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Not quite there yet :The state of the art in counterterrorism research

1 January 2009

 Anyone can gauge that in recent years very much has been written about the best ways to fight terrorism, but also that much of the knowledge gained is scattered over many different disciplines, journals and subtopics. This report is meant to serve as an inventory of what is really known and what is not about the effects of counterterrorism measures and policies. Below, this report will, on the basis of a selection of academic journal articles from 1997 to 2007, give an overvie of the  relevant insights the social sciences have produced, which aspects of counterterrorism they covered and which methodological approaches were used. To highlight some of the points raised in this
analysis, a number of edited volumes and monographs has been included, even though these were not selected in a structured way. The inventory was made with the following questions in mind:

1. What aspects of counterterrorism are being studied from a social science perspective?
2. What conclusions can be drawn about the drivers behind the strategic choices that states make, i.e. why do states adopt the counterterrorism policies they do?
3. What do social sciences tell us about the effects and effectiveness of counterterrorism policies and instruments?
4. What policy-relevant knowledge is available and what knowledge is still needed?

This report consists of three main sections. The first section explains the selection of sources, as part of our attempt to come up with a truly representative sample of the state of the art in counterterrorism research. The second section aims to point out the emphases in counterterrorism research. It will provide some statistics to give the reader an impression of the countries and policy instruments that have received the most attention, as well as of the numbers of cases generally covered by these publications. The third section contains the policy-relevant insights about counterterrorism that can be distilled from the sources used. It will discuss the different kinds of counterterrorism policies that have been identified, look into explanations for strategic choices that states have made when making counterterrorism policies and elaborate on some claims about effects and the effectiveness of counterterrorism policies for which there is at least some evidence in the literature. The conclusion will, drawing on the findings of the three main sections, suggest directions that counterterrorism research should take in order to enhance its relevance for policymaking. The number and size of footnotes in this report may seem excessive, but the intention is to show strands of thought in counterterrorism research rather than discuss mere individual positions.