Intimidation has been used for centuries to gain control

Intimidation has been used for centuries to gain control of an unruly group or to sway opinion in the political arena. Some emperors used intimidation to keep control of their kingdoms, while terrorist groups used intimidation to control the population and gain support from those who would otherwise support the government or another power (White, 2016). Some concerns raised by the use of intimidation include: why is intimidation used, which terrorist groups employ intimidation, when is intimidation effective, what are the flaws of utilizing intimidation, and what infrastructures support the use of intimidation. While intimidation may continue to be used by terrorist organizations due to the success that can be gained through it, are there flaws with the use of intimidation that limit its effectiveness and allow possible ways to undermine the successes seen by terrorist groups' use of intimidation?

Intimidation as a Terrorist Strategy

By deterring or preventing behaviour that terrorists feel is unwanted, they employ the method of intimidation on their target. Whenever terrorists want to overthrow a ruling government or have a control on the population, they will always seek to threaten the normal stability of either the government or the individual persons (Crenshow, 1981). Terrorist groups can accomplish these tasks by eliminating the citizens through executions or even by targeting key government officials and killing them (White, 2016). The main aim of intimidation is to put so much fear in the people and the government to the extent that they become hapless and hence fall under the control of the terrorist group.

Reasons Why Terrorists use Intimidation

In a bid to gain a larger social control over the population, terrorists will employ intimidation in varying aspects. This tactic is mostly used in situations where the terrorists feel that the government does not want to implement a policy that they feel will work in their favour (saherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). The terrorists then use intimidation by trying to implement the said policy directly to the population. They will force the population into compliance by offering threats and an assurance of future consequences if they fail to do so (White, 2016). This has been common in Afghanistan where for example where the Taliban beheaded a school head to affirm their belief that girls should not get educated.

According to White (2016) by targeting the government close agents such as judiciary officials, the police, the army and top government officials and demonstrating that they can harm them, the terrorist groups will prove to the government that it is too weak to fight them .It will also demonstrate that the government is not in a position to protect those that the terrorists target in the future. By proving that they are capable of defeating a regime, the terrorists can then easily bring down a government and take over its leadership (saherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). The government at this point finds it costly and difficult to stop the terrorists from executing their activities and taking over the control of the government.

Some terror groups always use intimidation as a means of selling out their ideologies and gaining recognition in the process. The terror groups will on certain instances force the people into buying their ideologies and traditions (Cross ton, 2016). If the people do not do so, then they will have to live in fear of an attack, intimidation or assassination. The terror groups may also use intimidation through the assassination of a top figure within a political system. In this way, they will be passing a message of what they are in a position to do (saherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). That will also be an avenue of exposing their group to gain recognition and attract among other things, more membership or even funding from those who support their activities.

Intimidation is also a strategy that is used by a terror group to push for a regime change. The group may be having difficulties with a government that does not support their ideologies and instead tries to fight out their activities (White, 2016). The terrorist group will, therefore, penetrate into the major organs of the government and cause instability through various means. They may employ such other tactics as attacks, assassinations, car bombings or retaliation on the citizens to force their support. Such activities will make a government too weak into resisting the terrorists (saherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). With time, the terrorist may be in a position to take over the activities of the government after overthrowing it.

Terrorist Groups that use Intimidation

According to Crenshow, M. (2000), the Taliban group in Afghanistan has for a very long time tried to take over the government and in recent years even spread to parts of Pakistan. This group has used several terrorist tactics to manage and accomplish its mission against these governments. Notable is its resent quest to try and manage and control the population by imposing on them threats of retaliation if they failed to follow their demands. That is especially in the areas where the Taliban predominantly control (White, 2016). The group has also launched a wave of attacks and assassinations on powerful government figures to derail the efforts of the government in trying to fight them back.

The Islamist group of Boko Haram is one of the deadliest terrorist groups that have over the years employed the tactic of intimidation to try and subdue the Nigerian government with an aim of creating an Islamic state (BBC, 2016). In abid to achieve this, the group has always tried to impose their Islamic rules which among others prevent girls from taking part in electoral activities, and by the abduction of schoolgirls (saherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). It has also employed the tact of intimidation by targeting to assassinate top government officials in Nigeria.

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) is another terrorist group that has in the recent years developed and tried to control parts of Iraq and Syria specifically Eastern Syrian and Northern and Western Iraq (US homeland security, 2016). This group has among other tactics used intimidation to frustrate government efforts in defeating it. It has always forced its population under its control to swear allegiance to al- Bahgaidi who is its leader (US homeland security, 2016). It has also in the resent past carried out assassinations including that of a journalist from the US in order to try and seek attention of other international governments.

Founded by Osama Bin Laden, Abdulla Hazzam and other Arab volunteers, the Al-Qaeda is one of the major terrorist groups that widely used the concept of intimidation in Syria and Yemen (Crenshow, 2000). It has managed to successfully carry out attacks on civilians, the army and even governments. The 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya, the September 11 attack and the bombings of 2002 in Bali are some of the terrorist activities that the Al Qaeda has carried out. In this way, they were trying to make governments and individuals fear them and so allow them to take control over them.

