Political Violence – Fall 2013 (PS 370)

Political Violence – Fall 2013
(PS 370)
Monday 4:00 – 6:40 pm (Little Theater)
Prof. Dipak K. Gupta
Ph. (619) 594-4067 Office hours: M, T 3:00 – 4:00 (or by appointment)
Office: AH - 4119
e-mail: [email protected]
Homepage: http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/dgupta/
You may want to know who I am and what my research agendas are. You are
encouraged to look at my homepage (http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/dgupta/.
Course objective:
The world is awash with politically motivated violence. The objective of this course is
twofold. First, I would like to acquaint the students with the issues of that cause people
to kill others, often without remorse by engaging in ethnic violence and terrorism.
Second, we would learn about a specific country, Pakistan. Pakistan, some time is
dubbed as “the most dangerous place in the world” is being wracked by political
violence. While most anti-Western acts of terrorism trace their origin to Pakistan, it also
has world’s highest casualty figures from terrorism. Since this country occupies such an
important place in the US foreign policy, it is important for us to understand how a nation
can reach such a state. From what we would learn about human motivations in the first
half, will help us make sense of the current conditions of Pakistan.
What would you learn after the course is over? Here is specifically what I would like you
to know:
Conflicts between groups have been in existence for even before the establishment of
organized societies. As a result, there have been warfare and other forms of mass-based
violence throughout history. The recent manifestation of this conflict has produced
“terrorism” all over the world. I hope that at the end of this class, the students will have a
clear idea about why it is becoming such an important issue in an increasingly interconnected world. At the same time they should learn about the conditions, under which
such conflicts can be managed. Specifically, the students are expected to learn the
a brief history of some of the major current conflicts around the world
an understanding of the complex human nature that make people join violent
dissident organizations
the dynamics within which terrorism can thrive, which includes state
responses to the acts of violence by the dissident groups
an understanding of policies that can reduce the risks of terrorism and other
forms of ethnic conflicts
There is another important side-objective for this course. Since these topics may evoke
strong emotions it is often impossible to discuss them objectively. In this class we will
cover many topics, written by a wide variety of scholars, from academics to military
officials. Through our classroom discussions and Blog postings, we will learn to take
part in this global discourse with civility and mutual respect. Any Blog posting that is
considered offensive, will be deleted.
In sum, in this class we would ask the question, “why does terrorism take place, what are
some of the root causes, and who take part in these violent actions?” Based on the
answers to these questions, we will seek ways to mitigate the biggest threat to our
national security.
Course description:
It is tempting to say that the world changed on the 11th of September, 2001. However,
the unfortunate truth is that the world was already awash with ethnic violence, religious
intolerance, and genocidal frenzy. It was only that day the message was brought home to
us. Therefore, if we want to understand the world of political violence, we must
understand the complex process that produces such atrocities.
In the first part of the course, by drawing from various branches of academic disciplines,
we will attempt to develop a broader framework than within which human behavior is
traditionally viewed. Based on this framework, we will attempt to understand the world
of mass political violence, where people kill others not for personal reasons, but because
of their group affiliation, their ethnic origin, nationality, or religious practices. This
course is divided into two parts. In this section we will learn various theories of why
people join violent political movements, some of which we call, terrorism. This section
will be covered by the first three chapters of the book: Understanding Terrorism and
Political Violence.
After a brief course in history, we will look into the life cycle of terrorist groups and ask
questions: why are they born, why do they grow, why some of them transform into
criminal organizations, and why most of them die out?
Finally, looking at the future, we will ask how real is the threat from al-Qaeda and radical
Islamists to the West? Who are they and how is this ideology spreading? Since human
nature will always propel us toward forming groups and choose violence as a means of
achieving the group objectives, in the last segment of the class we will also analyze
policies that can help us manage the risk of terrorism in the future. For this section of the
class, we will read Pamela Constable’s book, Playing with Fire.
Class Lectures
Since in this class the exams are open books, my lectures will not only cover the
materials covered in the textbooks but also a number of related topics. These lectures are
designed to broaden your horizon to the much wider topic of social upheavals. I would
like you to participate fully. If you have a contrary opinion, please feel free to express
them. I would like to have a free flowing discussion in class. Those who are more
reticent about expressing their views in a large class, are encouraged to do so in the
Backboard blog (see below).
Required texts:
Dipak K. Gupta (2008). Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence: The Life Cycle
of Birth, Growth, Transformation, and Demise. Routledge.
Pamela Constable (2011). Playing with Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself. New York:
Random House.
I will also supply from time to time important articles.
Highly recommended readings:
Marc Sageman (2008) Leaderless Jihad. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Bruce Riedel (2008) The Search for al-Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future.
Brookings Institute.
Mohammed Hafez (2007) Suicide Bombers in Iraq. Washington D. C.: US Institute for
Matthew Alexander (2008) How to Break A Terrorist. New York: Free Press.
Stephen Tenkel (2011) Storming the World Stage:
Columbia University Press.
The Story of Laskar-e-Taiba.
Dilip Hiro (2011) Apocalyptic Realm: Jihadism in Southeast Asia. Yale University Press.
