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War without end? Magic, propaganda and the hidden functions of counter-terror

Keen, David (2006) War without end? Magic, propaganda and the hidden functions of counter-terror. Journal of International Development, 18 (1). pp. 87-104. ISSN 0954-1748

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Identification Number: 10.1002/jid.1264


This paper suggests that current tactics in the ‘war on terror’ are predictably counterproductive, and that these ‘failing’ tactics actually serve a range of political, economic and psychological functions for diverse actors who make up the ‘war on terror’ coalition. It compares the ‘war on terror’ to civil wars, especially in Africa, where experience shows that predictably counterproductive tactics are common and the aim is not necessarily to win. Current violent responses to terror—which represent ‘magical thinking’ in important ways—are based on the fallacy of a finite group of evil people who can be physically eliminated; more productive would be a genuine attempt to understand the processes that lead people to embrace violence and an attempt to engage with processes of exclusion, humiliation and discrimination. This is something that needs to be built into any developmental initiative; otherwise, we are left with a vast pool of anger and a counter-terror reflex that only exacerbates the problem.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2014 15:53
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2024 18:33

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