Scripts of Terror

The Stories Terrorists Tell Themselves

Benedict Wilkinson

How do terrorists resolve the tension between their ambitions and their often limited resources?

Bibliographic Details
Scripts of Terror Hardback
December 2019£35.00
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This book explores terrorism as a strategic choice—one made carefully and deliberately by rational actors. Through an analysis of the terrorist groups of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, it charts a series of different strategic ‘scripts’ at play in terrorist behaviour, from survival, to efforts in mobilising a supporter base, through to the grinding attrition of a long terrorist campaign.

The theme that runs through all these organisations is the unbridgeable gap between their strategic vision, and what actually unfolds. Regardless of which script terrorists follow, they often fall short of achieving their political ambitions. And yet, despite its frequent failure, the terrorist strategy is returned to time and again—people continue to join such groups, and to commit violence.

Scripts of Terror explores the reasons behind this. It asks why, if terrorism is so rarely successful and so hard to pull off, its approach remains an appealing one. And it examines how terrorists formulate their strategies, and how they envisage achieving their ambitions through violence. Most importantly, it explores why they so often fail.


Benedict Wilkinson is Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London’s Policy Institute, where he works on contemporary defence, security and foreign policy issues. He completed his PhD in War Studies at King’s under the supervision of Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, during which time he was Head of Security and Counter-Terrorism at RUSI. This is his second book.