What makes terrorists stop being terrorists? A study by the RAND Corporation examined 648 different terrorist groups and concluded that military force is the least effective way to end terrorism.
The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process (43 percent) or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members (40 percent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory. This has significant implications for the seemingly boundless Global War on Terror and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy.
Surprisingly, there is no broadly accepted definition of terrorism. However, there are several fundamental aspects of terrorism. Terrorism has a political nature and involves the perpetration of acts designed to encourage political change. It involves the targeting of civilians. And it is restricted to organizations other than a national government.
In this course, we will explore the motivating factors of terrorism, the use of media by modern terror groups, and the connections between economics and security (capitalism and resistance to capitalism.) We’ll also discover what it looks like for terrorist groups to end by joining the political process. As one such example, Sinn Féin is the largest Irish republican political party, but was historically associated with the IRA. Martin McGuiness is now a minister. We’ll examine this in other parts of the world too, where terrorists have agreed to a political bargain and became leaders– even some of the early political leaders of Israel once bombed the British forces.
This class will challenge students to question conventional thinking on security, evaluate the legacy of US rhetoric and foreign policy, and consider more just responses to modern conflicts. We will examine terrorist groups from the past and the present to understand why a “war on terror” is an ill-advised concept and why there is no battlefield solution to winning a “war on terrorism.”
OUR APPROACH TO TEACHING
Polyhistoria classes emphasize critical thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. We believe that students learn social sciences best by doing what professional social scientists do.
(Read more about our approach to teaching.)
This course is designed to increase effective observation and critical thinking skills and to encourage learner interaction. We encourage rigorous (but not ad hominem) discourse, questioning textbooks and teachers alike, and tirelessly trying to improve what we do. We believe in creating a truly welcoming space, where learners can come together with understanding, dignity, and compassion, and where diverse backgrounds and life experiences are embraced.
Learning is not a spectator sport. Interaction and intellectual exchanges involving all students and the instructor enrich learning for all. Studying social sciences involves an accumulation of knowledge about the past. But it also requires that we communicate that knowledge to others. You must be ready to share your views in class. A worthwhile course depends upon active participation by all students in class discussions.
The goal here is to advance an intelligent conversation from which we all learn. The most obvious way to do that is to say smart things and say them clearly. But that is not the only meaningful way to participate. Asking a question, connecting something already on the table to another thing, clarifying something that someone else has said, and offering evidence from the text under discussion are also all valuable. Bonus points are awarded for contributions that draw on what others have said. Other things to keep in mind: aim for clarity, keep in mind the value of an amicable classroom environment, and try not to monopolize the conversation.
1) Students’ cameras and microphones must be turned on during the class.
2) This class requires the continuous use of logical thinking & hypothetical reasoning skills to critically and creatively analyze the topics covered in the class. These cognitive functions are generally not sufficiently developed until a student is 13+ years old. Students must have the ability to think critically and logically to analyze the topics covered in the class.
1 hour per week in class, and an estimated 1 – 2 hours per week outside of class.
Meets once a week for 8 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 13-18