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International Cooperation, Not Unilateral Policies, may be the Best Counterterrorist Strategy
Unformatted Document Text:  INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, NOT UNILATERAL POLICIES MAY BE THE BEST COUNTERTERRORIST STRATEGY While researchers began to assemble open source terrorism event data bases in the late 1960s, until recently most of these data bases excluded domestic attacks. This could be a particularly misleading exclusion for the United States because the U.S. is often perceived to be a central target of transnational terrorism. We began the research on which this essay is based with 53 foreign terrorist groups that have been identified by U.S. State Department and other government sources as posing a special threat to the United States (LaFree, Yang and Crenshaw, 2009). Using newly available data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) that includes both domestic and transnational terrorist attacks, we examined 16,916 attacks attributed to these groups between 1970 and 2004. We found that just over three percent of attacks by these designated anti-U.S. groups were actually directed at the United States. Moreover, 99 percent of the attacks that targeted the United States did not occur on U.S. soil, but were aimed at U.S. targets in other countries (e.g., embassies or multilateral corporations). We also found that over 90 percent of the non-U.S. attacks were domestic (nationals from one country attacking targets of the same nationality in the same country). We used group-based trajectory analysis (Nagin, 2005) to examine the different developmental trajectories of U.S. target and non-U.S. target terrorist strikes and concluded that four trajectories best capture attack patterns for both. These trajectories constitute three waves, occurring in the 1970s, 1980s and the early twenty-first century, as well as a trajectory that does not exhibit wave-like characteristics but instead is characterized by irregular and infrequent attacks. 2

Authors: LaFree, Gary. and Yang, Sue Ming.
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INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, NOT UNILATERAL POLICIES MAY BE 
THE BEST COUNTERTERRORIST STRATEGY
While researchers began to assemble open source terrorism event data bases in the 
late 1960s, until recently most of these data bases excluded domestic attacks.  This could 
be a particularly misleading exclusion for the United States because the U.S. is often 
perceived to be a central target of transnational terrorism.  We began the research on 
which this essay is based with 53 foreign terrorist groups that have been identified by 
U.S. State Department and other government sources as posing a special threat to the 
United States (LaFree, Yang and Crenshaw, 2009).  Using newly available data from the 
Global Terrorism Database (GTD) that includes both domestic and transnational terrorist 
attacks, we examined 16,916 attacks attributed to these groups between 1970 and 2004. 
We found that just over three percent of attacks by these designated anti-U.S. groups 
were actually directed at the United States.  Moreover, 99 percent of the attacks that 
targeted the United States did not occur on U.S. soil, but were aimed at U.S. targets in 
other countries (e.g., embassies or multilateral corporations).  We also found that over 90 
percent of the non-U.S. attacks were domestic (nationals from one country attacking 
targets of the same nationality in the same country).  
We used group-based trajectory analysis (Nagin, 2005) to examine the different 
developmental trajectories of U.S. target and non-U.S. target terrorist strikes and 
concluded that four trajectories best capture attack patterns for both.  These trajectories 
constitute three waves, occurring in the 1970s, 1980s and the early twenty-first century, 
as well as a trajectory that does not exhibit wave-like characteristics but instead is 
characterized by irregular and infrequent attacks.  
2


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