To say that debates over “international order” are at the heart of a growing number of scholarly and policy concerns is an understatement.  Indeed, at a time when the so-called “liberal international order” that was notionally established by the United States after World War Two is under duress from shifting power dynamics, domestic churn in many of the world’s leading actors, and new technologies and norms (to name just a few factors), scholars have increasingly turned their attention to understanding the causes, course, and consequences of order in world politics.[1]  Extending canonical work by the likes of Robert Gilpin and Hedley Bull, this research has fruitfully produced insights into the role of – and limits to – hard power in shaping order, the normative, ideational, and economic factors that can make orders more or less stable, and the sources of change in order.[2] Combined with historical scholarship on particular international orders,[3]  the result has been a veritable “third wave” – complementing related work in the 1970s and 1990s-early 2000s – of research on order and ordering activities in international affairs.[4]

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As Max Abrahms tells the tale, terrorism, which is the use of violence against civilian targets to achieve positive political objectives, is doomed to failure.  He supports this observation with quantitative and qualitative analysis, which draws heavily on contemporary history and the literature on terrorism and political psychology, to explain how and why terrorism fails as a strategy.  The work is sophisticated.  It incorporates explanations of phenomena occurring at various levels of analysis to explain why terrorism is a losing proposition.  Abrahms is careful not to suggest that attacking government or military targets is a recipe for success or to assess if only an occasional attack against civilians will doom some rebel enterprise.  Nevertheless, he is unequivocal in his assessment that killing innocents is simply a recipe for political failure.

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