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Terrorism Studies Programs Incorporate Terrorism Theory and Fundamentals of Counter-Terrorism

Terrorism Studies Programs Incorporate Terrorism Theory and Fundamentals of Counter-Terrorism


United States counter-terrorism counter-terrorism operations have been forefront in the public eye throughout the past few months, given the elaborate operation to finally hunt down Osama bin Laden. As has been reported across multiple channels, this operation relied upon patient intelligence-gathering and analysis from multiple agencies. Without collaboration from numerous sources this operation would never have come to fruition. This insight into intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism planning illustrates the importance of understanding both terrorism theory and the basic fundamentals of counter-terrorism, as one informs the other. In addition to understanding the basic underlying structure of a terrorist group, including where it originated and how it networks, professionals need to be equipped with theories and resources on how to combat terrorism – the essentials of counter-terrorism theory and practice. How a government formulates a counter-terrorism policy is directly dependent upon its analysis and view of the terrorist threat. Therefore, educational institutions that provide terrorism studies programs must teach both disciplines. This essay provides an overview of terrorism studies programs, an explanation of counter-terrorism, and then explains why terrorism studies programs must incorporate both counter-terrorism strategy as well as the theoretical underpinnings of terrorism.

Terrorism studies programs

Terrorism studies programs have multiplied over the past two decades. Originally those scholars and practitioners interested in pursuing this field had to do so under the auspices of international studies or political science programs. The increase in the global presence of terrorism, however, has led to the development of focused terrorism studies programs. These programs teach students the basic history and theories of terrorism. Such programs focus on teaching students the difference between religiously-motivated versus politically-motivated terrorism, and provide an overview of right and left wing terrorism, among other topics. While it is important to understand the basic underpinnings of terrorism, however, students and practitioners must also learn the fundamentals of counter-terrorism strategies in order to have a comprehensive view of how to combat terrorism.

What is Counter-terrorism?

Counter-terrorism is a set of offensive strategies used to prevent terrorist attacks and destroy terrorist networks. According to the U.S. military, counter-terrorism is: “Operations that include the offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, preempt, and respond to terrorism.” The creation of a counter-terrorism plan involves input from multiple organizations, including intelligence agencies, politicians, the military, and even outside scholars who specialize in counter-terrorism strategy. Counter-terrorism programs provide students with a deep understanding of terrorist strategies and dynamics as well as advanced knowledge on how to combat terrorism and protect individuals and property. These programs also fuse intelligence collection and analysis with counter-terrorisms strategies as both are vital for successful counter-terrorism campaigns.

Since counter-terrorism is such an intricate strategy, however, it requires practitioners to be well-versed in both counter-terrorism techniques as well as the fundamentals of terrorism theory and history. Effective terrorism studies programs, therefore, should incorporate both theory and counter-terrorism strategies in order to train practitioners to effectively combat terrorism. When searching for academic programs to prepare them for careers in counter-terrorism, students should look for those programs which fuse both terrorism theory with the practical applications of counter-terrorism strategy.

Dan Sommer works for Henley-Putnam University, a leading educational institution in the field of Strategic Security. For more info on Henley-Putnam University, counter-terrorism, terrorism studies, call 888-852-8746 or visit us online at

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