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Archive for the 'Security Studies' Category

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The Definition of Terrorism: A Fundamental Counter-Terrorism Measure

Global Alert

“We will never be able, actually, to get to the level of counter-terrorism efficiency which is needed to deal with [new forms of terrorism] without agreeing on the basic issue: what are we fighting against?” — Boaz Ganor

This week our featured book is Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor. Today, we have a video from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), in which Professor Ganor discusses the necessity for coming up with a definition of terrorism.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Global Alert!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Boaz Ganor’s Introduction to Global Alert

Global Alert

“Islamist-jihadist terrorism—a plague that has spread to almost every corner of the world—creates painful dilemmas for the peoples and decision makers who confront it. Its rapid, shape-shifting advance has sometimes confounded efforts to comprehend its origins, motives, and aims. Its sophistication in exploiting liberal values poses challenges and difficulties for the Western world, and for liberal democratic states in general, in attaining effective and balanced counter-terrorism policies.” — Boaz Ganor

This week our featured book is Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor. To get the feature started, we have excerpted Ganor’s Introduction, in which he discusses the necessity for the international community to grapple with the problems raised by terrorism, and describes how his book will address many of those issues.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Global Alert!

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor

Global Alert

“When it comes to outstanding informed, analytical and policy-oriented scholarship on counterterrorism in the context of open societies, the work of professor Boaz Ganor is plainly and simply inescapable for academics, politicians, security practitioners and concerned citizens.” — Fernando Reinares

This week our featured book is Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World, by Boaz Ganor. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book, its subject, and its editors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Global Alert. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, May 8th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Discouraging North American and European Citizens from Foreign Jihad

Mental Health in the War on Terror

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. In today’s guest post, Aggarwal discusses a recent New York Times article on efforts to keep Western citizens from “traveling to fight in war zones in Muslim countries,” and how the War on Terror has been and is being shaped by sometimes troubling stereotypes.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Mental Health in the War on Terror!

Discouraging North American and European Citizens from Foreign Jihad
By Neil Krishan Aggarwal

A New York Times article dated January 13, 2015 and titled “West Struggles against Flow to War Zones” describes North American and European officials struggling to “stem the flow of their citizens traveling to fight in war zones in Muslim countries.” The article comes after last week’s tragic attacks in France and reflects major themes from my book Mental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft. In my book, I analyze questionable claims of Orientalist stereotypical scholarship and de-radicalization programs, some of which appear in this article. By scrutinizing this article, I hope to show how such claims recur in an influential newspaper and shape public discussions of the War on Terror. Only by inspecting such claims one at a time can we discern how the War on Terror has permeated popular culture.

1. The “West/Rest” fallacy. The authors begin: “For more than a decade, Western governments have struggled to stem the flow of their citizens traveling to fight in war zones in Muslim countries.” This assertion implies a rigid division among Muslims and non-Muslims. Where does the West begin and end? What is the standard for “Muslim countries”? Is a Muslim country defined on the basis of political system (Saudi Arabia), population (Indonesia), or Orientalist notions of the Middle East? Are we not comparing apples and oranges by contrasting entities based on geography (“Western”) and religion (“Muslim”)? (more…)

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

National Security Above Mental Health — Neil Aggarwal

Mental Health in the War on Terror

“We need novel solutions for hierarchical organizations such as the CIA and the armed forces that erect institutional safeguards for psychiatrists, psychologists, and whistleblowers warning of misuses in mental health knowledge and practice.”—Neil Krishnan Aggarwal

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. Today, we are happy to repost an article on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on American use of torture, written by Aggarwal and originally posted in mid-December.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Mental Health in the War on Terror!

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s release of the report Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program marks a signature moment for government accountability in the War on Terror. The report acknowledges that “the CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees” and “the CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.”

Politicians have debated release of the report. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has claimed that enhanced interrogation techniques were “absolutely, totally justified” and were the “right thing to do, and if I had to do it over again, I would do it.” In contrast, Senator Dianne Feinstein, committee chairwoman, defended the release: “Releasing this report is an important step to restoring our values and showing the world that we are a just society.” Similarly, President Barack Obama declared: “The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States.”

