JACKSONVILLE — Perhaps no word is more ubiquitous than “terrorism” in the
news lexicon these days.
With daily updates about bombings in Iraq and the Middle East, America’s
introduction to terrorism is in many ways an evolving education.
For those in the business of teaching, such as Jacksonville State University
Professor Richard Kania, learning how to study the subject plays an important
role in understanding the future of the fight.
“We teach what we know and we don’t know all the answers,” said Kania, the
criminal justice department head at JSU who recently returned from a week-long
workshop about teaching terrorism hosted by the University of Oklahoma.
Kania was awarded a fellowship to attend the Summer Workshop on Teaching
Terrorism from July 10 to July 18.
Besides the 22 advance readings attendees were asked to complete before the
conference, workshops included presentations from academics around the country
about various aspects of terrorism.
For his part, Kania said he was interested in expanding his knowledge of
terrorism for his criminal justice class, “Protective Systems.”
Along with teaching protection preparation for natural disasters, such as
Hurricane Katrina, he said terrorism is a natural consideration in the process.
“Before you can talk about protective systems, you have to talk about threat
assessment,” Kania said, explaining that several divisions of law enforcement
can work together in terrorism cases.
For instance, many terrorist organizations are funded by criminal activities
such as bank fraud and larceny, he said.
Police teamwork can also go a long way in thwarting terrorists, he said, as
demonstrated by the quick arrest of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 1995
shortly after the explosion — his car was pulled over for a missing license
plate and police found weapons in his vehicle.
Kania said stressing these techniques with students will help give them the
groundwork for future terrorism-related jobs.
“Hopefully some students will have careers involved in Homeland Security,” he
Although many Americans think of the Middle East when they think of
terrorism, Kania said discussing ongoing military involvements in those
countries is so political it is difficult to discuss in an objective way.
But he noted that terrorism can “absolutely be studied as a social-science
phenomenon” because several political and psychological factors foster extreme
One speaker at the conference, from the University of Southern California,
presented research she compiled after interviewing terrorist detainees about
their ideologies and philosophies.
Kania said another presentation, about insurgencies in Peru and Columbia, has
helped him reflect on common political, economic and social factors many
In many ways, the difficulties of navigating terrorism today as a developed
democracy are complicated by the need to preserve public safety without
sacrificing civil liberties in the process, Kania said.
“I would like to learn how to protect the country from terrorist threats,” he
said, adding that maintaining security likely includes a degree of profiling
that makes some people uncomfortable.
Then again, Kania said: “It’s not going to be some 87-year-old grandmother.”
However, the notion that democracies prevent terrorism is misleading, he
said. Totalitarian states have almost no terrorism because those government
Unlike the United States and most of Europe, many Eastern European counties,
as well as Russia, do not strictly abide by due process.
Force alone is no panacea, he said, because offspring are left behind to
continue the cycle.
From what he has learned so far, Kania said the ingredients for fighting
terrorism include promoting civil rights, which defuses a potential motivator
for radicalism; along with negotiation and military action. This formula has
been successful in varying degrees in dealing with groups as varied as the Irish
Republican Army, Black Panthers and The Weather Underground, a group of radical
students who bombed buildings in the 1960s.
The future of fighting terrorism with extreme Islamists will also most likely
involve learning Arabic so there is greater communication, according to Kania.
For his Protective Systems class, he said, he will adjust his curriculum to
include a new segment about the emerging role private contractors are playing in
American involvements in places like Iraq.
It’s another movement that he sees as promising.
“I just never really thought about those options,” he said.
“There are 150,000 to 180,000 private contractors, many of them Muslims … if
we’re going to make a mark in the region, that’s a big plus.”
About Matthew Kasper
Matthew Kasper covers Jacksonville, Piedmont,
Ohatchee and Alexandria for the Star.
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com