Instances when it is Effective to use Intimidation by Terrorists

Most terrorist groups whose main aim is to effect regime change always apply intimidation especially when the target nation is weak financially, economically and in its military structure (saherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). When a government is going through a civil war, for example, it is very easy for even small terrorist groups to come up and use intimidation tactics on civilians who are then convicted not to give support to the government (Crosston, 2016). In this way, it is hard for such a government to manage and control the spread and activities of such a terror group due to its weak structures.

Terrorist groups whose aim is to have social control over the population can use intimidation on weak states also. In cases where a state is too weak to prosecute cases dealing with terrorism or general human rights violations, the people will lose faith in the government and start living in fear, and some may opt to find protection in terror groups (Osaherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). Some terror groups such as Al Qaeda also have a certain extent of penetration into the justice system. It means that they have an unseen hand in the execution of justice. This leads to instances where suspects linked to terror activities are not prosecuted.

For a government that is under war, the terrorist group can easily use the method of intimidation in trying to instigate terror upon the people and the government. Since the primary government aim is always to win a war at such times, terror groups can easily come up and grow fast by instigating and launching a wave of terror attacks upon the people (US homeland security, 2016). They may also try to assassinate the top government officials in order to get attention. The terror groups take advantage of this opportunity because they know that at such times the government is too weak to fight back.

The Flaws of Using Intimidation as a Terrorist Strategy

When intimidation is always used, there always tends to develop a sense of fear in the public. The terrorists will always use threats on the population and retaliations if they fail to comply with the wishes of the terrorists (Osaherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). The population will therefore find it difficult to go against what the terrorists want and instead comply with their wishes. This state of affairs will expose the people to being enticed in embracing the ideologies that are held by the terrorists (US homeland security, 2016). Some people will also be persuaded into joining the terrorist groups and helping them in pushing their agenda forward.

Intimidation reduces the power of a government to fight the terrorist groups. According to Crosston (2016), since the group will force the population into not sharing any information with the authorities, the government will find it extremely difficult to gather any intelligence. When there is a failure to accumulate such required information by the security agencies, the terrorist groups will still go on unstopped in carrying out the activities in silence or even by launching sporadic attacks.

Intimidation carried out on the part of the government could cause fear of a fight back on the heads of the various agencies that are involved in fighting terrorism. They will therefore not be enthusiastic about trying to root out terror for fear of their lives (Whittaker, 2012). Such intimidation targeting individuals always paralyzes government efforts to seek to curb terrorism. The terrorists will, therefore, go on in carrying out their activities without fear of being victimized or taken responsible (Webel, 2016). The government shall have, therefore, failed in tackling the menace of terrorism or offering prevention.

A widespread effect of intimidation could be by terrorists both on the government and the citizens could lead to a government takeover by the terrorists. When a government fails to handle the effects of intimidation, they will have very minimal chances of fighting against the terrorist groups (Crosston, 2016). The group will then continue launching attacks on the regime and putting the citizens against their government using, among other means, propaganda (saherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). With time, the government will be too weak to fight against the growing terror group and hence give way to a regime change.

A stable government's social institutions and law enforcement such as the court system is a significant deterrent to intimidation

According to (Whittaker, 2012), when the government has a lot of resources to effectively bring to justice anyone who engages in terrorist activities; there will be general fear of the consequences of engaging in terrorism. This can also be done when the state gives prominent individuals more security and protection to prevent any harm that may be caused by the terrorist on them or their close allies.

State agents, which are mostly terrorist targets, are always a protected area in most nations. These government-controlled agencies such as the judiciary or the army command centres are always almost impenetrable by the terrorist (Crosston, 2016). It is hard for them to attack or even destroy them since doing so would undermine the sovereignty of a government. There is always a lot of intelligence gathering done by the state concerning impending attacks on the government bodies (saherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). Terrorist groups, therefore, find it extremely hard to employ this strategy in implementing their activities.

Terrorist groups whose primary aim is to foster a regime change always face stiff and quick military resistance from the government forces. The state is always fast to take back any area under the control of the rebels (Whittaker, 2012). Due to the military might of a government, it is very difficult for the terrorist groups to keep up and compete with the attacking soldiers (saherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). The terrorist is, therefore, always forced to retreat and thus their aim of regime change through intimidation always fails.

Infrastructures that Support Intimidation

A weak state is always a very easy target for terrorists who want to use intimidation to extend their dominance. When a government cannot easily fight terrorism, extremist groups can subject the population to forms of threats such as that of retaliation if they do not follow what they want (Crosston, 2016). The terrorist groups can also kill in order to instill fear in the citizens and in the government. All these are made possible because the government regime is too weak and helpless to counter the effects of the terror activities. This may, in the end, lead to a social change in a country as the people may start embracing the ideologies of the terrorists in the long run.

