Abstract: This chapter reviews the evolution of Martha Crenshaw’s interests in and approaches to researching terrorism, a trajectory that begins in the 1960s and extends to the present. The story is necessarily partial and incomplete as well as personal. Her first research project concentrated on the use of terrorism by the FLN during the Algerian War, and her current research deals with patterns of cooperation and competition among militant groups and with the relationship between jihadist-oriented transnational terrorism and civil war.
Research brief: How plots come to fail or to be foiled is of great importance to the study of terrorism and to the development of counterterrorism policy. There can be no comprehensive picture of the threat without analyzing what adversaries planned to do as well as what they actually managed to accomplish. Examining failed and foiled plots is essential to understanding their intentions as well as their capabilities.
Fifteen years after September 11, the United States still faces terror threats—both domestic and foreign. After years of wars, ever more intensive and pervasive surveillance, enhanced security measures at major transportation centers, and many attempts to explain who we are fighting and why and how to fight them, the threats continue to multiply.
So, too, do our attempts to understand just what terrorism is and how to counter it.
In this post for Foreign Policy, Martha Crenshaw outlines the difficulties that U.S. presidents have had in forming and maintaining a counterterrorism strategy. From Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, all have had their foreign policy reputations tarnished by terrorism. The challenge is in forming a consistent, logical counterterrorism policy.
During the Cold War, deterrence theory was the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, however, popular wisdom dictated that terrorist organizations and radical fanatics could not be deterred—and governments shifted their attention to combating terrorism rather than deterring it.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks opened America's eyes to a frightening world of enemies surrounding us. But have our eyes opened wide enough to see how our experiences compare with other nations' efforts to confront and prevent terrorism? Other democracies have long histories of confronting both international and domestic terrorism. Some have undertaken progressively more stringent counterterrorist measures in the name of national security and the safety of citizens. But who wins and who loses?
A distinguished panel including psychological scientists, political scientists, and psychiatrists – Arie W. Kruglanski, Martha Crenshaw, Jerrold M. Post, and Jeff Victoroff – assesses the impact of different metaphorical framings (warfare, law enforcement, epidemiology, and prejudice reduction) on the worldwide effort to combat and prevent terrorism.
The current trend toward suicide bombings began in Lebanon in the early 1980s. The practice soon spread to civil conflicts in Sri Lanka, the Kurdish areas of Turkey, and Chechnya. Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians in the 1990s and during the Al Aqsa intifada further highlighted the threat. Al Qaeda's adoption of the tactic brought a transnational dimension. Interest in the phenomenon then surged after the shock of the 2001 attacks, which involved an unprecedented number of both perpetrators and casualties.
Retaliation and decaptitation of a terrorist organization's leadership is a form of coercive diplomacy; after all, both are designed to get the terrorist organization to stop its terrorist attacks. Judging the efficacy of coercive diplomacy against terrorists is exceedingly difficult, as Martha Crenshaw explains, but she concludes that overall this technique has not worked well.
The problems of terrorism and counterterrorism are closely related to other themes stressed in this volume: sovereignty; state building, nation building, and peacebuilding; norms; responsibility to prevent and protect; legitimacy of the use of force; failed, failing, and fragile states; and democratic transitions. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the threat of terrorism emanated principally from proponents of radical Islamism, as it did during the first decade. Finding an effective response remained a challenge.