Legitimate Illegitimacy: Measuring Terrorists’ Legitimacy during and after Negotiations

Dissertation Author: Brenna L. Bridwell

Year: 2014


Policymakers often refuse negotiations with terrorist groups for fear that those groups will become legitimized in the eyes of the population, and that the state will become the victim of future attacks as other groups attempt to emulate the negotiating group. While scholars have analyzed whether or not negotiations are effective in ending terrorist groups, scholarship is lacking as to whether or not policymakers’ fears regarding legitimization are accurate. In this vein, I analyze the IRA/UK negotiations during the Good Friday Accords using tobit regressions and Critical Discourse Analysis to determine whether the IRA gained political legitimacy via their portrayal in news media. According to my study, the IRA did not gain legitimacy; rather, the IRA’s violent characteristics were delegitimized while their peaceful political motives were legitimized. This suggests that policymakers need not fear negotiations with terrorist groups, as negotiations may serve to delegitimize violence and terrorist tactics, while legitimizing peace and politics.

Dissertation Copy Available in the POLS Director of Graduate Studies’ (DGS) office? Yes