The ‘War on Terror’ continues to have profound consequences. From many countries being militarily engaged, lives and civil liberties lost, drastic rises in security services, various countries accusing one another of supporting terrorist groups, and $5 trillion spent on just the first ten years of the war [1], little end remains in sight as some military commanders are claiming the public needs to be prepared for a 100-year ‘War on Terror’ [2][3]. This working group adds a valuable perspective and balance to the dominant discourse by critically examining it and focusing on a broader range of covert and politically motivated actions to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of terrorism and unrest, and the strategies needed to counter it.

The dominant discourse is apparent in most governments and the media, and within traditional terrorism studies (also known as Orthodox Terrorism Studies (OTS)). As Science for Peace relies on experts, it is important to understand expertise relating to the field of terrorism studies and its negative impact on peace research. OTS has its roots in security and counter-insurgency studies [4]. With a massive increase in terrorism experts since 9/11 with close links to or embedded within the government and military, the resulting discourse can be described as “counterinsurgency masquerading as political science” [5]. Practitioners in the field have been criticized as having an overreliance on secondary sources, lacking experience or intention of directly studying terrorists or being on the ground in areas affected by conflict [6], and taking events at face value without critical probing. Consequently, experts in critical terrorism studies observed the vast increase in studies on state counterterrorism and the disappointingly low number of studies on state terrorism [7].

Examples of areas that receive insufficient probing include:

  • understanding the nature of a Western military intervention in the Middle East that the terrorist suspect emerged from
  • why terrorism cases that involve informants show that informants provide the ideas and equipment for a plot and gain significant financial awards and media attention whereas cases in their absence result in no terrorism [8]
  • how the term “terrorist” can be abused by both governments and non-state actors by using it to denounce opposition groups
  • how to responsibly respond to the testimony of a four-star US General and former NATO supreme allied commander concerning a classified memo to attack the governments of seven Middle Eastern countries in 2001 [9][10]
  • whether the use of testimony derived from torture is legitimate

These are a few among many important areas that the working group will include in its probing.

The author, having directed two major diplomatic panels on conflict resolution, one of which was co-directed with the NATO Council of Canada, has experience in bringing different perspectives together in search for pathways to peace [11][12].

Critically and directly engaging with these issues surrounding terrorism and security is a necessity for everyone. ­­­Consistent with the intellectual spirit of Science for Peace to “understand and act against the forces that make for militarism, environmental destruction, and social injustice here and abroad”, the Terrorism and Security Working Group seeks to play a vital role in this regard.


[1] Thompson, M. (2011, June). The $5 Trillion War on Terror. Time Magazine. Retrieved from

[2] Nicholson, B. (2014, August). We’ll fight radical Islam for 100 years, says ex-army head Peter Leahy. The Australian. Retrieved from

Note: Peter Leahy served as Chief of Army and was made Professor and the foundation Director of the National Security Institute at University of Canberra.

[3] (2006, December). General foresees ‘generational war’ against terrorism, The Washington Times. Retrieved from

[4] Burnett, J. and Whyte, D. (2005). ‘Embedded Expertise and the New Terrorism’, Journal for Crime, Conflict and the Media, 1, 4, 1-18

[5] Schmid, A. P., Jongman, A. J. (1988) Political terrorism: A new guide to actors, authors, concepts, data bases, theories and literature New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.

[6] O’Leary, B., Silke, A. (2007). ‘Understanding and Ending Persistent Conflicts: Bridging Research and Policy’, in Marianne Heiberg, John Tirman and Brendan O’Leary, eds., Terror, Insurgency and the State. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 393.

[7] Richard Jackson, Harmonie Toros, Lee Jarvis & Charlotte Heath-Kelly (2017). Introduction: 10 years of Critical Studies on Terrorism, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 10:2, 197-202, DOI: 10.1080/17539153.2017.1338279

[8] Aaronson, T. (2013). The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism. New York: Ig Publishing.

[9] General Wesley Clark, Commonwealth Club of California, October 3, 2007. Video link:

[10] Wesley Clark, Winning Modern Wars (New York: Public Affairs, 2003), pg. 130

[11] Zuberi, A (2015, August). An E-Diplomacy Effort Between Ukrainian, Russian and Canadian Experts. iAffairs. Retrieved from

[12] Zuberi, A (2014, July). The Ukraine Crisis: An Interactive Broadcast with Experts in Ukraine, Russia and the West – Nov. 30. International Channels for Diplomacy. Retrieved from