PubPol 495

PubPol 495: Policy Seminar: Counterterrorism

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Winter 2021
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PUBPOL 495 (Policy Seminar) is for students currently enrolled in the Public Policy Undergraduate Program only, no exceptions. Enrollment is by permission only.

The modern era of counterterrorism in the United States stretches nearly over thirty years, with ebbs and flows in how the nation has confronted different terrorist adversaries.  In the 1990s, counterterrorism was not the country’s biggest national security concern, despite threats from an emerging al-Qa’ida, a spike in domestic terrorism, and attacks abroad by Iran and its main terrorist partner Lebanese Hizballah.  The early 2000s ushered in a new age of terrorism with the al-Qa’ida attacks on September 11, 2001 and consumed the U.S. national security apparatus for almost a decade—culminating in the death of the group’s leader Usama bin Laden in 2011.  Despite that significant achievement and an intense U.S. counterterrorism pressure against the group across the globe, by the middle part of the 2010s new terrorist threats like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) emerged.  At the same time, Iran and Hizballah presented renewed counterterrorism concerns, and there were signs that domestic terrorism was once again rising in importance both at home and abroad.  Later in the last decade, documents like the Trump Administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy signaled a shift away from counterterrorism and more towards competition with China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran as the primary U.S. security concerns—forcing the country to make difficult choices about threat prioritization, resource allocation, and risk management on the counterterrorism front into the 2020s.

Using a seminar-based format involving instructor lectures, group discussions, and student presentations will provide a holistic view on U.S. approaches to counterterrorism.  It will examine the foundations of U.S. counterterrorism with key terms, definitions, and legal authorities; review the U.S. counterterrorism enterprise and various counterterrorism strategies since the 1990s; and, contrast this with different foreign counterterrorism approaches.  It will then explore the terrorist phenomenon at a macro-level; conduct weekly “deep dives” on key terrorist threats and adversaries; and assess drivers that will shape future threat trajectories like technology developments and geopolitical trends.  The course will also involve guest speakers, several writing assignments with different formats, and a capstone simulated crisis meeting where students assume various governmental roles and examine potential courses of action on a complex counterterrorism scenario.

*This course will be taught remotely*