Political Science | The Pol of Terroism
Y200 | 4549 | Zook

		Verloc, a character in Joseph Conrad's classic novel, The
Secret Agent, asks what response can be made "to an act of destructive
ferocity so absurd as to be incomprehensible, inexplicable, almost
unthinkable - in fact, mad?  Madness alone is truly terrifying, inasmuch as
you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasions, or bribes."  Y200, The
Politics of Terrorism, investigates the phenomenon of terrorism in an
attempt to demystify and analyze its origins, goals, ramifications, and
While the basic causes of terrorism are highly debatable, students will have
the opportunity to investigate theories and popular myths and compare them
by assessing actual case studies.  Causal analysis will take place on
various levels.  Some of the relevant literature emphasizes the background
of individuals who commit terrorism as the key explanatory factory.  Other
approaches investigate the role of domestic interests and global conditions
that stimulate the rise of terrorist activity.  In addition, theories have
declared violent direct action to be the expression of a groups' ideological
belief system, a domestic response to oppression, or a low-cost, military
tool of nation-states.
The goals and tactics of terrorism will be addressed by investigating the
wide variety of direct action organizations.  Anarchist groups,
environmental direct action organizations (Earth Liberation Front),
individuals (Unabomber), groups seeking national self-determination (PLO and
IRA), rogue states (Libya), and religious groups (Branch Davidians in Waco),
have all taken credit for or been accused of preparing for terrorist
activities.  While some groups seek political goals, others have more
ideological goals.  Success in achieving their goals may depend to some
extent on whether they act individually or with the backing of a
nation-state.  Also, whether or not their tactics alienate the public may
affect their success.
Terrorism used to be limited to such techniques as miniature explosions,
hijacking, or hostage taking.  Now, more sophisticated technology has
enabled groups to make use of more extensive computerized operations and
chemical weapons.  In addition, there is the possibility that more groups
will have access in the future to weapons of mass destruction.  As terrorist
activities have the potential to evoke more and more terror, what are the
responses at the domestic level?  Addressing this question will constitute a
major segment of the course by focusing on law enforcement, interest groups,
and the media.