The Rise of the Terror State
9/11, the Arab Spring & the End of the Postwar Order
Bard College, Fall 2015, Human Rights 327
Mondays 1:30 – 3:50 PM, Reem Kayden Center 102
During the heady months between the September 11th attacks and the invasion
of Iraq, an alluring phrase could be heard murmured here and there among Bush
Administration strategists: “constructive instability.” Determined to take
advantage of the “unipolar moment” of maximum United States power to
destroy the decrepit order of corrupt Arab autocracies and replace it with a
modernizing cadre of new governments – starting, of course, with the
American-installed regime in Baghdad – the Bush Administration launched its
Iraq adventure with infinite ambition of destroying the old Middle East and
building a new one in its image. A dozen years later the region is in chaos, with
ongoing wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, a sharp increase in Iranian
influence, and the rise of an entirely new actor, the Islamic State, straddling the
erstwhile border separating Iraq and Syria. In this seminar we will explore the
consequences of “creative instability” with an eye to US policymaking under
both the Bush and the Obama administrations. We will examine the impact of
the 9/11 attacks, the launch of the Iraq War, the coming of the Arab Spring --
and we will attempt to discover how exactly the launch of the War on Terror led
ultimately to the rise of the Terror State.
Class Requirements: This is a seminar – a discussion class - which means the
success of the class is dependent on student participation. The most important
requirements are that students
--Attend all class sessions
--Do all reading and writing assignments
--Participate in discussions
A student’s record of attendance and participation in class discussion, together
with the thoroughness of his or her preparation, will determine the success of
our class and contribute the better part of the grade.
Schedule Note that all classes will take place on Monday afternoons, 1:30PM-
Reading Our primary reading will draw largely from books and articles, some
of which are listed below. I strongly urge you to obtain these books in your own
copies, either from local bookstores or from online suppliers, so that you will be
able to highlight and annotate them.
Writing: Students will be assigned one final research paper of twelve
pages, due on December 7. A single paragraph of three or four sentences setting
out the theme of the paper is due in class on November 16. There may be the
occasional in-class quiz. To bolster the clarity and vigor of your English prose, I
strongly suggest reading two works: George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the
English Language” and Strunk and White’s little manual, The Elements of
Style. The text of the Orwell essay can be found easily on the web.
Presentation: Each student will deliver a presentation to the class, having to do
with some aspect of the Islamic State or the broader subject of terrorism. Use of
multi-media is encouraged. We will discuss presentations further in class.
Films From time to time during the term we will screen films intended to
complement our studies. Details will be announced.
Grading: Students will be graded on their preparedness for and their
participation in class, the strength of their presentations and the quality of their
written work. For all of these reasons a solid record of attendance is most
Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through
Islamic Eyes (Public Affairs, 2010), 416
Abdel-Bari Atwan, Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate (California,
Daniel Byman, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Global Jihadist
Movement (Oxford, 2015), 304
Marc Lynch, The Arab Uprising (Public Affairs, 2013), 304
Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror (Ecco, 2015),
Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
Joby Warrick, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS (Doubleday, 2015), 368
September 7—Introduction: The Rise of the Terror State. The Arc of Post-
9/11 Foreign Policy. From One Worldwide Terror Network to Two. The
Modalities of Terror. The Forever War.
-Overall course requirements and what is expected of students in this course.
-Watched a short film from VICE news dealing with the spread of
ISIS/Islamic state into Syria.
-Why are young people drawn to ISIS organization? Sense of community,
September 14—Michael Scott Doran, “Somebody Else’s Civil War,”
Foreign Affairs, January/February 2002.
------Daniel Byman, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Global Jihadist
Movement (Oxford, 2015), pp. 1 – 139.
------Christoph Reuter, Spiegel Online International, The Terror
Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State
-------Anne Barnard, NY Times, Children, Caged for Effect, to Mimic
Imagery of ISIS
--------Tom Engelhardt, The Nation, 14 Years After 9/11, the War on
Terror Is Accomplishing Everything Bin Laden Hoped It Would
-Division of Country’s the US has fought wars with by use of Troops,
-Questions to think about…Why do they hate us? How did the US lose the
Iraq war? Was 9/11 a success?
-Strategy of Provocation: a series of attacks attempted to get the US to
respond in a specific manner, such as launch military attacks. 9/11 is an
example of a provocation.
-4 debates between Arab militant groups and Al Qaeda
1) Killing Civilians
2) Suicide Bombing
3) Attacks “Far Enemy” vs. “Near Enemy”
4) Caliphate eventually
-The war within Iraq
Sunnis vs. Shia (understanding the series of attacks that led to this
war, Who attacked who first)
September 21-- Daniel Byman, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and the
Global Jihadist Movement (Oxford, 2015), pp 141 – 228.
Presentation: Zohra Almagri – Al Nusra Front
- Broad Questions: Where has the Islamic State come from? Where did
the power and wealth of the Islamic State come from? What is the
relationship between Islamic State and Al Qaeda? What is the United
Sates national interest in the Middle East?
