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The Problems of Evaluating Counter-Terrorism

Author(s): Alexander Spencer

Journal: UNISCI Discussion Papers
ISSN 1696-2206

Issue: 12;
Start page: 179;
Date: 2006;
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Keywords: Counter-terrorism | terrorism | effectiveness | measure

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 security policies aimed at combating terrorist threats have been implemented all around the world. Governments and experts emphasize that this ‘new terrorism’ requires totally new means of fighting it. As a result new counter-terrorism is spreading and seems to be appearing everywhere. But how do we know if any of the policies intended to tackle terrorism are really working? How can we measure the effectiveness of these measures? Governments and officials point to the number of incidences, arrested and killed terrorists or the amounts of terrorist financing that has been confiscated as an indicator, while academia often refers to more sophisticated equations involving time series in risk management and cost-benefit calculations. Although, these rationalist approaches appear straightforward and seem to provide the quantified data required for the measurement of the success of these policies, there seems to be an error in the measure of terror! This paper will provide a critique of the existing rationalist methods of assessing the effectiveness of counter-terrorism and is predominantly aimed at highlighting their weaknesses as well as introducing the need for further research into additional and alternative ways of evaluating counter-terrorism.
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