The Torture Report Blowback

So far, it consists mostly of tweets:

One day after the release of the report, massive riots and violent attacks on American installations abroad have yet to materialize.

However, the less immediate fear that the Senate report could provide recruiters from jihadist groups, including the Islamic State, with additional propaganda material is being realized. On Wednesday, the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamic extremist activity online, collected a series of tweets from apparent jihadist supporters and sympathizers who sought to frame the torture report as proof that Americans are waging a global war against Islam. SITE also noted jihadist calls for retributive attacks against specific targets.

Erica Chenoweth can find “no real systematic evidence to suggest that revelations of brutality lead to more violence”:

There is considerable evidence, however, that actual brutality (i.e. human rights violations, military invasions, and other forms of state violence during occupations) is associated with subsequent increases in terrorist attacks. Many people have referred to this effect in Iraq and Afghanistan—cases where foreign invasions and human rights violations clearly exacerbated rather than reduced violence. But plenty more scholarly studies indicate that states that rely on violence (especially indiscriminate and/or extrajudicial violence) to combat terrorism almost always end up prolonging terrorist campaigns rather than rooting them out.

Research by James Piazza and James Igoe Walsh show that states that violate physical integrity rights experience higher levels of subsequent terror attacks. Seung-Whan Choi finds a similar effect with regard to civil rights practices in general. Laura Dugan and I find that in the Israeli case, from 1987-2004 indiscriminate repression generally increased Palestinian violence, whereas more conciliatory counterterrorism measures (such as offers of negotiation or even public admissions of government abuses of Palestinians) tended to reduce subsequent violent incidents. And several others have shown that while British military strategies in Northern Ireland generally increased dissident violence, negotiations effectively ended it. Still other studies convincingly argue that criminal justice measures against those who have actually committed criminal acts are perfectly adequate in combating and deterring terror attacks.

In other words, brutal state strategies to counter “terrorism” are usually unnecessary – and they are more likely to backfire than to succeed.