A large and bumpy geographical terrain, in most cases, is always an avenue under which terrorists can take advantage to accomplish their activities through intimidation (Osaherumwen & Mutunrayo, 2013). In most cases, when the land area is vast, it is tough to find and capture terrorists. The Al-Qaeda has, for example, also taken advantage of the hilly and rugged terrain in Syria to spread their ideologies widely and subject the citizens to intimidation without easily being captured. The terrorist, in this case, will always launch periodic attacks on the people and get into hiding to avert being noticed (Mcltosh, 2015). The government, therefore, always finds it tough to capture the terrorists and prevent intimidation.

During times of war, the instability that comes with it has always been a superb ground on which terrorist wants to extend their ideologies through intimidation (Cragin, 2015). Given the instability caused by the wars, a government will not give so much attention to the rising effects of terrorism but will rather focus on fighting and winning a war (Whittaker, 2012). The activities of terrorists, in most cases, will go unnoticed by the government. The terrorists will then take advantage of the state of affairs and use threats or even assassinations to get the people to support their ideologies.

When a country lacks a strong judicial system that can impartially prosecute and punish terror suspects, the terrorist groups will take advantage of this state of affairs and use intimidation to enhance terrorism (Crosston, 2016). The terrorists will not have any fear or consequences for their actions. They will, therefore, use threats of assassinations on the people. They may also, in this case, even target high-ranking government officials so as to instill fear in the government on their ability to inflict harm (Mickolus, 2016). This will also happen when the terrorist groups have a certain amount of influence or control in the judicial system of a country.

A government that is not popular among the citizens will be a way through which terrorist groups can use to intimidate the government (Whittaker, 2012). They will take advantage of the poor relation between the government and the people by pretending to stand with the people and push for a regime change. They may organize strikes and demonstrations against the government in order to win the trust of the people (Crenshow, 1981). They will also assassinate or retaliate against those who still seem to be in support of the government regime. When this happens, the government finds it very hard to stop the terrorists' acts.

The concept of human shield has always been used by terrorists to carry out their activities through intimidation. Most terrorists will always carry out terror activities and hide within the people to avoid being noticed (Cragin, 2015). They will offer threats to the people of retaliation if the citizens dare to turn them in. the people will, therefore, live in fear, hence not expose the terrorists (Whittaker, 2012). The government, on the other hand, will find it difficult even to attack the terrorists for fear of having innocent civilian casualties.


The concept of intimidation has always been used by terrorists over the years. Some of the main reasons why terrorists have used this means may include an attempt to have social change and prove to the government that they have power over them. Over the years, many terrorist groups have come up such as Taliban in Afghanistan, Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Al-Qaeda in Syria and parts of Yemen. Terrorists have always been known to use intimidation, especially when a country is under financial or economic hardship and when the judicial system of a country is either too weak or compromised in prosecuting the terrorists. There are several difficulties that arise as a result of using intimidation, both on the side of the terrorists, the government, and the people. The terrorists will face stiff resistance from a strong government. Intimidation may also cause the people to keep away from sharing information with the government for fear of retaliation. The government may suffer instability as a result of intimidation tactics by terrorists. In a bid to extend intimidation, terrorist activities are always made possible by factors such as a weak state, large geographical landscape, war, a poor judicial system, and also an unpopular government among the citizens.


BBC. (2016). Who are Nigeria’s boko haram islamist group? Retrieved on 27th February, 2017

Cragin, R. K (2015). Semi-proxy wars and U.S counter terrorism strategy. Studies in conflict & terrorism, 38(5)

Crenshaw, M. (1981). The Causes of Terrorism. Comparative Politics, (4). 379.

Crenshow, M. (2000). The psychology of terrorism. An agenda for the 21st century. Political psychology, 21(2), 405

Crosston, M. (2016). Fostering fundamentalism: Terrorism, democracy and American engagement in central Asia. Routledge.

Mcitosh, C. (2015). Counterterrorism as war: identifying the dangers, risks and opportunity costs of U.S strategy towards AL Qaeda and its affiliates. Studies in conflict and terrorism, 38(1), 23-38

Mickolus, E. F. (2016). Terrorism, 2013-2015: A worldwide chronology.

Osaherumwen, I. S., & Mutunrayo, A. K. (2013). International terrorism in the middle east: isis as a case study. Science and World, 59.

Richards, A. (2015). Conceptualizing terrorism.

US homeland security(2016). Written testimony of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson for a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing titled “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland: ISIS and the New Wave of Terror” Retrieved on 27th February, 2017

Webel, C. (2016). Terror, Terrorism and the Human Condition. Springer.

White, J. R. (2016). Terrorism and homeland security. Cengage Learning.

Whittaker, D. J. (Ed.). (2012). The terrorism reader. Routledge.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price