My research question for this semester is, “How can the United States adjust its al-Qaeda-centric counterterrorism policies to contain ISIS?” I initially became interested in terrorism research through taking a number of interesting classes, such as “Theory and Politics of Terrorism” and “Foreign Intelligence and Civil Liberties,” through my intelligence analysis minor. I first got involved in OSCAR research in the spring semester of 2016. My research topic at that time was about terrorism in weak and failed states.
Given the international events that played out in early 2016, it seemed like a natural progression for me to shift my focus to a research project about ISIS. I felt that my question pointed to a unique and crucial dimension of terrorism from the standpoint of the U.S: Because ISIS is fundamentally different than al-Qaeda, it must be addressed in a manner than appreciates those differences. In the future, I am interested in working in counterterrorism or law. I expect that both the specific knowledge I have learned about terrorist groups and Middle Eastern countries as well as the general improvements to my researching and writing skills will be helpful in my future career path.
For this project I largely use academic journal articles, government documents, and policy papers published by think tanks to gather information. Using these sources, my typical week involves researching, annotating articles, and writing. Given how close I am to Washington, I also decided to incorporate interviews with policy researchers in D.C. who focus on terrorism and ISIS. One important difference that I have noticed between ISIS and al-Qaeda is the differing levels of international involvement against the two groups. Due to the close involvement of actors including Iran and Russia in Iraq and Syria, the United States has different counterterrorism options than those that existed in addressing al-Qaeda after 9/11.