The terrorist attacks of September 11 stunned the world. Most people condemned the attacks and rallied behind America, a few celebrated the attacks, while others condemned both the terrorists and America. Our nation was not only jolted by the carnage but frightened by the intensity of the hatred behind those cleverly contrived and well-planned operations. Yet, the vexing questions remain: Why would anyone do such a thing? Why do they hate us?

This semester we will try to find out not only how and why these attacks occurred but we will attempt to put them into historical context. We will look at the history of terrorism, both domestic and international, and examine the many factors that may have provided causation. Among those are: the uncertainty caused by the end of the Cold War, “blowback” from an arrogant American foreign policy, the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, globalization of liberal capitalism, the spread of American popular culture in all its wonder and tawdriness, the rise of orthodox and fundamentalism sects in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and the rise of radical Islamist nationalism.

We will also look at the implications of September 11 and subsequent terrorist events on national security, civil liberties, privacy, and American/international economic and political culture. In short, we will try to determine if September 11 was indeed a signal event, a turning point in world history on the level of a Pearl Harbor, or a brief though troublesome aberration in the march of progress. We will also look at dissenting opinions about how America should respond to global terrorism.

Readings include:

Walter Laqueur, The New Terrorism

Peter L. Bergon, Holy War, Inc.

Benjamin Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld

Morris Dees, Gathering Storm

Robin Wright, Sacred Rage