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Prof. Al Santoli discusses his course on Counterterrorism through Cultural Engagement and Development

Seminar with Al Santoli, September 2014In this interview, Prof. Albert Santoli discusses his course entitled “Counterterrorism through Cultural Engagement and Development” (IWP 670).

What do you cover in your course (briefly)?

Today’s global conflicts involve economics, communications, military/intelligence, and social relationships. We face a new generation of unconventional “millennial” terror groups which are proficient with social media, as well as high-tech conventional forces such as China and Russia. These new challenges require diversified response capabilities. The goal of this course is to demonstrate how to utilize knowledge of history, culture, and the relationships among local families, clans, and tribes as essential components to proactive and cost-effective security solutions. The course explores different modes of building alliances necessary to mitigate the growing influence of increasingly media-savvy extremist groups. Students will be introduced to instruments of non-traditional engagement and citizen diplomacy. We will utilize “conflict mapping” techniques to factor in economics, civil society, environment, public health, education, and the role of women. Our emphasis is to conduct successful “citizen diplomacy” in complex and dangerous environments.

What makes your course unique?

This course is unique in that I continue to conduct on-site grassroots citizen diplomacy in areas with a strong presence of Muslim and leftist terrorist activities.  I have served in the U.S. military, led civilian grassroots organizations, and have served as a policy oversight expert in the U.S. House of Representatives. My experience spans 40 years and at least ten areas of the world during armed conflicts, beginning with experiences in conventional and unconventional military units in Vietnam.  This was followed by post-genocide Cambodia, civil war in El Salvador, Kosovo, Taiwan’s survival vs. China, keeping alive resistance communities when bin Laden controlled Afghanistan, and currently with an emphasis in field programs in Muslim Mindanao and leftist insurgency zones in the Philippines. 

Is one likely to find such a course at an institution other than IWP?

My approach is unique as a former combatant, a best-selling author of military history, as founder and creator of a humanitarian and non-violent counter-terror organization, and my ongoing commitment to integrating theory and practice.  It is a unique because it is integrated within a faculty of experienced national-security professionals.  This course does not advocate either a globalist United Nations or a military psychological operations approach. Instead, we utilize traditions of American democracy beginning at the local community level that have made America great.

What makes your course useful to students?

This course is especially useful to students who are creative, “out of the box” thinkers who believe that the war against terror can be more effectively won through less expensive human resources.  We focus on “force-multiplying” and building alliances with a people-to-people approach.  We emphasize integrated and diversified common-sense programs for communities to “buy-in” and build true alliances. Also, as a leader in field programs and former senior analyst in government, I will teach students how to focus their communication skills and how to write effective policy memorandums to departmental or national leaders.

Can you tell us more about the IWP Center for Culture and Freedom?

The IWP Center for Culture and Freedom is currently being created as a venue for experienced practitioners and government officials to hold candid and thoughtful discussions related to analysis of emerging crises around the world without concern of being on the public record.  At the suggestion of Dr. Lenczowski, the Center will create a unique Guidebook on Civic Engagement and Citizen Diplomacy that we intend to publish and make available at IWP and other Academic, NGO and Governmental institutions.   In addition, we are integrating the inter-agency study of weather and other scientific factors as essential components of holistic national security.