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Rewarding Bad Behavior: How Governments Respond to Terrorism in Civil War


  • The data collection for this article was funded in part by the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute Oslo. I thank Benjamin Appel, Douglas Lemke, Martha Thomas, Glenn Palmer, John Horgan, Phil Schrodt, Scott Gates, and colleagues at MSU for their comments and suggestions. I thank Reed Wood, Page Fortna, Courtney Conrad, and Bill Reed, who discussed drafts of the article. Finally, I would like to express gratitude to the anonymous reviewers and editor at AJPS for their very helpful recommendations. Replication files for this project are available at the AJPS Data Archive on Dataverse (


Although violent organizations often use terrorism as a means to achieve political aims, recent studies suggest the tactic is ineffective because it fails to help groups gain concessions. While focused exclusively on concessions, these studies overlook other important markers of success, specifically whether groups are invited to participate in negotiations as a result of their use of terrorism. Extant studies also conduct statistical analyses on overly aggregated data, masking any effect terrorism has on important bargaining outcomes. Using new monthly data on the incidence of negotiations and the number of concessions offered to groups involved in African civil wars, this paper demonstrates that rebel groups are both more likely to be granted the opportunity to participate in negotiations and offered more concessions when they execute a greater number of terror attacks during civil wars.