IV. Criminology, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism
In the social sciences, terrorism and counter-terrorism have not always enjoyed an undisputed reputation as topics of scholarly reflection. The primary impediment against taking terrorism seriously in the social sciences has been the difficulty presumed to be involved in studying social realities that are often highly divisive in political and ideological terms. Yet, some social science disciplines have traditionally been more readily engaged in the study of terrorism and terrorism-related phenomena. Scholars of political science, international studies, and law, in particular, have examined important dimensions of terrorism, including, respectively, the political and ideological dimensions of (counter-)terrorism, the causes and effects of terrorism in the international community of nation-states, and the legal aspects posed by terrorism and counter-terrorism policies from the viewpoint of criminal and international law. Other fields of social science have been more hesitant to study terrorism and counter-terrorism except in a sporadic fashion in connection with other, more long-standing areas of investigation, such as religion, war, law, and social movements.
As important as the intellectual considerations that preoccupy the various social sciences, the study of terrorism and counter-terrorism has also waxed and waned relative to the changing societal context, specifically the extent to which societies have experienced terrorist attacks. The field of terrorism studies has generally developed better in Europe than in the United States because of the relatively longer history of terrorism on the European continent. In Europe, terrorist incidents were already receiving much attention throughout the 1970s, when a variety of extremist political groups (for instance, the Red Brigades in Italy, the Action directe in France, and the Red Army Faction in Germany) resorted to violent tactics. In even more specific contexts, such as the state of Israel, the occurrence of and responses to terrorism can be of an even more enduring nature, consequently also fostering the development of terrorism studies.
On a global scale, the study of terrorism began to proliferate during the 1990s, when several high-profile incidents took place that moved terrorism to the world stage. Among these incidents were especially those involving the United States, as the sole surviving world power after the cold war, such as the World Trade Center bombing in New York in 1993, the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the suicide bombing attack against the USS Cole naval ship in 2000. No single event in history, however, has influenced the study of terrorism and counter-terrorism in a more drastic and enduring manner than the September 11 attacks on the United States. The events of that day have also contributed greatly to the development of criminological analyses of terrorism and counter-terrorism.
Criminology incorporates the social-scientific study of crime and deviance as well as the practices and institutions of social control, broadly defined as the definition of and response to crime or deviance. The distinction between crime and deviance corresponds to the theoretical demarcation between perspectives that contemplate the causes of criminal behavior and crime rates and those that differentiate between deviance as behavior and crime as the labeling of such behavior. Social control, in turn, is theoretically conceived as a consequence of crime, oriented at restoring social integration and harmony, or as a process of criminalization whereby deviance is treated as crime, most clearly through the development and application of criminal law and measures of enforcement. Social control can be informal, such as in the case of gossip and peer pressure, or formal, as in the case of law enforcement. In criminological discourse, the term criminal justice is often used to refer to the formal means of social control, including the institutions of police, courts, and corrections. At the most general level of criminological analysis, then, terrorism and counter-terrorism can be conceived as crime and social control, respectively. It is from within this general framework that more specific criminological perspectives unfold that can meaningfully contribute to the broader area of terrorism studies.