Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Idealism is not enough: The role of resources in the autonomy and capability of terrorist groups
by Vittori, Jodi, Ph.D., University of Denver, 2008, 485; 3303538
Abstract (Summary)

Terrorism scholars have posited that 90 percent of terrorist groups survive less than a year, and half of those which remain will not live to see the ten year-mark. This dissertation addresses the variety of means through which terrorist groups seek to acquire, move and store money, tangible and intangible resources, and how these strategies shape their autonomy in conducting operations and theoretical capabilities to engage in violent actions. The combination of a terrorist group's capability and autonomy leads to the identification of seven different categories: state-sponsored terrorist groups, franchises, popularly-supported groups, lone wolves, state-sponsoring groups, shell states and transnational corporation-like groups (TNCs). Within these groups, those with medium to high levels of both autonomy and capability are proven to have the highest average lifespan.

Utilizing the Terrorism Knowledge Base database, 100 terrorist groups out of a total of 897 were examined. Each was coded according to its level of autonomy (measured as low, medium or high) and capability (measured as very low, low, medium or high) with respect to the conduct of terrorist actions; the longevity of each group was determined from the time of its first terrorist attack until the most recent one. Statistical analysis utilizing a Weibull distribution verifies that those groups with medium to high capability and autonomy do indeed achieve a longer lifespan than those with only low capabilities and/or low autonomy. Moreover, the sample indicates that the average lifespan for all terrorist groups may be much longer than what terrorism scholars have anticipated.

This dissertation addresses four significant gaps in the literature on terrorism. First, it provides a typology for examining the resourcing of terrorism, as none currently exists. Second, it analyzes how the institution of terrorism resourcing has evolved over time and how new institutional variations influence groups' autonomy and capability. Third, as the above criteria correlate to the lifespan of individual terrorist groups, this dissertation explains why some outfits are more likely to survive and flourish while others are short-lived. Finally, this study develops objective criteria for measuring the capability and autonomy of terrorist organizations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Adelman, Jonathan
Commitee: Sacko, David, Szyliowicz, Joseph
School: University of Denver
Department: Economics
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-A 69/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Economics, Political science, Criminology
Keywords: Autonomy, Capability, Financing, Institutions, Longevity, Resources, Terrorism
Publication Number: 3303538
ISBN: 978-0-549-49986-2
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