In Mental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft, I investigate how the government uses mental health professionals to advance national security interests and how mental health professionals serve such ends. I examine bioethical debates on whether mental health professionals should do no harm or participate in interrogations. I examine debates among prosecution and defense teams on the meanings of detainee mental health symptoms in Guantanamo tribunals. I conclude that the War on Terror has pushed American government officials to treat terrorism as a military problem requiring new forms of mental health knowledge, practice, and institutions rather than a law enforcement problem handled through extant institutions.

The Senate committee’s report reinforces this conclusion. After capture of militant Abu Zubaydah, a psychologist-contractor proposed in July 2002 that SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) techniques from the American military could be “novel interrogation methods” for the CIA. These techniques include walling, facial holding and slapping, cramped confinement, stress positions, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and mock burial. One CIA official clarified that “personnel will make every effort possible to insure [sic] that subject is not permanently physically or mentally harmed but we should not say at the outset of this process that there is no risk.” The psychologist-contractors normalized these techniques, responding, “The safety of any technique lies primarily in how it is applied and monitored.”


Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Mental Health, Culture, and Power in the War on Terror

Mental Health in the War on Terror

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. In today’s post, we have an excerpt from the first chapter of Mental Health in the War on Terror, in which Aggarwal introduces his project, takes a close look at the causes and symptoms of PTSD, and examines the effects that the War on Terror had on an American veteran and a detainee at Guantánamo Bay.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Mental Health in the War on Terror!

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal

Mental Health in the War on Terror

“Very few people are able to synthesize the disciplines of anthropology, mental health, cultural studies, political theory, religious studies, bioethics and forensics as Aggarwal does in this book. He offers a balanced and insightful account of the challenges of forensic psychiatry in assessing and managing terrorism suspects.” — Hamada Hamid, Yale University

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Mental Health in the War on Terror. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, January 16th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

To the Point: A New E-book Series from Columbia University Press

To the Point

To the Point, Bruce HoffmanTo the Point, Julia KristevaTo the Point, Peter Piot                 To the Point, Joel SimonTo the Point, Evan Thompson

Columbia University Press is proud to announce the launch of To the Point an exciting new e-book series that extends the scholarship of our authors for a growing global and digital audience. We present standalone chapters from the press’s forthcoming fall season books, with original short-format works to come to the series in the future.

These works serve to introduce our authors’ provocative ideas to new readers in accessible, affordable formats. Featuring works by Bruce Hoffman, Julia Kristeva, Evan Thompson, and others in disciplines ranging from politics and philosophy to food science and social work.

To the Point titles are available for only $1.99 from your favorite e-book vendor.

The first five e-book shorts to be released for sale in the To the Point series are:

* The 7/7 London Underground Bombing: Not So Homegrown, by Bruce Hoffman
A selection from The Evolution of the Global Terrorist Threat: From 9/11 to Osama bin Laden’s Death

* Understanding Through Fiction, by Julia Kristeva
A selection from Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila

* AIDS as an International Political Issue, by Peter Piot
A selection from AIDS Between Science and Politics

* Informing the Global Citizen, by Joel Simon
A Selection from The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom

* Dying: What Happens When We Die?, by Evan Thompson
A Selection from Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Joseph Cirinicone Discusses the Iran Nuclear Deal on Rachel Maddow

Joseph Cirinicione, author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late, was recently on The Rachel Maddow Show to discuss the recent nuclear deal with Iran. Cirincione considers how Obama’s strategy of sanctions led to the deal, discusses Israel’s reaction and the widespread approval of the plan.

For more on Cirincione’s view on and support of the deal with Iran, you read his essay The Deal is for Real. Cirincione writes:

The deal Secretary John Kerry masterfully crafted in Geneva eliminates the threat Mr. Netanyahu said was his most serious concern. It completely stops the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent. It gets rid of all the uranium Iran had already enriched to this level. As a result, it doubles the time it would take Iran to dash to a bomb, plus it adds tough new daily inspections of the nuclear facilities that could spot any such dash, giving nations ample time to take appropriate actions.

