Beating the Water: The Terrorist Search for Power, Control and Authority.

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Starting from Mao's well‐known metaphor of ‘water and fish’, this article examines the nature of power as it applies to terrorist groups. Terrorists are under constant pressure actively to increase their influence and control over their constituent communities. Our understandings of how terrorist groups can do this has generally suffered from being too limited and overly simplistic. Focusing on Northern Ireland, this article explores how terrorist groups can first identify and then access various sources of power which can be used to strengthen the group's position and authority. The article argues that there are identifiable strategies which can be exploited by current and future terrorists in virtually any setting. It is in the interest of those combating terrorism to study these principles closely if they wish to limit the power and durability of terrorist opponents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-96
Number of pages21
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • terrorism
  • control
  • power
  • community
  • authority
  • Northern Ireland
  • Troubles
  • Northern Ireland Troubles

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