Senior Seminar in Political Science  Po 410 B

Fall, 2010  TTr 10:00-11:40



Terrorism is where politics and violence intersect in the hope of delivering power.  All terrorism involves the quest for power: power to dominate and coerce, to intimidate and control, and ultimately to effect fundamental political change.

                                                                              --Bruce Hoffman


To kill Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.

                                                       --Osama bin Laden


In countering terrorism, the democratic state faces an inescapable dilemma. It has to deal effectively with the terrorist threat to citizens and to vulnerable potential targets…without at the same time destroying basic civil rights, the democratic process and the rule of law. 

                                                      --Paul Wilkinson


It is not enough for the West to figure out which tent, which cave, or which remote city harbors a terrorist making the next bomb, nor will it be enough to bomb him off the face of the earth…the real challenge is to understand the spiritual lives of the humiliated, discredited peoples who have been excluded from its fellowship

                                                       --Orhan Pamuk


        For half a century, American foreign policy was driven by a single goal: to contain expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence.  With the end of the Cold War, Americans anticipated an extended period of “Pax Americana,” maintained by our military might and by our distance from the world’s dangerous flash points.  The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 signaled the demise of this illusion.  We find ourselves again threatened by forces outside our borders.  This time, however, the threat comes not from another superpower, or even a traditional nation-state, whose leaders share with ours the desire to avoid world destruction.  In contrast, this new war on terrorism will involve an extended conflict with no certain ending and an ill-defined enemy who may be armed with weapons of mass destruction, and who may harbor apocalyptic aspirations.  The realization that our borders can be penetrated by agents of a nebulous underground network of groups willing to employ seemingly random acts of violence against civilian targets to achieve their political aims has produced a new atmosphere of anxiety.


        How will this new reality shape America?  Will our constitutional regime of separated powers be altered or sacrificed to accommodate our legitimate needs for safety?  Will citizens ever again enjoy the breadth of liberties guaranteed under the first, fourth fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution, and to which we have become accustomed?  Will targeted ethnic groups or resident aliens pay an excessive price for our zeal to defend our own safety?  Do we risk the loss of our national identity in this new conflict, and most important, if we pay for security with our national soul, do we “win” the war on terror?  What would such a “victory” look like in any event?


        I intend to explore these and other questions in this Senior Seminar.  Although terrorism has become increasingly international, I will leave most issues of foreign policy to my able colleagues.  Nor can I purport to offer a comprehensive course on effective counterterrorism policies.  The focus of this seminar will be primarily on the nature of contemporary terrorism, our domestic response and on the narrower question of how it may transform our national values.  Three specific issues will dominate our investigation:


What is this new threat of terrorism, and how does it differ from previous threats to our security?


What ramifications will our military response to terrorism have for our system of separated powers and checks and balances on executive war powers?


What changes will our domestic security needs impose on traditional civil liberties as freedom of expression and political association, religious pluralism and freedom from surveillance, due process protections as the right against arbitrary searches and  arrests, coerced confessions or fair trials? 


        There are no specific course pre-requisites, but students should be able to draw on many of the courses they have previously taken in their study of political science, geography, religious studies, history or economics.  Students may approach their own seminar research from any of the four subfields of political science: American politics, comparative politics, international politics or political theory.  All that is required is an open mind and a willingness to ask difficult questions.





The following should be purchased in the SMC Bookstore:


Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism

        Bernard Lewis, The Crisis in Islam

        Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God

        Philip Heymann, Terrorism, Freedom and Security


Additional assignments will be taken from the following, on reserve in the Durick Library:


Barry Rubin & Judith Colp Rubin, Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East


Some assignments are on the web.  Use the links from the on-line version of this syllabus.  I am reasonably sure they all work, but if one does not, email as soon as you can so I can fix it. 


Finally, we will view several films, mostly from the PBS Frontline series:


Inside the Terror Network

Jihad: the men and ideas behind al Qaeda

The Man Who Knew

The Trail of a Terrorist

Looking for Answers

Target America

Return of the Taliban

        Taxi to the Dark Side




        A seminar places greater responsibility on the student than most ordinary courses do.  Students will be expected to keep up with all assigned reading, and do independent research on a topic pertinent to the seminar.  For us, acceptable topics might include theoretical treatments of terrorism, recent acts of terrorism perpetrated against the United States, or America’s response to terrorism in the wake of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  An additional responsibility in a seminar is greater class participation, including a final presentation of your research for discussion.  Final grades will reflect the following priorities: 


Midterm exam  (early October)                25%

Final exam (early in November)               15%

General participation                               10%

Formal presentation                                10%

Research paper                                      50%


Details on the research project will be forthcoming, in a separate document.  Suffice it to note here that topics must be approved by September 30th.  Initial drafts will be turned in no later than October 26th, and final drafts will be due no later than November 23rd.  Grade penalties of one letter grade for each day late will be imposed.  November 23rd, and 30th, December 2nd, 7th, and 9th will be devoted to class presentations of student research.


