Abstract

Al-Qaida will end. The fear that a small terrorist organization with a loose network has transformed itself into a protracted global ideological struggle without an end in sight is misguided. There are centuries of experience with modern terrorist movements, many bearing important parallels with al-Qaida; yet the lessons arising from the demise of these groups are little studied. Unfortunately, terrorist organizations in their final stages are often at their most dangerous. The outcomes can range from implosion of a group and its cause to transition to astonishing acts of violence and interstate war. Comparing al-Qaida's differences and similarities with those of earlier terrorist organizations, and applying relevant lessons to this case, can provide insights into al-Qaida's likely demise. It can also inform thinking about how to manage and hasten al-Qaida's end.

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