Avoiding overreacting to attacks is crucially important
in efforts to counter international terrorism.
That is the view of Prof Erica Chenoweth, a leading United
States-based specialist in studies of terrorism and
Prof Chenoweth (35) directs the University of Denver's
programme on terrorism and insurgency, and is visiting the
University of Otago as a William Evans Fellow and guest of
Otago's National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
She was named as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers by
Foreign Policy journal in 2013.
Prof Chenoweth said recent terrorist attacks in Paris, which
killed 130 people, were ‘‘deliberately provocative'' and
sought to generate a disproportionate backlash.
But extensive research highlighted the importance of making
appropriate and focused responses to terrorism, and not
overreacting.‘‘It's all about proportionality,'' she said.
Overreacting, including by widely scapegoating people of
Islamic faith, was counterproductive, because it could
discourage people from providing useful tips to police and
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, many
tips had been given to authorities by members of New York
City's Muslim community, and this ‘‘see something, say
something'' response was vital in countering terrorism.
Her research had shown nonviolent resistance, a tradition
including protests involving Mahatma Gandhi in India, was
much more effective than terrorism in contributing to
political and other changes being campaigned for.
After terrorist killings, people focused mainly on those
deaths and not on the cause involved.
‘‘It's much easier for people to listen to what you're saying
if they don't feel personally threatened by the way you're
doing it,'' she said in an interview.
Her book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic
of Nonviolent Conflict, has won top awards, including the
Woodrow Wilson Foundation's for the best book on government,
politics or international affairs.
Prof Chenoweth will give a free public lecture at the
university's Archway 4 lecture theatre at 5.15pm on February