        Attendance is imperative in a seminar setting.  I permit up to three unexcused absences, then I impose a grade penalty of half a letter off the final grade for each additional unexcused absence.


        Finally a senior seminar should be fun.  There will be hard work, to be sure, but I hope we can also have a good time discussing, and yes—debating—the subjects covered in this course.






I.                   America on September 12th  2001


A.   “After 9/11 everything changed:” a cliché in search of meaning


Presidential Daily Briefing, August 6, 2001

Muhammad Atta, “Suicide Note” (in Rubin & Rubin, pg.233)

Ahmad al-Haznawi al-Ghamidi, “Suicide Videotape” (in Rubin & Rubin, pg. 276)

Videotape of Private Meeting with Osama bin Laden (in Rubin & Rubin pg. 243)

Video: PBS Frontline: The Man Who Knew

What if…?



II.     Hegemonic America and the Middle East


Bernard Lewis, The Crises of Islam

Sayyid Qutb, “Paving the Way,” (in Rubin & Rubin, pg. 29-32)

Video: PBS Frontline: Looking For Answers

Video: PBS Frontline: Target America






A.     Defining Terrorism?


Bruce Hoffman, chapter 1, 6

Geneva Conventions: Protocol on Civilian Populations


B.     Genres of Terrorism


1.   State Terrorism

Bruce Hoffman, pg. 258-267


2.   Ethno-nationalist Terrorism


Bruce Hoffman, chapters 2, 3


3.   Ideological Terrorism: Left and Right


4.   Religious Terrorism


Bruce Hoffman, chapter 4, 5

Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God (Chaps. 1, 2, 4, 7-11…additional chapters optional)


C.     Terrorism Transformed—Contemporary Trends


5.   The New Terrorism: Radical Islam


Bruce Hoffman, Chapter 7, pg. 282-95

David Zeidan, “The Islamist View of Life as a Perennial Struggle,” (in Rubin & Rubin, pg. 11)

“Abdullah Azzam: the Struggling Sheik” (in Rubin & Rubin, pg. 62)

Ayman al-Zawahiri, “Why Attack America,” (in Rubin & Rubin, pg. 131)

Osama bin Ladin, “Declaration of War Against the United States,” (in Rubin & Rubin, pg. 137)

Interview with Osama bin Laden (in Rubin & Rubin, pg. 151)

World Islamic Front, “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders” (in Rubin & Rubin, pg. 149)

Al-Qaida Recruitment Video, (in Rubin & Rubin, pg. 174)

Video: Jihad: the men and ideas behind al Qaeda

Education of a Holy Warrior

The Evolution of Islamic Terrorism

Al Qaeda Timeline

Before Jihad, Breakfast



6.    Pakistan, Afghanistan & a Resurgent Taliban & al Qaeda


           Video: Return of the Taliban

The Next Threat: Political Instability in Central & South Asia

National Intelligence Estimate (unclassified bits)

Whitehouse Fact Sheet


7.        Weapons of Mass Destruction, Disruption or Distraction


Bruce Hoffman, chapters 8, pg. 267-81


Chemical Weapons

Chemical Weapons FAQ

Convention on Chemical Weapons


Biological Weapons

BioTerror FAQ

Convention on Biological Weapons

Future Germ Defenses


Nuclear & Radiation Dispersal Bombs

Preparing for Nuclear Terrorism” 

Sources of Radiation






A.  The Military Response in the Context of Separated Powers


1.     War Powers and the Imperial Executive


Philip Heymann, Terrorism, Freedom & Security, ch. 1-3

Elizabeth Drew, “Power Grab

Terrorism Derangement Syndrome



2.    Detention and Military Tribunals


 “Closing Guantanamo,” David Cole:



3.      Intelligence Gathering, Law Enforcement and Civil Liberties


Heymann, ch. 4-7

Video: PBS Frontline: Inside the Terror Network

The Constraints Facing U.S. Intelligence” 

Interview With Jeffrey Smith  



4.         Interrogation & Torture


Geneva Conventions Common Article 3
Jane Mayer, “The Black Sites”  

                        Video: Taxi to the Dark Side


5.     Surveillance




5.   Consequence Management & Recovery


      Heymann, ch. 8

Stephen Flynn, The Edge of Disaster, ch 1, 10 (library reserve)


V.     Presentation & Discussion of Student Research