Fixing the blame: international terrorism and attacks on Americans

by Bruce Hoffman

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This paper, which originally appeared as an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, reviews recent terrorist attacks against American targets, and considers both the causes and pitfalls of fixing blame on such visible figures as Libya's Muammar Qaddafi. The author points out that it is tempting to link a state to a specific terrorist act in order to overcome the basic element of terrorism--confrontation by an enigmatic adversary. The risk in fixing our attention on flamboyant figures like Qaddafi, however, is that we will delude ourselves, hit the wrong target, and aggravate an already-tense situation, while doing little, if anything, to prevent terrorist attacks on Americans.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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