- Current Republican Race
- Narrow interests of the US in Middle East
o Jeb Bush defends George Bush
o What should our counter terrorism actions be? Lindsey
Graham: more boots on the ground
- R2P: right to protect (debate on whether this is a consistent reason to
intervene. We didn’t intervene in Rwanda, why should we intervene
in the Middle East?)
- Overdetermined: Entering into 1 decision, but there are a number of
reasons why (vector diagram)
- National Security State: a state that exists to keep itself in power (Iraq,
o Characteristics: overlapping security agencies that watch each
- Big Question: Did America create its own enemies in Iraq? (Paul
*A Problem From Hell by Samantha Powers (title of book we talked about
September 28 – Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the
World Through Islamic Eyes (Public Affairs, 2010)
Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders Statement from Usama bin Laden
- Obama’s opinion on the Islamic State?
o Apocalyptic Death Cult
o Not an Islamic group
o A terrorist group
- New York Times article:
- Destiny Disrupted Notes
o Why are foreign fighters joining ISIS?
o Key Terms
o Key Figures
? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to
understand the history of Islam (Destiny Disrupted
? Middle World: defined by land routes, spans from Indus
? Umma: People living under Muslim Guidance
? Nahkbah: the castastrophe
? Khalif: deputy
? Occultation: Sunni belief that Mahdi will return and
bring peace to the world
? Rashidun: the rightly guided ones
? Salafi: the time of Muhammad and the early caliphate
? Muslim: “one who submits to God”
? Allah: “the only god”
? Mohammed (“praiseworthy”)
? 4 caliphates
? C. 570-623
? C. 610: Discover’s Islam at the age 40 (story of
angel Gabriel and Mohammed)
? Born in Mecca, Died in Medina
? Abu Bakr
- Why is it so important that the Muslim world grew out of war and
o When the Muslim army wins, it confirms their success and
o If the Muslim army loses, it cause the Muslim community to
question their faith
o This crisis of faith leads to mass movements that are meant to
prove Islam is right-this leads to ISIS and other groups fighting
- Shia vs Sunni
- Islamic State and the iconography of power
October 5 -- Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the
Road to 9/11 (Vintage, 2007)
- Watched Battle of Algiers
- Important Dates
o 1954-1962: Algerian war of Independence
o 1966: Release of Movie
October 12 -- NO CLASS, Fall Break
October 19 -- Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the
Road to 9/11 (Vintage, 2007)
- “The Drone Papers”, the intercept
*Presentation: John Glascock - Radicalization
- Film Discussion
o The difference between the battle against NLF and the battle
against the French
? There is no clear enemy when battling against the NLF. It
o How does the struggle in the Middle East relate to
? Muslims Nationalists in the largest sense: the Muslim
is Muslim against Muslim
- Clear and Hold: free an area from insurgency and then hold onto that
area (political problem)
- Strategy and Provocation
- Steps Shown in the Film
o Forcing military control to create more oppression
o Everyone is forced to choose a side
o Get secure safe houses
o Attacks on Police
o Terror (hard targets)
o Terror (soft targets)
- Reading Notes
o Islam started out as a powerful state and has since fallen
? Employment rate
? Society that has gone wrong: police state, lots of
o Destiny Disrupted tries to answer how the Middle East got to its
o Can your belief in God be so strong that you feel like you have
to committee violence?
October 26 – Joby Warrick, Black Flags (pg. 1-98)
Mark danner, Iraq: the war of the imagination (NY Review of Books)
*Presentation: Clara Allison – The Yazidi and ISIS
- Al Qaeda Strategy to the year 2020 handout
- Does the United States have an obligation to intervene in countries
affairs, such as the case with Iraq and Afghanistan?
- Does the United States history with Iraq, give the US an obligation to
intervene with the Yazidi situation?
- Realist vs Idealist
- Unipolar Movement: 1 sided as opposed to bipolar
o Realist: Sovereign States interests/ National interests are
? Can be…
? Vital national interests
? Keep oil flowing
? Keep Sea-lanes Open
? Should be….
? Humanitarian intervention
? Genocide Convention
o Example: Iraq intervention – the ideal was to transform the
o Iraq war: Methods used to fight the United States
- Asymmetric Warfare: IED’s and Suicide Bombing
- Creative Instability: If instability is created in the Middle East, it will
evolve positively (Phrase used before Iraq war began)
- Ungoverned Spaces: ISIS takes advantage of failing governments
- . If trying to achieve a representative government and you had
the US Army, what would you have done?
