'Carrot' Works Better Than 'Stick' Against Terror in Israel: UMD-Led Study

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Aug. 7, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Israeli policies that reward Palestinian efforts to contain violence are more effective than violent crackdowns that punish terrorists and civilians alike, concludes a new University of Maryland-led study analyzing 17 years' worth of data.

Published in the August issue of the American Sociological Review, the study is the first to empirically evaluate the relative effectiveness of reward and punishment strategies as antidotes to terrorism.

"There aren't easy answers to combatting terrorism, but overall, our results unambiguously suggest that the carrot tends to be more effective than the stick," says lead researcher, Laura Dugan, a University of Maryland criminologist and a researcher with National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) based at the University of Maryland. "Of course, there's something to be said for using both carrot and stick."

"Moving Beyond Deterrence: The Effectiveness of Raising the Expected Utility of Abstaining from Terrorism in Israel," found that during the period 1987 to 2004, Israeli policies and actions that encouraged and rewarded abstention from terrorist acts were more successful in reducing terrorism than policies focused on punishment.

"The beneficial effects have been most pronounced when Israel directed actions toward addressing the needs of Palestinian civilians," Dugan adds. "The general consensus across the political spectrum is that when there is terrorism you have to fight back. But our study suggests there is value in addressing the grievances, the people most affected by these grievances, and the constituencies of these terrorist organizations."

The researchers use the term "repression" for policies that attempt to punish terrorism, and "conciliatory" for those addressing Palestinian concerns and needs.

"Our argument begins to challenge the very common view that to combat terrorism, you have to meet violence with violence," says study co-author Erica Chenoweth, an assistant professor at the University of Denver and a START researcher.

Examples of Israel's conciliatory tactics rewarding abstention from terrorist acts include providing social services to civilian populations; encouraging peace talks; withdrawing troops; releasing prisoners; and promoting cultural freedoms. Israel's repressive or punishment-centric policies include passage of anti-terrorism laws, extension of prison sentences, assassination, deportation, and military retaliation.

To measure these qualities, the researchers took a unique approach – they created their own specialized dataset coding all relevant policies during the 17-year period along a seven-point scale, ranging from "deadly violence" to full "conciliatory" policies. The result is the Government Actions in a Terrorist Environment-Israel (GATE-Israel) dataset.

Then, using the comprehensive Global Terrorism Database at the UMD-based National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), the team was able to track the level of terrorist activity.

The period 1987 to 2004 covers dramatic shifts in the relations between Israelis and Palestinians, including the signing of the Oslo agreements establishing relations with the Palestinian Authority, the outbreak of Palestinian resistance during the Second Intifada, escalating violence, and construction of a wall to keep terrorists out.

In an average month between 1987 and 2004, Israel took approximately 18 punishment-based actions against Palestinian targets and fewer than eight conciliatory actions.

According to the study's authors, a violent crackdown on terrorism sometimes leads to more violence in return. Yet, when policymakers focus on improving the living conditions for Palestinian constituents, those same constituents were encouraged not to participate in terrorist organizations and, consequently, terrorism rates fell.

"If the constituency of a terrorist organization no longer supports that organization, then the organization can't thrive," Dugan says. "Still, we do not recommend that governments adopt purely conciliatory policies. Our hope is that this research provides alternatives to solely focusing policy efforts on reducing the expected utility of bad behavior by also considering the value of raising the expected utility of good behavior."


A full copy of the Dugan-Chenoweth study is available online: http://www.asanet.org/journals/ASR/Aug12ASRFeature.pdf


Laura Dugan

Lead Researcher



Lee Tune

UMD Communications





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