Beau Grosscup: The Newest Explosions of Terrorism

Beau Grosscup, author of The Newest
Explosions of Terrorism (photo KM)
If history shows that a violent response to an act of terrorism begets more terrorism, then why is a violent response the predominant choice of the experts and politicians of the world? This is just one of the difficult questions political scientist Beau Grosscup addresses in The Newest Explosions of Terrorism: Latest Sites of Terrorism in the 90s and Beyond, 3rd edition.

The book is written for the lay person as well as the academic, and is used by officials of the CIA, FBI, and U.S. Armed Forces. It is being marketed by the publisher, New Horizon Press, as a new release because of the urgency of the issue and its centrality to national and international discussion and politics. Grosscup has added important new analysis of the World Trade Center and Oklahoma bombings, which he describes as "watershed events in our changing understanding that terrorism is not something that only happens in foreign countries."

Grosscup's working thesis is, "The way in which we have been encouraged to think about terrorism furthers the political agenda of experts and political figures. It does not solve the problem." We have been given, suggests Grosscup, a partial view of both what terrorism is and who commits it. The imagery surrounding terrorist acts has been politicized, and the enemy that is presented to the national consciousness is conveniently shifted to meet political necessity.

In a recent discussion, Grosscup offered the FBI's immediate fingering of a Middle Eastern person as the perpetrator of the Oklahoma bombing as an example of the kinds of mind sets both the experts and lay people often hold. Our willingness as a nation to accept the "foreign perpetrator," and the relief it provided illustrates a commonly held assumption that the terrorist is always an outsider—an agreed upon, foreign enemy. It also illustrates a definition of terrorism that excluded, until fairly recently, acts of domestic violence as terrorist acts.

For example, since 1987, the ongoing violence against the American family-planning community has lain outside the FBI's definition of terrorism, despite the thousands of bombings, a multitude of murderous attacks, and the insistence by that community that, "We are under a terrorist siege." Yet, environmentalist groups have been quickly labeled "eco-terrorists" and that label has been applied loosely and erroneously to groups and individuals.

Grosscup points to the description of Ted Kaszynski as a major domestic eco-terrorist as an example of the inconsistent criteria applied to domestic perpetrators. His point is not that Kaszynski should not be called a terrorist, but that similar acts with equally devastating and fatal consequences have been excluded because of the political origins and affiliations.

At the international level, according to a New Horizon Press release, Grosscup explores the historical and current trouble spots in "rogue" nations where "terrorist acts of fringe groups can begin as regional skirmishes and erupt into world wars. " He looks back at the "rogue states" of the past, including Cuba, Iran, and Libya, and points toward new threats, particularly in Soviet "orphans" and the USSR's former satellite nations."

Grosscup received his Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Massachusetts. He has been researching, teaching, and publicly speaking about terrorism for twenty years.

Grosscup is going to discuss the ideas in The Newest Explosions of Terrorism at Barnes and Noble on September 26. He will be open to questions and will sign books. Check the calendar for details.


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