But wait, there’s more. The deal basically freezes the Iranian program in place. It is not a complete suspension, but it makes sure that Iran cannot move ahead with its program while negotiations continue.

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Paul Pillar: Still Peddling Iraq War Myths, Ten Years Later

Paul Pillar

We continue our week long feature on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq with a look at a recent essay by Paul Pillar, author of Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform.

In the essay Still Peddling Iraq War Myths, Ten Years Later, published on Pillar’s excellent blog for The National Interest, argues that:

[T]he anniversary retrospectives also give renewed exposure to those who promoted the war and have a large stake in still promoting the idea that they were not responsible for foisting on the nation an expedition that was so hugely damaging to American interests.

Pillar’s article was in part inspired by a recent event he participated in with former Bush administration figures the then-deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley and Douglas Feith, who as an undersecretary of defense was one of the most rabid supporters of the invasion of Iraq. Still maintaining that the war needed to be fought to protect the United States, Hadley and Feith suggest that if any mistake was made in deciding to go to war it was following bad intelligence. The lesson to learn is that administrations need to ask tougher questions about intelligence.

As Pillar shows, in what amounts to a devastating critique of the fallacy of Hadley and Feith’s position, bad intelligence had little to do with the Bush administration’s choice to go to invade Iraq. Bush and his neoconservative advisers wanted to get rid of Saddam and saw the post 9-11 atmosphere as giving them an opening. The administration backed intelligence when it supported their case (as with WMD’s) and discredited it when it challenged it (as with the lack of a connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda).


Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Blake W. Mobley on Terrorism and Counterintelligence

“Terrorist counterintelligence vulnerabilities are common, predictable, and, with some ingenuity, can be exploited.”—Blake W. Mobley, Terrorism and Counterintelligence

Blake W. Mobley, Terrorism and CounterintelligenceEarlier this summer, Blake W. Mobley, author of Terrorism and Counterintelligence: How Terrorist Groups Elude Detection, took The Page 99 Test.

In taking the “test,” Mobley describes how page 99 of his book reflects larger issues and arguments of his book. As Mobley shows, on page 99, his description of Fatah and Black September’s efforts at counterintelligence reflects key components of terrorists’ strategies:

Page 99 brings the reader to the very core of the argument. A comparison of Fatah and Black September shows how the groups’ counterintelligence strengths and weaknesses varied according to their organizational structure and popular support. I note that Black September’s highly centralized command structure promoted significant vulnerabilities—specifically, standardized security procedures and centralized personnel databases, which the Jordanian and Israeli security services were able to exploit. However, the group’s centralized command structure was also a source of strength. It allowed Black September to “respond quickly” to security breaches, “replacing agents and changing its codes” to prevent extensive damage to the organization.


Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Recommends “American Force,” by Richard Betts

Richard Betts, American ForceIt’s not everyday that one of our books gets noticed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff notices one of our book. However, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey, recently strongly recommended Richard Betts’s American Force: Dangers, Delusions, and Dilemmas in National Security in the feature The Chairman’s Nightstand on the Department of Defense web site.

In describing why American Force matters, Dempsey writes:

Dr. Betts makes the argument that the U.S. does not do a good enough job of reconciling what we want to achieve with the resources available. He contends that when we do make the choice to intervene, we too often minimize our resource commitments and put our goals at risk. He sees this leading to indecisive undertakings. He cautions about the unpredictable character of conflict: “A decision on force is a gamble, but there are no acceptable rules for judging the odds of success.” His thought-provoking arguments are worthy of our consideration.”

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Richard Betts on “American Force” and Current Threats to the United States

Richard Betts, American ForceEarlier this summer, Richard Betts talked with BookTV in a fascinating discussion about the issues raised in his recent book American Force: Dangers, Delusions, and Dilemmas in National Security.

In the interview, Betts discussed how his approach to national security has changed since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. While he saw himself as “hawkish” on military and national security issues during the Cold War, he feels recent, overly aggressive policies have been misguided and costly. Betts argues that the threat of terrorism, while serious, does not approach the magnitude of what the United States was confronting during the Cold War. Thus efforts such as the war against Iraq have been counterproductive.

