Deterring terrorism is no longer a provocative idea, but missing from the contemporary theoretical investigation is a discussion of how delegitimization might be used to manipulate and shape militant behavior. Delegitimization suggests that states and substate actors can use the religious or ideological rationale that informs terrorist behavior to influence it. In the case of al-Qaida, the organization has carefully elaborated a robust metanarrative that has proved to be remarkably successful as a recruitment tool, in identity formation for adherents, as public apologia and hermeneutic, and as a weapon of war—the so-called media jihad. In the wake of the upheaval of the Arab Spring, al-Qaida and its adherents have redeployed the narrative, promising a new social order to replace the region's anciens régimes. Delegitimization would have the United States and its friends and allies use al-Qaida's own narrative against it by targeting and degrading the ideological motivation that guides support for and participation in terrorism.

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