Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2023

Course Description

This seminar explores the historical and political origins of 9/11 and America’s subsequent global response, the War on Terror (sometimes referred to as the Global War on Terror). It begins with the backstory: the rise of political Islam—both moderate and militant—in the Middle East, the militant turn from the “near enemy” of regional governments to the “far enemy” of the West, and the successful Afghan war against Soviet occupation, which served as an inspiration and training ground for al- Qaeda’s global jihad. Then the focus turns to America’s decades-long WOT that resulted in two U.S.- led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with temporary occupations and faltering attempts at nation- state building in both countries; massive loss of life, especially among local populations; expenditure of trillions of dollars; and the creation of an extra-legal detention center at the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) to hold “terrorists.” This event history provides the opportunity 1.) to discuss and debate Islamist ideology, the rise of global jihad, and Western foreign policy in the Muslim world; and 2.) to wrestle with some important and uncomfortable questions: Did U.S. foreign policy play a role in 9/11? Was the WOT necessary or legal? Is America safer as a result? Is the Middle East more stable? Has “terrorism” diminished?

Student Outcomes

Students will be able to: 1. Analyze the historical context and factors that led to the events of 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror, including the role of political, social, and economic dynamics. 2. Evaluate the impact of the 9/11 attacks on global geopolitics, international relations, and the reshaping of security policies and strategies. 3. Examine the key individuals, organizations, and ideologies associated with the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks, as well as the response of governments and security agencies. 4. Critically assess the ethical and legal dilemmas arising from counterterrorism measures implemented during the War on Terror, including issues related to civil liberties, human rights, and international law. 5. Investigate the role of media and communication in shaping public perceptions, narratives, and discourse surrounding 9/11 and the ongoing fight against terrorism. 6. Compare and contrast the effectiveness of various counterterrorism tactics, such as military interventions, intelligence operations, diplomacy, and efforts to counter radicalization and extremism. 7. Analyze the socio-cultural consequences of the War on Terror, including its impact on marginalized communities, national identity, and the rise of Islamophobia. 8. Formulate informed viewpoints on the long-term implications of the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terror, considering their influence on current global security challenges, the evolution of terrorism, and prospects for peace and stability.