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Gus Martin: Terrorism Expert Appointed to Editorial Board of International Journal



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Gus Martin: Terrorism Expert Appointed to Editorial Board of International Journal

C. Augustus (Gus) Martin, assistant vice president, Faculty Affairs, has been invited to serve as a member of the International Editorial Advisory Board for Critical Studies on Terrorism, a new journal on research and policy in the fields of terrorism, counter-terrorism, and state terror. Directed to an audience of practitioners and scholars in the United States, Great Britain, and Australia, the publication will be launched in 2008.

Martin, the author of Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2nd Ed., 2006), will work alongside other luminaries in the fields of political science, war, and human rights activism, among them Noam Chomsky and Allen Feldman. He points out that Critical Studies will be the first normative look at the expanding study of terrorism.

“There are other journals in the field, but this one will critically analyze current research and policy rather than taking the position of particular policy-makers and political administrations,” he says.

Martin admits that there is difficulty in studying terrorism without politicizing it, saying that, “It’s tough to do sometimes. Academics don’t like to question the orthodoxy, because they might not get research funding, or they might not get published. In addition, a lot of them move in and out of government work. If a particular administration likes what an academic says, they’ll bring them into that administration. If they don’t like what they’re saying, they may not.

“You have to maintain your intellectual honesty, especially with your students,” he says. “It can be done. But those who are thinking about working in the government later, do have that in the back of their minds.”

The former chair of the Public Administration and Public Policy department, Martin taught his “Terrorism and Extremism” class, which debuted in 2004, making CSU Dominguez Hills one of the first campuses to offer a course on terrorism as part of the criminal justice major. He describes the recent growth in the study of terrorism and its application to a variety of majors.

“Prior to 9/11, terrorism was either included as a topic in broader courses, or taught separately as a general introduction to political violence,” he says.  “Now, a large number of universities have advanced courses on the subject, as well as a growing number of homeland security courses.”

Martin’s next book on terrorism is due out later this year, a condensed version of Understanding Terrorism that can be adapted by professors in the context of their own courses. He cites the numerous career opportunities that are afforded students through the study of terrorism.

“When I taught a class on terrorism at the University of Pittsburgh before 9/11, it was mostly taken by political science types,” he says. “Now we’re seeing a broader range of students, such as sociologists and psychologists, who are trying to figure out why people do what they do, or its practical application, for criminal justice students. Graduates can work for agencies that have homeland security functions, every law enforcement agency does, right down to the sheriff’s department in a small town.”

Martin says that the study of terrorism has had to change as terrorism has taken new forms. The transition from nationalism and political ideology to the religion-based “New Terrorism” poses a challenge for students and scholars, as well as the agencies whose function it is to keep the public safe.

“Political ideologists, like Marxists and Fascists, tended to be more selective in their targets, and would assassinate a particular individual or attack a symbolic building,” he says. “If there were people inside, they would count them as collateral damage. Now, religion motivates the most prominent terrorists. They define the enemy very broadly, as enemy peoples, so that killing a child is okay. That’s why we’re seeing bombs in marketplaces and planes flown into buildings. The New Terrorism involves maximum use of force against any target whatsoever. It also involves asymmetrical warfare, which means they try to attack in the least expected way, in the least expected place.”

As an assistant to Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) in the 1980s, Martin advised the current chair of the House Ways and Means Committee on international matters, beginning a long-standing interest in terrorism. The nucleus of Understanding Terrorism came from the courses he taught at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. He underscores the way that 9/11 has changed America’s view of terrorism substantially.

“This was unprecedented,” he says, “the biggest terrorist attack by an organization, in terms of casualties and the impact of bringing down an important symbol of international trade. We have had lots of attacks before, smaller ones by groups we don’t even think about, because they only hit us once or twice. But this time, it was obvious that someone was declaring war on us. It could have happened anywhere. We’re wide open, and we still are in a lot of ways.”

“The concept of homeland security never existed before,” he says. “It sounded Orwellian. Now it’s part of our vocabulary and our culture, it’s a reality.”

- Joanie Harmon-Whetmore




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Last updated Monday, January 10, 1:50 p.m., by Joanie Harmon