Although terrorism has served as a political tactic for well over a century, its status as a major problem of international security is a more recent trend. In fact, no other contemporary problem so effectively demonstrates one of the core arguments of this volume: the role of politics in setting the international security agenda. The US has been the critical player in this regard, as it elevated its view of terrorism from a relatively minor threat to a major international concern following the attacks by al-Qaeda on American soil on 11 September 2001. This response was supported to various degrees by several American allies and led directly to US military attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, plus a host of other, often controversial, domestic and foreign policies whose aftershocks persist. This increased attention by policy-makers has been accompanied by more activity on the part of security scholars and other experts, making the study of terrorism one of the major growth areas in the field since the end of the Cold War (Anderson, 2004). Before 9/11, the study of terrorism had been quite marginalized by many universities, book publishers and major academic journals (Jentleson, 2002; Cronin, 2002–3). Unfortunately, however, much of this work is polemical or sensationalistic in nature, and often does not involve rigorous empirical research or sharp conceptual distinctions.
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Michael E. Smith
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