Investigative Question

How do individual countries combat terrorist organizations that don’t recognize international norms or boundaries?

Finally, students should understand the range of actors beyond the nation state that influence today’s world including nongovernmental organizations, multinational corporations, and international and regional alliances, economic bodies, and associations. Contemporary problems such as the environment, economics, and terrorism cross state borders and demand a different kind of national and international community than the world of the twentieth century. Students can consider questions such as How do individual countries combat terrorist organizations that do not recognize international norms or boundaries? What challenges do efforts to combat nonstate terrorist organizations create for the operation of international humanitarian law? How can individual citizens or nongovernmental organizations improve civil society? How can multinational alliances work together to combat climate change?
This is a diverse set of sources that is intended to help students consider terrorism. Students will learn about historical and contemporary examples of how diverse groups of revolutionaries have defined and called for terrorism, and also how the US government has characterized terrorism. The inquiry set also contains an array of responses to terrorism as well as sources that help students survey the challenges, limits, and consequences of those responses. Taken together, this inquiry set gives students the opportunity to consider examples of how people advocate for terrorism, along with responses to terrorism, their effectiveness, and their consequences. Teachers may want to consider starting an investigation with Source 4, an excerpt from the 9/11 Commission Report, to provide students with a list of possible responses to terrorist activity. This source may challenge students’ set beliefs that the only response to terrorism is violence and military action. For example, one recommendation from the report was for the United States to help foreign nations increase access to education. Students can use the literacy activity to help identify different terrorist actions that have happened in the past and to identify potential responses recommended by the 9/11 Commission. Students end the literacy activity by ranking how successful they believe each of the recommendations might be. Teachers then might encourage students to follow Source 4 with Source 5, a message from Ayatollah Khomeini during the Iran hostage crisis of the 1970s. Students may need to become familiar with the context surrounding why hostages were taken in Iran in 1979 and what resulted from this action. Students could use this concrete historical example to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed recommendations in the Commission Report. Source 3 provides students with an excerpt from the USA Patriot Act. The Patriot Act is a tangible response to terrorism as opposed to the theoretical proposals in the Commission Report. A discussion of the Patriot Act creates an opportunity for teachers to talk with students about the possible effects of increased government authority to combat terrorism in the 2000s. Students may want to reference the arguments listed on the website in regard to this legislation. The larger question students grapple with here is the impact of the Patriot Act on Americans’ civil liberties and privacy. Source 1 is in many ways regarded as the ideological inspiration for modern-day terrorism and terrorist tactics. This 1869 pamphlet “Catechism of the Revolutionist,” by Russian philosopher Sergey Nechayev, provided a critique of institutions that hold power (whether they happen to be state, religious, or otherwise) that gave rise to a form of struggle “by any means necessary.” Source 2, “Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla,” by Brazilian revolutionary Carlos Marighella, was written exactly 100 years after Nechayev’s pamphlet. Produced as a similar call to arms for oppressed peoples in Latin America and Southeast Asia to resist the power of the United States, Marighella’s advocacy of terrorism strikes much the same tone as Nechayev’s. Given that Source 1 and Source 2 served as ideological and practical guidance for the use of terrorism, students might spend time considering the arguments and appeal of the sources. They might also view all sources in this set through the prism of this ideology and explore whether or how the principles and strategies in Sources 1 and 2 were carried out by later generations of terrorists, and they may use these sources to study the strategies of nation-states and other institutions to fight this kind of terrorism. Finally, Source 6 may help students understand challenges faced by international organizations in terms of combating terrorism. Teachers should provide students with a brief overview of the Hague Convention and definition of international law. This source will help students learn how challenging it is for nations to come together to create concrete action, which is one of the challenges in combating terrorism worldwide. In this set, Source 4 should be considered the primary document to help answer the investigative question. The other sources serve as supplements to this source and provide opportunities for teachers to explore other facets of causes and consequences of international terrorism.
Literacy Activity for Source 4, Teacher Directions: Students, working in groups, can use a jigsaw strategy to address Source 4. This source can answer two questions. First, use the first section of the source, titled “Counterterrorism,” to help students identify examples of acts of terrorism. They will read through the source and circle the years in the text. In a group of five, students jigsaw each of the years. For example, one student takes the year 1976 and rereads the sentences connected with that year. They then report out to their group what happened (What was the act of terrorism?), who responded, what did the responders do, and was the response successful. There are five years in the text if you include the 1970s. Students, in groups of five, jigsaw the balance of the text by dividing the remaining four sections among the group. The rest of the text gives examples of possible responses to terrorism.
  • The first section is titled “Chapter: What to Do?” and ends with “attacks that are not stopped.”
  • The second section is titled “An Agenda of Opportunity” and ends with “strategy to eliminate Islamist terrorism.”
  • The third section begins with “Economic openness ...” and ends with “enhance prospects for their children’s future.”
  • The fourth section begins with “Presently the Muslim and Arab states ...” and ends with “direct assistance and coordinate action. ...”
  • The fifth section begins with “Recommendation: The U.S. border security ...” and ends with “pose catastrophic threats.”
As students read the text, direct each individual to circle or underline the response that the report is recommending. Students share out with their group an explanation of the proposed response to terrorism and the rationale behind it. One way to encourage group interaction and discussion of the text is to ask students to write the answers from their section of text on a sticky note or small piece of paper. The students then put the written responses in the middle of their group and order them, based on their own opinion, from most to least successful. This negotiation forces students to clarify the meaning of their own text and to engage in discussion.
  • The Library of Congress. The Library of Congress’ Primary Source Analysis Tool supports an inquiry model of instruction by asking students to first observe, then reflect, then question. Their customizable tool includes specific prompts for student interrogation of books and other printed materials, maps, oral recordings, photographs and paintings, and many other types of primary sources.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA has developed a vast collection of document analysis worksheets, ready for classroom use. Their website offers teachers a wide collection of customizable tools – appropriate for working with photographs, maps, written documents, and more. NARA has also customized their tools to meet the needs of young learners, and intermediate or secondary students.
The government documents in this set focus primarily on Islamist terrorism and the responses to it. Teachers should be mindful of their students who are Muslim or who have faith-based or cultural connections to the Muslim or Arab world. It is important to protect them from prejudice especially when discussing Islamist terrorism in the classroom. Teachers can emphasize the focus on acts of terror without making generalizations about Muslims or Islam.