On Monday, January 13, 2014, Prof. Christopher Harmon discussed his new book, A Citizen’s Guide to Terrorism and Counterterrorism, which examines terrorism and counterterrorism in the context of grand strategy.
Prof. Harmon noted that the United States remains vulnerable to terrorist attack, and that efforts to get Americans to self-radicalize will continue. In his book, he explores why the United States has not done more in its counterterrorism efforts. Reasons, he says, include various psychological and political barriers.
Prof. Harmon’s book also explains and analyzes what the US currently does in its counterterrorism efforts. It describes the coordinating roles of the White House and National Security Council, which help navigate the various bureaucracies and their competing interests.
During his lecture, Prof. Harmon examined some of the continuities and differences between President Obama’s counterterrorism strategy and that of President Bush. He noted some problems with the current administration’s approach, including ambiguity surrounding the question of whether the United States is at war and the lack of a new strategy for dealing with detainees.
The book also contains recommendations for improving US counterterrorism strategy. For instance, Prof. Harmon stated that public diplomacy efforts have not received enough thought or resources from the government in recent years. In addition, Prof. Harmon discussed several challenges involved in finding good intelligence analysts.
A Citizen’s Guide to Terrorism and Counterterrorism also examines various cases in which citizens thwarted the attempts of terrorists, including the case of Uli Derickson, a flight attendant who helped save lives during the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, and the passengers who stopped the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 from reaching their target on 9/11/2001.