Inside Terrorism
Bruce Hoffman  More Info

A course on terrorism should be core to a criminal justice degree.

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Module One

(Defining Terrorism)


Required Readings:

1. Understanding Terrorism (Poland)

    a.    Chapter One: Concepts of Terror and Terrorism

    b.    Chapter Two: Historical Antecedents of Terrorism and Violence
    c.    Chapter Five: Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations: The "A List."

2.  Terrorism (Snowden & Whitsel)

    a.    Chapter One: Identity and the Terrorist Threat: An Interpretive and Explanatory


    b.    Chapter Two: The Changing Face of American Terrorism

    c.    Chapter Five: Implementing Justice through Terror and Destruction: Ecoterror's

           Violent Agenda to "Save" Nature.

    d.    Chapter Ten: The Right to Revise History:  The Institute for Historical Review

    E.    Chapter Fourteen: Zealous Before the Lord: The Construction of Christian Identity


Recommended Readings:

(Available via the Union Institute and University electronic library)


1.    Ganor, B. (2002). Defining Terrorism: Is One Man's Terrorist another Man's

       Freedom Fighter? Police Practice & Research, 3(4), p287.  

2.    Sunhauseen, U. (2004) Terrorism and America. Social Alternatives. 23(2), p6.

3.    Laquer, W. (2004) World of Terror. National Geographic. 206(5), p72.

4.    Larabee, A. (2003). A Brief History of Terrorism in the United States.

       Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 16(1), p21.

5.   Duff, R. (2005). Notes on Punishment and Terrorism. American Behavioral

      Scientist, 48(6), p758.


(Click to follow hyperlinks)

The Changing Faces of Terrorism

A Brief History of Terrorism

(Note: Assignment due dates are listed on the course homepage)


Written Assignments


Using the readings and your own research, complete a 4-6 page paper. Explore the various definitions of terrorism. What definition would you use? As you complete your paper, consider the following questions: What are the strengths of your definition of terrorism? What are the weaknesses? Is terrorism a military problem or a criminal justice problem? How does your definition cover state terror, state involvement in terror, state sponsorship of terror and stateless terrorist groups? What, if any, theories on violence, particularly political violence support your definition? How is your definition shaped by your own cultural, political and social views?


Hint:: Superior work (an A grade) will include sources from academic, peer reviewed journals; be properly formatted and sourced in APA style.


Session/Semester Long Project:

Your final project will involve an analysis of an active terrorist group.  Click here to go to the MIPT Terrorism information Center.  In order to use their library of edocs you will have to register.  Once you have registered.  Search the eDocuments for the Country Reports on Terrorism.  Once you find this document,  take a look at the different active groups in 2005.  Compare the 2005 country reports against Poland's list of active groups.  Choose a group for your final project analysis.  Submit a one page justifying your choice and determining whether the group is an international or domestic group.  Note that you final project should be 8-10 pages in length.


Practical Exercise




Participation Assignment


Go to the Criminal Justice Online forum and post:


1.      Register and create a user name that is your first initial, last name, and the
         word  "Union."  If I  were creating that user name I would be rfosterunion.

2.     Click here to find the first threaded discussion assignment.

3.      After you have posted, you must respond to a post made by another Union     


Due Date Fall 2009
Session I Session II Go To
August 31, 2009 October 26, 2009 Session Begins
September 11, 2009 November 6, 2009 Module One (Defining Terrorism)
September 25, 2009 November 20, 2009 Module Two (Modus Operandi of Terrorists)
October 9, 2009 December 4, 2009 Module Three (Response to Terrorism)
October 21, 2009 December 16, 2009 Module Four (Emerging Trends)
October 24, 2009 December 19, 2009 Session Ends

Submit Module One By email - Click Here

According to one reader of Inside Terrorism, Bruce Hoffman, long one of RAND's key terrorism-wallahs and an affiliate of St Andrews University has written an excellent book on a controversial topic. There was a fair amount of literature on terrorism prior to September 11th and, my, but there's even more now. A lot of it was a load of old rubbish prior to September 11th and even more of it is now. Hoffman's book is a work of substance which in itself puts it ahead of much of the pack. "Inside Terrorism" covers a variety of areas. It opens with a discussion about the lengthy (and continuing) debate that surrounds the issue of defining terrorism - an issue which has stumped everyone from academics to the UN. What and who exactly IS a terrorist? Hoffman doesn't provide a clear cut, definitive answer but he does provide clear coverage of what is framing the argument, along with some of the possible answers which are being put forward. Whether you consider this level of debate to be self-indulgent and ivory tower or not (as I increasingly do, interesting thought it is) it is important to know that the debate does exist and what it's all about as it goes to the heart of some real-life anti-terrorism policy making, especially with regard to multilateral attempts to curb terror groups.

Hoffman moves on to cover Post-colonial ethnic or nationalist terror groups, international terrorism, Religion and terrorism, Terrorism, Media and public opinion, Terrorist methods and mindsets and the potential future of terrorism. All in all, it adds up to a fairly comprehensive introduction to the subject. Some of Hoffman's conclusions aren't to everybody's tastes, but terrorism is an inherently controversial and hotly debated issue, it's the nature of the beast. Overall, this is an excellent overview and introduction to the subject of terrorism. Certainly better than the recent work of Walter Laqueur. The newcomer to the subject would also be well advised to check out Christopher Harmon's "Terrorism Today" as well, along with Paul Wilkinson's "Terrorism and Democracy". Ken Booth's "Worlds in Collision" is an excellent collection of essays by various authors that is ideal for somebody with an interest in the post-September 11th world.

Hoffman's writing style is not immediately engaging (I found the book far more digestible on a second reading), but this is still an excellent work for the beginner. In a field that is both crowded and shallow, Hoffman has produced a book of genuine substance and for that he deserves credit.

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