Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business, Masters of Management Studies Program, Durham NC, USA.
Identifying and Structuring the Objectives of Terrorists
Article first published online: 19 AUG 2010
© 2010 Society for Risk Analysis
Volume 30, Issue 12, pages 1803–1816, December 2010
How to Cite
Keeney, G. L. and von Winterfeldt, D. (2010), Identifying and Structuring the Objectives of Terrorists. Risk Analysis, 30: 1803–1816. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2010.01472.x
- Issue published online: 1 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 19 AUG 2010
- Structuring objectives;
- terrorist values;
- value-focused thinking
The risk of terrorism is of great concern to many countries and significant resources are spent to counter this threat. A better understanding of the motivation of terrorists and their reasons for selecting certain modes and targets of attack can help improve the decisions to allocate resources in the fight against terrorism. The fundamental question addressed in this article is: “What do terrorists want?” We take the view that terrorists’ preferences for actions are based on their values and beliefs. An important missing piece in our knowledge of terrorists’ preferences is an understanding of their values. This article uses a novel approach to determine these values and state them as objectives, using principles from decision analysis and value-focused thinking. Instead of interviewing decisionmakers and stakeholders, as would be normal in decision analysis, we extract the values of terrorists by examining their own writings and verbal statements. To illustrate the approach, we extract the values of Al-Qaeda and structure them in terms of strategic, fundamental, and means objectives. These objectives are interrelated through a means-ends network. This information is useful for understanding terrorists’ motivations, intent, and likely actions, as well as for developing policies to counter terrorism at its root causes.