Journal Archive > 2002 > February

Fletcher expertise

Fletcher on the intellectual front-line of terrorism

In the wake of tensions in the Philippines involving the Al Qaeda-linked insurgent group known as Abu Sayyaf, Stephen Bosworth, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, recently appeared on CNN International, which broadcasts throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Drawing on his experience as the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines from 1984-87, Bosworth was able to provide thoughtful analysis on a delicate political and military situation.

The Hall of Flags at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Indeed, in the aftermath of September 11, as American political leaders and the U.S. media have rediscovered international affairs, Fletcher faculty and students have become highly visible players as experts in their fields. They have informed government officials, policy-makers and journalists on a broad array of global terrorism issues—political, diplomatic, legal, military, religion and culture.

On September 11, when information was at a premium, Richard Shultz, who directs Fletcher's International Security Studies Program, was one of the experts on the line for several hours with National Public Radio during its live coverage. Arguing that this country had crossed "a tremendous threshold today," Shultz was quick to call for "a good look" at America's counter-terrorism policy, which he criticized as too reactive.

Town meetings
A week after the terrorist attacks, amid some reports of harassment against some of the 3,000 Muslims in the Boston area, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., contacted Fletcher to ask if the school would host a town meeting on the issue. On September 18, 100 Muslim students, community leaders, Tufts undergraduates and Fletcher students met with the senator in the Hall of Flags on the Medford/Somerville campus to air grievances and discuss the problem.

On October 11, Hurst Hannum, professor of international law, participated in a national town meeting on terrorism hosted by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and moderated by Walter Cronkite. Ten major cities, including Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles, were linked by satellite and had a national dialogue about terrorism. The town meeting was seen, heard or read about by as many as 17 million Americans.

Some Fletcher faculty members have worked with government officials. Shultz has been consulting with the U.S. Department of Defense on security matters, while Andrew Hess, who directs the country's only graduate program concerning Southwest Asia and Islamic civilization, was asked to brief the Massachusetts Attorney General's office on dealing with the local Arab community. One Boston Globe story cited Hess as "one of the nation's top specialists on a suddenly crucial part of the world."

Active students
A number of students, many with previous professional experience in the area of terrorism, have been active in media activities and educational projects. Hy Rothstein, a Ph.D. candidate and a retired colonel with the U.S. Army Special Forces, has served as a military consultant to WCVB-TV, the ABC affiliate in Boston, and been quoted by outlets such as NPR, The Christian Science Monitor and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Michele Malvesti, a Ph.D. student and former terrorism analyst at the Pentagon, has been cited in Foreign Affairs and quoted in numerous outlets, ranging from The National Journal in Washington, D.C., to The New Zealand Herald. Hassan Abbas, a Fletcher student who is on leave as a police officer in Pakistan, has published opinion pieces in The Boston Herald and several Pakistani outlets. He recently returned from Pakistan, where he and a group of journalists met with President Pervez Musharraf.

Fletcher's educational outreach comes in a variety of forms, particularly during a time when racial and ethnic tensions have surfaced. This is why two Fletcher students studying Islamic civilization—Absen Khan, a Canadian-born Muslim, and Peter Neisuler—decided to visit area schools to talk with students. Neisuler told The Christian Science Monitor in November, "Indirectly, we felt that by making such visits, we were striking a blow against everything the terrorists stood for—the hatred, the division, the fear, the ignorance."

Rethinking curriculum
To be sure, graduate schools like Fletcher are being transformed in the post-September 11 world. "We're going to need to rethink the content of our courses, to give even greater emphasis to issues of international terrorism and the impact of weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical and nuclear warfare," Prof. Robert Pfaltzgraff, an expert on international security, told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Most observers agree that September 11 has forever changed the world as technological advancements have enabled small, stateless groups like the Al Qaeda terrorist network to acquire the kind of destructive force that once was the sole province of national governments.

This development, in turn, has raised a host of new questions. Are failed states a humanitarian problem or a national security problem? Is a new kind of imperialism needed to ensure international stability, as some experts have asserted, or is expanding U.S. power the real problem, as others suggest? Are traditional groups, such as the UN, the World Bank and health and environmental NGOs, equipped to handle the new world disorder? Where do established entities such as NATO, the World Trade Organization and the European Commission fit in?

These are profoundly important questions that many in the world community, including those at the Fletcher School, will be grappling with for some time to come.