Richard Betts also responded to questions about a variety of other current issues, including Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, which he supports as the “least bad alternative” in a difficult situation; Iran, which he recognizes as a serious threat but where the policy of sanctions and deterrence must be followed rather than “preventive war.” He also discusses U.S. options in North Korea and Syria.

Betts views preventing terrorists from getting the nuclear bomb as the most crucial issue confronting the United States. However, he also argues that the U.S. must work very hard to build a stronger relationship with China to prevent a Cold War-like situation from developing.

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Stephen Tankel — Afghan War Is Not Over Yet

Storming the World StageYesterday, CNN.com published “Afghan War Is Not Over Yet,” by Stephen Tankel, an assistant professor at American University, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the author of Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba. In this article, Tankel takes a detailed look at the unsettled political situation in Central Asia after President Obama’s announcement of the “irreversible” plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. Tankel sees a great deal of uncertainty that must be resolved and a wide variety of challenges that must be be met before any successful withdrawal can be effected.

He first questions the efficacy of the Afghan National Army in maintaining stability:

The Afghan National Army is already taking the lead in regions with roughly 75% of the population, with U.S. and other NATO troops acting as support. However, this does not include the most contested areas in the south and east, where Afghan forces are slated to assume responsibility by next summer. Serious doubts persist about their readiness to do so.

Despite significant training efforts, the army’s level of competence remains in question. It lacks many of the support functions needed for war fighting. The army will remain dependent on international forces for these capabilities and on the international community for financial assistance, expected to cost at least $4 billion a year.


Monday, May 14th, 2012

The Poetry of the Taliban

The Poetry of the TalibanThe Poetry of the Taliban, edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn and due out in July is already garnering a lot of discussion both positive and negative.

Richard Kemp, a former commander of British troops in Afghanistan criticized the book in The Guardian, cautioning readers against “being taken in by a lot of self-justifying propaganda”.

However, Michael Dwyer, managing director of Hurst & Co., the British publisher of The Poetry of the Taliban, views the book as an important part of their list of books focusing on Afghanistan: “All these books, including Poetry of the Taliban, contribute to our knowledge of Afghanistan and the vicissitudes endured by its people in recent decades.””

In the New York Times blog At War, C. J. Chivers argues that the book Reading The Poetry of the Taliban as a way of better understanding the Taliban and Afghanistan:

Whatever the current controversy, “Poetry of the Taliban” serves as a martial and social artifact from a broken land. Its poems are variously political and pastoral, one moment enraged and the next heavy with sorrow … They capture ambitions, loneliness, resolve and fear. Many passages crudely mock the West. Others sketch the Taliban’s foes in harsh but lyrical caricature, including a passage in “Death is a Gift” that acidly describes Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, as among “those who have one mouth but utter fifty different words and have fifty different thoughts/Like Karzai; I will not behave like a juggler.”


Friday, January 27th, 2012

Michael R. Powers on Terrorism Forecasting

Michael R. Powers, Acts of God and Man

The following excerpt on terrorism forecasting is from Acts of God and Man: Ruminations on Risk and Insurance, by Michael R. Powers:

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. insurance industry confronted billions of dollars in unanticipated losses. In addition, major global reinsurers quickly announced that they no longer would provide coverage for acts of terrorism in reinsurance contracts. Recognizing that historical loss forecasts had failed to account sufficiently for terrorism events and facing an immediate shortage of reinsurance, many U.S. primary insurance companies soon declared their intention to exclude terrorism risk from future policies. This pending market disruption led the U.S. Congress to pass the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) of 2002 to “establish a temporary federal program that provides for a transparent system of shared public and private compensation for insured losses resulting from acts of terrorism.” Subsequently, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act (TRIEA) of 2005, which was similar (but not identical) to the TRIEA.

