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International Cooperation, Not Unilateral Policies, may be the Best Counterterrorist Strategy
Unformatted Document Text:  some might find surprising. In general, the designated anti-U.S. groups attacked a much higher proportion of U.S. targets in the 1970s than in subsequent decades. Rapoport (2001) has offered an influential argument that since the late nineteenth century, terrorist attacks can be divided into four political turning-points, or waves. Following Rapoport, we asked whether the attacks of these 53 terrorist groups since 1970 could also be divided into distinct temporal patterns. For this part of the analysis we rely on group-based trajectory analysis (Nagin, 2005). Despite the fact that non-U.S. attacks outnumbered U.S. attacks by nearly thirty to one, the attack trajectories for the U.S. and non-U.S. attacks showed considerable similarity. In both cases, we found that four trajectories best explained the attack patterns from 1970 to 2004. We identified three “waves” of terrorist attacks, with relatively sharp ascents and declines, and a fourth and largest trajectory of groups that struck for only a short period of time or infrequently. The three waves support the views of Rapoport (2001) and others. However, the activities of approximately half of the groups we analyzed did not fit neatly into one of the three waves. We next performed the same analysis for attacks against non-U.S. targets (both domestic and transnational). As with the U.S. analysis, we found the most robust results for a four trajectory solution. Similarly, we found that about half the groups fit into a sporadic, low frequency trajectory. Likewise, we found some evidence for waves in the 1970s, and in the 21 st century. Compared to the 70s wave for the U.S., the 70s wave for the non-U.S. attacks included about as many terrorist groups. By contrast, compared to the 21 st century wave for the U.S., the 21 st century wave for the non-U.S. attacks included about three times more terrorist groups. The most striking difference between U.S. and 7

Authors: LaFree, Gary. and Yang, Sue Ming.
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some might find surprising.  In general, the designated anti-U.S. groups attacked a much 
higher proportion of U.S. targets in the 1970s than in subsequent decades.
Rapoport (2001) has offered an influential argument that since the late nineteenth 
century, terrorist attacks can be divided into four political turning-points, or waves. 
Following Rapoport, we asked whether the attacks of these 53 terrorist groups since 1970 
could also be divided into distinct temporal patterns.  For this part of the analysis we rely 
on group-based trajectory analysis (Nagin, 2005).  Despite the fact that non-U.S. attacks 
outnumbered U.S. attacks by nearly thirty to one, the attack trajectories for the U.S. and 
non-U.S. attacks showed considerable similarity.  In both cases, we found that four 
trajectories best explained the attack patterns from 1970 to 2004.  We identified three 
“waves” of terrorist attacks, with relatively sharp ascents and declines, and a fourth and 
largest trajectory of groups that struck for only a short period of time or infrequently. 
The three waves support the views of Rapoport (2001) and others.  However, the 
activities of approximately half of the groups we analyzed did not fit neatly into one of 
the three waves.  
We next performed the same analysis for attacks against non-U.S. targets (both 
domestic and transnational).  As with the U.S. analysis, we found the most robust results 
for a four trajectory solution.  Similarly, we found that about half the groups fit into a 
sporadic, low frequency trajectory.  Likewise, we found some evidence for waves in the 
1970s, and in the 21
 century. Compared to the 70s wave for the U.S., the 70s wave for 
the non-U.S. attacks included about as many terrorist groups.  By contrast, compared to 
the 21
 century wave for the U.S., the 21
 century wave for the non-U.S. attacks included 
about three times more terrorist groups.  The most striking difference between U.S. and 

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