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Prof. Harmon lectures on “How Terrrorist Groups End”

On Friday, September 10, IWP Professor Christopher C. Harmon lectured a group of nearly 100 IWP students, faculty, and friends on “How Terrorist Groups End.”

Prof. Harmon was introduced by IWP’s new Dean, Prof. Charles Smith , who explained Prof. Harmon’s background as one of the nation’s foremost experts on terrorism and counterterrorism. Prof. Harmon’s many publications include, most recently, Toward a Grand Strategy Against Terrorism (McGraw-Hill/Duskin, 2010), which he co-edited.

To begin his discussion, Prof. Harmon observed that although there are several historical instances in which terrorist groups have been defeated, there is little systematic literature about these events. He proceeded to describe some of these historical defeats of terrorist groups, as well as several models of ways in which to defeat these groups.

Some groups have been taken down very quickly in a matter of days. For instance, the white supremacy group The Order, which existed throughout the U.S., was quickly dismantled after a shootout in Washington State in which its leader died.

Prof. Harmon described other examples in which combined government pressure and an army campaign were used to crush a terrorist movement. In other instances, such as the case of Abimael Guzmán’s organization in Peru in the 1970s, terrorist groups have been destroyed mainly by the efforts of the national police force and its intelligence operations. In other cases, terrorist groups have been dismantled though democratic means, and many of the former members of these groups become members of college and university faculties.

Another way to destroy a terrorist group, according to Prof. Harmon, is to fight it on the level of grand strategy — probably the way that an IWP student would approach this question. Prof. Harmon explained that this method involves using all the tools of statecraft in a synchronized, coherent way, and to direct these tools towards the eradication of the security threat. For instance, former Philippine President Ramón del Fierro Magsaysay fought terrorism in his country by using all the tools in his arsenal: reforming elections, purging the Army, and appointing humane officials who understood how to use intelligence.

To read one of Dr. Harmon’s two chapters, “How Terrorist Groups End,” which was published recently in The Air University’s Strategic Studies Quarterly magazine, please click here.