Bryan C. Price presents important research in Targeting Top Terrorists.
This Veterans Day as we commemorate the service and sacrifice of our military veterans, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired), U.S. Army, Bryan C. Price, Ph.D., founding executive director of the Buccino Leadership Institute, explores U.S. counterterrorism strategy in his book Targeting Top Terrorists: Understanding Leadership Removal in Counterterrorism Strategy, Columbia University Press, 2019.
During a 20-year career as an Army officer, Price served in various command and staff positions, including combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. From 2012 to 2018, he directed the Combating Terrorism Center and served as an Academy Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His knowledge and expertise in terrorism, counterterrorism, U.S. national security, leadership, and performance psychology have resulted in his briefing senior United States government and military officials throughout his career, including members of Congress, the Secretary of Defense, Directors of the CIA, FBI and NCTC, and numerous combatant commanders.
This book offers a rich, data-driven examination of leadership decapitation tactics, providing theoretical and empirical explanations of the conditions under which they can be successful. Price analyzes hundreds of cases of leadership turnover from more than 200 terrorist groups, providing compelling evidence based on an original dataset along with an in-depth case study that suggests the loss of top leaders significantly reduces terror groups' life spans.
Price notes: "The genesis of the book is the debate in the counterterrorism field on whether taking out the enemy's top leader is good or bad for U.S. counterterrorism policy. One side of the debate says that when you remove the leader – when you kill or capture them – that the group responds with more violence than would have occurred otherwise. The same people argue that removing the leader also helps in the recruiting efforts and the end result is that the group lives longer than it would've if you didn't take out that top leader. The opposing argument, the one I found most compelling in my empirical analysis was that when you remove the leader, it makes a group more likely to end than not. Leadership decapitation matters in the mortality rate of terrorist groups, but it's a nuanced argument."
Contributing to the scholarship of terrorism and organization theory, this book providing insights for policy makers and practitioners. Price's research also has been published in International Security, the prominent international security journal of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, which is the hub of Harvard Kennedy School's research, teaching, and training in international security and diplomacy, environmental and resource issues, and science and technology policy.
Targeting Top Terrorists is part of Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare. Series editor Bruce Hoffman shares that "this series seeks to fill a conspicuous gap in the burgeoning literature of terrorism, guerrilla warfare and insurgency. The series adheres to the highest standards of scholarship and discourse and publishes books that elucidate the strategy, operations, means, motivations, and effects posed by terrorist, guerrilla, and insurgent organizations and movements."
The book has received international praise from recognized experts in the field.
From one of the country's leading experts on terrorism, Targeting Top Terrorists breaks important new ground in our understanding of terrorist groups, the importance of their leaders, and the implications of removing those leaders from the battlefield. It is rare that a book speaks to academics, policy makers, and war fighters, but Price's book does just that.
— Michael Morell, former acting director and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency and host of the Intelligence Matters podcast.
Targeting Top Terrorists analyzes the impact of leadership decapitation from both empirical and quantitative perspectives, and Price's research presents new findings that make a significant and original contribution to the current literature. This book is a must-read for both scholars and policy makers.
— Boaz Ganor, Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya
Is leadership decapitation an effective tool in contending with the persistent threat posed by terrorist groups? In Targeting Top Terrorists, Bryan Price tackles this critical question with theoretical rigor, methodological sophistication, and empirical depth to produce an incisive and nuanced study that scholars and practitioners of counterterrorism cannot afford to ignore.
— Assaf Moghadam, author of Nexus of Global Jihad: Understanding Cooperation Among Terrorist Actors
To read an excerpt from the book, click here.
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