Susquehanna University Political Review


Terrorism is a phenomenon that affects many countries around the world, disproportionately those classified as weak and failing states. It is important to understand why terrorism continues to occur, due to the threat it poses to the international community. Once the triggers of terrorism are identified, they can be used to aid in the creation of counterterrorism policy to make it more effective and less strenuous. In this study, I sought to explain what led to groups’ choice to resort to terrorism within weak states. To answer this question, I used a case study approach, examining four terrorist groups each from India and Burma in order to test my hypotheses. I hypothesized that when governments impose repressive policies that restrict a group from engaging in political privileges awarded to other citizens outside the group, terrorism will be more likely to occur. I also hypothesized that when governments lack the capacity to enforce their laws, groups will be more likely to resort to terrorism. To test my hypotheses, I examined the policy and capacity of the government just prior to the first terrorist attack conducted by each group. While there was government repression in the case of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, it was not present prior to attacks by any of the other groups examined. In terms of capacity, no evidence was presented that showed any relationship between the capacity of the state and the decision of groups to engage in terrorism. Therefore, I concluded that neither repression nor capacity are necessary, preexisting conditions for terrorism to occur and do not have an effect on groups’ decision to engage in terrorist activity.