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Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in Political Science


Political Science

Major Advisor

Michael Allen, Ph.D.


Ross Burkhart, Ph.D.


Isaac M. Castellano, Ph.D.


The effects of terrorist organization leadership decapitation on organizations’ demands and behavior has not been widely studied by International Relations scholars. Research does not support decapitation as an effective counter-terrorism policy. Aided by more recent literature on behavioral economics citing pro-social orientations, national identities and cognitive research this article argues that decapitation increases the amount of unlikely demands by the group. I argue specifically that, for externally induced leadership decapitation unlikely demands should increase, while for internally induced leadership decapitation unlikely demands should decrease. I examine these hypotheses using data on terrorist leadership decapitation for the 1970-2008 period; this model suggests support for the prevailing literature on terrorist organization leadership decapitation as a successful counterterrorism policy.