predictive cause of high casualty rates in a target population.

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