Khadra, Yasmina (2008). The Sirens of Baghdad. New York: Anchor.
Moghaddam, Fathali. (2006). From the Terrorists' Point of View What They Experience
and Why They Come to Destroy. Praeger Security International.
Mohammed Ayoob (2008) Many faces of Political Islam. Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press.
Syed Saleem Shahzad (2011) Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond bin Laden and
9/11. New York: Palgrave.
Christopher Fettweis (2009) “Freedom Fighters and Zealots: al-Qaeda in Historical
Perspective.” Political Science Quarterly. 124(2): 269-96.
Bruce Hoffman (2008) “The Myth of Grass-Roots Terrorism: Why Osama bin Laden
Still Matters.” Foreign Affairs. May/June, pp. 133-138.
There will be two examinations and a paper. All three of these are of equal weight.
These examinations will be based on short answers.
Your final grade for the course will be based on a curve:
Approximately the top 20% will get As, the next 20% will get Bs, 45% will get Cs, and
the lowest 15% will be given Ds of F.
Open Notes Tests
Since this class will require extensive reading with large number of unfamiliar names and
places, the tests will be open notes.
Paper (very important)
You will be responsible for writing an original paper (between 5 and 10 pages, doublespaced, without counting diagrams, notes, and bibliography). The paper can be written
on any dissident group (e.g., the Hamas, the al-Qaeda, the FARC, etc.), country in
conflict (e.g., Sudan, Nepal, Congo, Georgia, etc.) or an aspect of terrorism (e.g., cyber
terrorism, WMD, etc, or on a social movement, such the “Tea Party” movement or
“Occupy Wall Street.”
Your paper must be around a central question or thesis. Thus, This must be stated at the
beginning and should be reflected on the title you choose. Thus, any paper that has a
title, such as “Hamas,” or “Turkey” will be marked down. Remember, this is a political
science course. Therefore, a paper must not present a straight history. It must present a
political or a behavioral analysis. I will discuss my expectations from the paper in my
You are strongly advised to conduct data analysis. You will find data on terrorism on
Global Terrorism Database at: http://www.start.umd.edu/data/gtd/ Please navigate the
site and get yourself familiarized with it.
In your paper, you will have to present the following:
a) A meaningful and interesting title
b) Provide an abstract of no more than 150 words summarizing your paper
c) a brief history of the group/movement
d) reasons for its growth
e) its primary sources of recruits
f) if the group has been defeated or has significantly declined in strength, its reasons
g) at least five references (books/articles) on the group you are studying
The same set of instructions applies if you are going to write about a conflict or any
particular aspect of terrorism.
Paper due date
The paper will be due on December 3rd during the class period. Submission after that
date will carry a 10% reduction in points for the paper.
Join the Blackboard Discussion Group
Unfortunately, due to very high student demand, I have enlarged the class size. Even
though we have many more students than we had originally planned, it did not reduce the
need to have in-depth classroom discussions. Since it is impossible to engage everybody,
I have chosen the next best thing: an electronic discussion group offered by Blackboard.
I encourage all of you to participate; put up your comments, tell us about articles you
like, or add interesting links pertinent to the discussion. It is open to the public, so
anyone can participate. I would like you to look at it regularly, even if you don't post
your own comments more often than is required. Feel free to agree or disagree with the
postings (including mine, of course) as long as the language is not offensive. As an
incentive to your joining the discussion, 5% of your grade will be based on your
To join the discussion group, go to the Blackboard “Discussion”.
Plagiarism is a serious matter. Before writing your paper, you must know what
plagiarism is. Therefore, unless you have taken this on-line tutorial before, I strongly
urge that you take this tutorial to test your knowledge of the issues involved. View the
tutorial at: <http://infotutor.sdsu.edu/plagiarism/>http://infotutor.sdsu.edu/plagiarism/
Introduction: The World of Political Violence. How people get involved in
violent political movements. Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence,
Preface, Introduction. Pp. xiv-xix, 1-10.
September 3 – Labor Day – No Class
Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence, “Theories of the origins of
movements. (Chapters 1 and 2)
Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence “Selfish altruist: modeling the
mind of a terrorist” (pp. 32-63)
Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence “The dynamics of dissent: a
theoretical perspective” (pp. 64-103).
Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence
“Faith, nationalism, and class warfare: the birth of a movement” (pp. 102-122)
Examination # 1
Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence “Growth of a movement:
accounting for rapid escalation of violence” (pp. 123-145)
Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence, “A marriage made in hell?
Terrorism and organized crime” (pp. 146-160)
Faces of the Enemy: A documentary film exploring the root of human violent
Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence, “Demise of dissent: the
endgame of terrorism” (pp. 161-180) _
Veterans’ Day
A brief history of Pakistan (class lecture)
Playing with Fire, Chapters (The Flood, Sahibs, and Honor)
Playing with Fire, Chapters (Hate, Khaki, and Talibanization)
Playing with Fire, Chapters (The Siege, The Girl from Swat),
Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence – Terrorism’s Trap
Exam # 2: December 16
The test papers will be provided. You don’t need to bring anything but
your notes.