Targets of Terror addresses the repercussions of assassination as a tactic of terrorism and delineates post-assassination political outcomes across target types. Assassination of heads of state, such as John F. Kennedy and Yitzhak Rabin, are rare events, but the political murders of police personnel, local government officials, politicians, and journalists occur frequently. These “softer” targets are often pursued during broader campaigns of terrorist violence, and the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) records a significant number of these assassination events—16,246 to be exact—between 1977 and 2017.
Utilizing survival analysis and the Polity IV Index to examine the span of time from a terrorist assassination to potential shifts in state political institutions, Laura N. Bell compares changes in authoritarian, mixed, and tumultuous regimes with democratic governments. She argues that these cases illuminate the extent to which the type of assassination target may or may not be linked to significant institutional change. By establishing differences in post-assassination political outcomes across regimes and targets, Bell provides a baseline study upon which to build future examinations of the types and severity of risks to governmental institutions during terror campaigns.
Laura Bell is associate professor of political science at West Texas A&M University.
Chapter 1 - Introduction
Chapter 2 – Characterizing Contemporary Assassination
Chapter 3 – The Data and the Targets
Chapter 4 – Target Selection and Political Institutional Changes
Chapter 5 – Government Officials
Chapter 6 – The Politically Active
Chapter 7 – Law Enforcement
Chapter 8 - Journalists
Chapter 9 – Military and Religious Leaders
Chapter 10 – Understanding Terrorist Assassinations
Bell focuses her recent study, Targets of Terror, on the people terrorist organizations earmark to eliminate, ranging from local police officials to heads of state. She notes that assassinations of heads of state, such as JFK and Indira Gandhi, are rare but do happen. At other times, terrorists target people for perceived political grievances; for instance, Bell highlights the infamous attack on Charlie Hebdo in 2015. By targeting government officials, terrorists can effectively destabilize a government’s civil infrastructure. Bell rightly claims that there is a gap in understanding who, what, when, and why some are marked for political assassinations. Her work seeks to explain why certain victims become targets and where fissures exist in the literature on terrorism that detail the consequences of those events. Bell’s volume fulfills a pressing absence in the field involving politically motivated murder, which remains an issue for governments everywhere. Highly recommended. Undergraduates through faculty, professionals, and general readers.
In this ambitious empirical study, Laura N. Bell, in Targets of Terror: Contemporary Assassination, explores the “who, what, when, where, and why” questions of terrorist assassinations. Bell has approached a difficult subject. Nevertheless offers food for thought.