- Could the US avoid the evolution represented in the Al Qaeda 2020
November 2 – Joby Warrick, Black Flags (pg. 99-end)
*Presentation: Julia Minin – Russia’s Plan for Syria
- United Nations Interests
o No historical evidence proving this theory true
o Ensure the loyalty of Sunni officers
o Remove Assad from Power
o Remove ISIS
- Assad Created a violent revolution, so that he could then suppress that
revolution (helping him stay in power)
o 12% Shia
o 70% Sunni
o 20% Kurd
o 12% Sunni
o 70% Shia
o 18% Kurd
- Minority governments in both Iraq and Syria
- Relationship between Turkey, United States, Kurds, ISIS, etc
- Big Questions
o Turks bomb the Kurds, even though Turks are anti ISIS and the
Kurds are the only group successfully fighting off ISIS
o Kurds are a threat to Turks
o Turks are the largest ethnic group without land
o Assad does has three groups opposing him
? Jabhat al nusra
? ISIS (He does not fight ISIS)
o Assad only fights the moderate groups, because by eliminating
these groups, the US will have to choose to support him or
ISIS. The US will not support ISIS, so the US must support
o Should the United States send Special Forces to intervene in
Syria (to fight against Assad)?
o Is it required by the way that we think of the world, that the
terrorist’s states be destroyed? If so, why?
November 9 – Abdel-Bari Atwan, Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate
Presentation: Matt Phelps and Ariella Kust (Current Event Update) –
Iran, Russia, and Syria
- Current update
o Switchblade drone found in Syria (US Drone)
o Russians sent tanks to the Assad Regime
o YPG taking al-Hasakah (removing ISIS fighters between Mosul
o Supply highway
- The Americans were fighting in an alliance to remove ISIS, now
America is fighting alone. Why is this important?
o America will be more likely to receive backlash
o If we are the only nation committing to the war, should we
actually be there? More Americans are doubting the purpose
o Helps ISIS in recruiting, US has no political cover
- What are the republican and democratic positions on the war against
o Republicans: main goal is to remove ISIS. They believe Obama
has been weak around the world
? Causing the strengthening of America’s Enemies
o Democrats: Support of no fly zone (Hilary Clinton)
- General Theme: Political future of Syria and strategy on how to deal
o Current US Strategy: to degrade and then destroy IS
? Should this be the major goal of US policy? If yes, how?
If no, what should be?
- What should the US’s major mission be in regards to IS?
o Right now, the US bombs everyday and ships weapons to Syria.
? Should the US do this?
- How does the question of ending the Syrian civil war go along with
this idea of right and wrong actions?
- Can we live with the Islamic State?
- If we remove IS from power, what becomes of all these jihadists?
Where will they go? How do we deal with this as a matter of foreign
November 16 – Final Paper Theme Paragraph Due
Abdel-Bari Atwan, Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate
Presentation: Julia Marx – The Ramifications of Recent Paris Attacks,
and Ariella Kust – Abu Hamza
- How do we know ISIS is responsible for Paris attacks?
- 2004 Madrid train attacks
- Why did France launch airstrikes?
o 191 people dead
o Clear political consequences
? Opposition pledged to pull Spain forces out of Iraq
o Because of the bombings
o Political pressure to fight back
? This causes the public to focus less on the number of
civilians being killed, everyone is the enemy
- How many civilians are being killed in the bombings of ISIS
o How do we determine who are civilians?
o Do we change are definition of civilian according to our needs?
? ISIS is a hybrid state
? US does not know how to deal with this fact
- The idea of a necessary sacrifice
- The management of savagery
- Why did ISIS bomb Paris?
o Increase xenophobia, increase hatred
o Prolong state of emergency
o Provoke military response (“act of war”, legitimacy)
o One up AQAP
o Tilt policies right
o More French foreign fighters
o Attack secularism and democracy
- What should we do?
o How much power does ISIS have? Who will they target next?
Should there be a foreign policy on this? Should policy change?
November 23 – Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror
Presentation: Dylan Long – Jihadists in Belgium
November 30 – Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror
“Management of Savagery”: ISIS Prominent Handbook
Presentation: Erin Carden – ISIS Recritment Propaganda
- Terrorist groups are opportunistic
- Libya is attractive to ISIS because it is a large, ungoverned state
- Possible fall back location
- Saddam Hussein and Ghadaffi are products of the dysfunctional
states; by getting rid of them, the United States thinks democracy will
be achieved but this has proven to be a mistake in Iraq and Libya
- ISIS is lacking outward to look like victors in headlines, etc.
- Final Paper notes
o Cover Page
o 12 Pages
o Number Pages
o Work Cited
December 7—Final Paper Due
Presentation: Ashley Casale – YPG/j and Western Fighters in Rojava
- Obama’s speech on terrorism
o Republican response:
? Donald Trump: He Wants to increase gun owners in the US, claims
that we can prevent future terrorist attacks if we can protect
ourselves, continues to support bombing over boots on the ground
o Democratic Response
? Hilary Clinton: US should intensify fight against ISIS. In her
response to Obama she made sure to demonstrate a distinction
between Muslims and terrorist. She was trying to be more
diplomatic than Republicans in their fight against ISIS and
o Many Republicans believe that Obama is being weak because he is not
taking a firmer stance on Terrorism
- What will be the US’s further action
o Many politicians are supporting a boots on the ground action plan, but this
is what ISIS wants
o IF we begin another war, our resources will be drained and ISIS will have