Resolving Terrorism: Two Decision-Making Models

33 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2008

See all articles by Karen Feste

Karen Feste

University of Denver - International Studies

Date Written: November 9, 2008


Conflicts between terrorists and target governments are asymmetric situations of power, disputes over ethics and values, with emotional feelings of revenge existing on both sides. Bargaining theory predicts that parties fight to buildup strength and attempt to alter the relative balance of power in their favor before entering negotiations to produce a non-violent settlement of their differences. In this analysis, two different decision-making models, strategic interaction, adopted by the terrorist side, and cognitive framing, applied by the target government, are described to explain how the parties make choices that affect the progression of their dispute and the conditions leading to negotiated settlement. A cognitive framework-who are the terrorists and what they hope to accomplish-influences strategic thinking in response policies for target governments. The focus is on the opponent since the group is not accorded political legitimacy status. A bargaining framework with its attendant cost and benefit assessments in opening arenas for political change, determines the moves for the terrorists who focus on the power game, seeking engagement. While both sides engage in strategic operations, both sides are affected by cognitive influences, and both reflect forms of communication, from verbal demands to threatening acts to subsequent processes that brings them toward formal negotiations, their primary decision-making strategy is derived from opposite ends of a continuum ranging from strict analysis to intuition. Turning points change the course of their conflict, resetting critical features of each decisional model towards convergence as parties edge toward agreement.

Suggested Citation

Feste, Karen, Resolving Terrorism: Two Decision-Making Models (November 9, 2008). IACM 21st Annual Conference Paper. Available at SSRN: or

Karen Feste (Contact Author)

University of Denver - International Studies ( email )

Denver, CO 80208
United States

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