Evaluating U.S. Counterterrorism Policy: Failure, Fraud, or Fruitful Spectacle?

Willem de Lint, Wondwossen Kassa

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Counterterrorism plays a pivotal role in the projection of U.S. government interests and objectives nationally and globally. A large segment of the strategies, programs and operations of U.S. government agencies and their authorized private counterparts under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security form a counterterrorism policy (CTP) that may be evaluated as more or less meeting those interests and objectives. Building on the work of Mueller and Stewart, Van Dongen, and McConnell, we evaluate U.S. CTP against both an objective and explicit deterrence agenda (reducing terrorism) and a constructivist and implicit objective (consolidating support for governments and their unifying ideologies). The paper supports the conclusion that CTP is a failure if the criterion is restricted to an evaluation of its efficiency in reducing terrorist events. However, CTP is also evaluated against its utility in pushing forward harmonized “ordering” across national and international boundaries and its ability to garner widespread public support of governments in security policy, and here it may be viewed as a success. Against deterrence measures, such success may be a kind of fraud. Against the political imperative, it is a fruitful spectacle. The paper argues that the blurring or blending of these two sets of criteria may not be a deliberate fraud, but enables the maintenance and growth of CTP and the national security infrastructure.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)349-369
    Number of pages21
    JournalCritical Criminology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2015


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