As a Fish Swims in the Sea

Relationships Between Factors Contributing to Support for Terrorist or Insurgent Groups

Published in: Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, v. 33, iss. 6, June 2010, p. 488-510

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2009

by Christopher Paul

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This article reviews and synthesizes social science knowledge on the connections between popular support and terrorist/insurgent sustainment. After distinguishing between "sympathetic of" and "supporting," the author identifies support requirements of terrorists and insurgents, the range of sources of support, and motives for support. A scheme of relationships between factors contributing to strength of support is essayed. As a caveat to population-centered approaches to counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, the article concludes that support is not "one size fits all," and that certain factors, when present, are more amenable to policy influence than others. These conclusions suggest that it is imperative that practitioners of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency be mindful of the specifics of their case when seeking to undermine support.

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