From the U.S. Treasury Department’s perspective, the TRIA was intended to provide protection for business activity from the unexpected financial losses of terrorist attacks until the U.S. insurance industry could develop a self- sustaining private terrorism insurance market. However, during the debate over the TRIEA, representatives of the U.S. property liability insurance industry argued that the industry lacked sufficient capacity to assume terrorism risks without government support and that terrorism risks were still viewed as uninsurable in the market.

Given that the TRIEA was extended for a further seven years at the end of 2007, the debate over the need for a federal role in the terrorism insurance market is far from over. Although the federal government does not want to serve as the insurer of last resort for an indefinite period, it is clear that there are major obstacles to developing a private market for terrorism coverage.


Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Fred Ikle (1924-2011)

Fred IkleWe were sad to learn that Fred Ikle, author of Annihilation from Within: The Ultimate Threat to Nations and Every War Must End, passed away earlier this month.

Fred Ikle was undersecretary of Defense during Reagan’s second term and before that an important policymaker in the Defense Department. He is considered by many to have helped shape the deterrence policy that contributed to the end of the Cold War.

On the website for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Sam Nunn writes, “Fred Iklé will be remembered as a giant in foreign policy and national security. He helped steer the Department of Defense through the final critical years of the Cold War and always imagined a more hopeful future based on the principles of democracy.”


Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Paul Pillar Discusses Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy on Andrea Mitchell Reports to Discuss

Fresh off a review of his book Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy:Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform, in the New York Times , Paul Pillar was a guest on Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC.

Among other issues, Pillar discusses not only how intelligence became politicized during the lead up to the Iraq War but also how certain reports were ignored by members of the Bush administration. These included the famous memo on WMD’s but also estimates about what would happen in Iraq after an invasion and its impact on the region.

Paul Pillar also weighed in on the recent assassination of al-Awlaki. He worries that there needs to be clearer lines about targeting U.S. citizens and whether propagandists should be seen in the same light of those in charge of operations:

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy by Paul Pillar Reviewed in the New York Times

Paul Pillar

Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Thomas Powers calls Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform, by Paul Pillar, a “rich, useful and important book.”

Paul Pillar’s examination of the politicization of intelligence, particularly by the Bush administration during the lead up to the war with Iraq offers several disquieting revelations. While Powers acknowledges that there might be some who criticize the book for being “a special pleading of an insider.” Power continues:

But [Pillar] is a lucid writer drawing on long experience and wide reading. At stake is our ability as a nation to think clearly about what intelligence services can do and for whom they should do it. Standing in the way of getting this straight has been deep public reluctance to recognize two facts — the Bush administration’s role in turning a blind eye to the dangers of terrorist attack before 9/11, and its determination to whip up fears of Iraqi W.M.D.’s, which allowed the president to send an American army into the heart of the Middle East.


Friday, September 16th, 2011

Paul Pillar on Iran

Paul Pillar

Paul Pillar’s recently published Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform explores some of the missteps in reorganizing intelligence in the wake of al-Qaeda attacks. One of the most crucial challenges facing U.S. intelligence and foreign policy today is, of course, Iran and its nuclear program.

As Paul Pillar has argued that Western intelligence cannot detect a decision that hasn’t been made about Iran’s nuclear program and cannot be completely relied upon. He writes in a recent post for The National Interest that the United States should seriously consider Iran’s offer to allow nuclear inspectors of its activities. Pillar argues:

It would be a mistake to respond as Americans have too often responded, which is to assume the worst about the intentions on the other side and to act in a way that would make sense only if that assumption were true, even though we don’t know it to be true. It would make far more sense to act with the realization that as far as we know the Iranian statement could be anything from a major breakthrough to a phony bit of rhetoric. The only way to find out is to explore the unexplored road and talk with the Iranians about it. If the favorable possibility turns out to be true, talking could be the first step toward a comprehensive safeguards agreement. If the unfavorable possibility turns out to be true, little or nothing is lost; in fact the Western case for pressuring Iran would be strengthened by demonstrating that the West is willing to go the extra mile.

Paul Pillar also recently participated at a public briefing at the Atlantic Council, in which they discussed a recent report they issued, How Reliable is Intelligence on Iran’s Nuclear Program? You can read a summary or listen to the panel discussion here.