Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1329406
 
 

Footnotes (67)



 


 



The Assumptions Behind the Assumptions in the War on Terror: Risk Assessment as an Example of Foundational Disagreement in Counterterrorism Policy


Kenneth Anderson


American University - Washington College of Law; Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace; Brookings Institution - Governance Studies

January 30, 2008

Wayne Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 1, pp. 505-535, 2008
American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2008-75

Abstract:     
This 2007 article (based around an invited conference talk at Wayne State in early 2007) addresses risk assessment and cost benefit analysis as mechanisms in counterterrorism policy. It argues that although policy is often best pursued by agreeing to set aside deep foundational differences, in order to obtain a strategic plan for an activity such as counterterrorism, foundational differences must be addressed in order that policy not merely devolve into a policy minimalism that is always and damagingly tactical, never strategic, in order to avoid domestic democratic political conflict. The article takes risk assessment in counterterrorism, using cost benefit analysis, as an example of a foundational disagreement that cannot easily be elided. Examining an extreme, indeed crude, recent example of cost benefit analysis applied to the risks of terror and the costs of counterterrorism - John Mueller's widely noticed Overblown - the article suggests that cost benefit analysis, at least applied in this way, runs roughshod over other important values in counterterrorism policy, such as justice, but in addition, makes radical yet unstated assumptions about what cost benefit analysis seeks to compare in establishing counterterrorism policy or estimating the risks and costs of terrorism - unstated assumptions that, in fact, assume the conclusion. The article notes that cost benefit analysis tends to promote a policy-minimalizing "event specific catastrophism" - seeking above all to prevent simply the next, serial terrorist attack, with however no greater strategic vision. Indeed, the article says in conclusion (as Philip Bobbitt has noted) cost benefit analysis is "relentlessly tactical," not strategic; it also tends toward serial 'event specific catastrophism' as its analytic frame; and it is a method of evaluating proposed courses of action, not generating them, and hence promotes a strategically questionable tendency to reaction as a response to terrorism. This article presents these ideas in brief fashion, however, as the first draft in a larger project on cost benefit analysis and counterterrorism, and it does so by reference to a book that is unabashedly crude in its approach to both cost benefit analysis and terrorism/counterterrorism. The critical project will extend beyond this particular article, which is in effective a a first pass at developing a critique. It is also an article that does not extend beyond events of early 2007 (when the original address was given) and should be read in that light.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: terrorism, counterterrorism, war on terror, cost benefit analysis, strategy, tactics, Mueller, Sunstein, Fallows, risk, uncertainty, Bobbitt

JEL Classification: K10, K33

Accepted Paper Series


Download This Paper

Date posted: January 19, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Kenneth, The Assumptions Behind the Assumptions in the War on Terror: Risk Assessment as an Example of Foundational Disagreement in Counterterrorism Policy (January 30, 2008). Wayne Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 1, pp. 505-535, 2008; American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2008-75. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1329406

Contact Information

Kenneth Anderson (Contact Author)
American University - Washington College of Law ( email )
4801 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20016
United States
Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace
Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States
Brookings Institution - Governance Studies
1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 2,202
Downloads: 230
Download Rank: 75,971
Footnotes:  67

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo2 in 0.344 seconds