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Avoiding the Terrorist Trap

Why Respect for Human Rights is the Key to Defeating Terrorism

For more than 150 years, nationalist, populist, Marxist and religious terrorists have all been remarkably consistent and explicit about their aims: provoke states into over-reacting to the threat they pose, and then take advantage of the divisions in society that result. Yet, state after state falls into the trap that terrorists have set for them.


Faced with a major terrorist threat, governments seem to reach instinctively for the most coercive tools at their disposal and, in doing so, risk exacerbating the situation. This policy response seems to be driven in equal parts by a lack of understanding of the true nature of the threat, an exaggerated faith in the use of force, and a lack of faith that democratic values are sufficiently flexible to allow for an effective counter-terrorism response.


Drawing on a wealth of data from both historical and contemporary sources, Avoiding the Terrorist Trap addresses the most common misconceptions underpinning flawed counter-terrorist policies, identifies the core strategies that guide terrorist operations, consolidates the latest research on the underlying drivers of terrorist violence, and then demonstrates why a counter-terrorism strategy grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law is the most effective approach to defeating terrorism.

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