The Structure of Terrorism Threats and the Laws of War

27 Pages Posted: 27 May 2010 Last revised: 6 Jun 2010

Date Written: May 26, 2010


This article considers a major debate in the American and European counterterrorism analytic community – whether the primary terrorist threat to the West is posed by hierarchical, centralized terrorist organizations operating from geographic safe havens, or by radicalized individuals conducting a loosely organized, ideologically common but operationally independent fight against western societies –  and this debate’s implications for both jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Analysis of how the law of armed conflict might be evolving to deal with terrorism should engage in more nuanced and sophisticated examination of how terrorism threats are themselves evolving. Moreover, the merits of legal reform proposals depend on their capacity to meet strategic needs while protecting humanitarian, liberty, and conflict-resolution interests. That capacity, in turn, depends on how well the assumptions underlying those proposals track accurately the anticipated – but uncertain – future terrorism threat environment.

Suggested Citation

Waxman, Matthew C., The Structure of Terrorism Threats and the Laws of War (May 26, 2010). Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Vol. 20, 2010; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 10-240. Available at SSRN:

Matthew C. Waxman (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States
212-854-0592 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)


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