The Limits of Counterterrorism: Constructing Policy Responses

The Limits of Counterterrorism: Constructing Policy Responses

Thursday, May 21, 2015
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Encina Hall (2nd floor)


Abstract: The purpose of this book project is to explain what it is about terrorism that makes it inherently difficult for the American government to formulate an effective counterterrorism policy. Why is terrorism such an intractable problem?  What are the obstacles to developing a consistent and coherent counterterrorism strategy?  The barriers that we identify flow from the issue itself, not the particular political predispositions of individual policy makers or flawed organizational processes.  We also find that scholars and policy makers face similar difficulties – the study of terrorism is often confused and contentious, and the study of counterterrorism can be even more frustrating.  

The book is co-authored by Martha Crenshaw and  Gary LaFree, Director of the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, as well as professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.


About the Speaker: Martha Crenshaw is a senior fellow at CISAC and FSI and a professor of political science by courtesy at Stanford. She was the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor of Global Issues and Democratic Thought and professor of government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where she taught from 1974 to 2007. She has written extensively on the issue of political terrorism; her first article, "The Concept of Revolutionary Terrorism," was published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1972. Her recent work includes “Trajectories of terrorism: Attack patterns of foreign groups that have targeted the United States, 1970–2004,” in Criminology & Public Policy, 8, 3 (August 2009) (with Gary LaFree and Sue-Ming Yang), “The Obama Administration and Counterterrorism,” in Obama in Office: the First Two Years, ed. James Thurber (Paradigm Publishers, 2011), and “Will Threats Deter Nuclear Terrorism?” in Deterring Terrorism: Theory and Practice, ed. Andreas Wenger and Alex Wilner (Stanford University Press, 2012). She is also the editor of The Consequences of Counterterrorism (Russell Sage Foundation, 2010). In 2011 Routledge published Explaining Terrorism, a collection of her previously published work.

She served on the Executive Board of Women in International Security and is a former President and Councilor of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP). She coordinated the working group on political explanations of terrorism for the 2005 Club de Madrid International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security. In 2005-2006 she was a Guggenheim Fellow. Since 2005 she has been a lead investigator with the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, funded by the Department of Homeland Security. In 2009 she was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation/Department of Defense Minerva Initiative for a project on "mapping terrorist organizations." She serves on the editorial boards of the journals International Security, Political Psychology, Security Studies, Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, and Terrorism and Political Violence. She is currently a member of the Committee on Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture of the National Academies of Science.