[Asinine Jewish liberal arts professor thinks that it is somehow, a good thing, to teach freshmen studying graphic design and Spanish about how to plan a successful terror attack upon Lehigh College. Why should anyone, except perhaps for a suicide bomber academy, teach students the aberrant psychology of terrorist thinking? What is next, teaching psychopathy to “jocks,” or the science of slow-death (as seen on the repulsive “Dexter” series) to business majors? As word of this lunacy in the guise of “education” spreads, look for a wave of outraged parents to scream for this moron’s head.]
Lehigh University professor Chaim Kaufmann wants his students to think like terrorists.
Even more, he wants them to plan like terrorists, try to understand their motives, and reason through their challenges.
It’s part of an unusual and engaging assignment in which freshmen in his class on political violence and terrorism are asked to weigh risk and feasibility by spending one class period mapping out a fictional attack – on their own university.
“We use Lehigh as the target because that’s what students know,” said Kaufmann, 52, an associate professor in international relations at Lehigh, in Bethlehem, Pa.
To learn best about why terrorism occurs, Kaufmann said, “you’ve got to do the thing that is uncomfortable for most of us to do most of the time . . . put aside our interests and socializations as Americans . . . and get inside the heads of the attackers and try to figure out what they are thinking.”
“It’s not as simple as ‘they hate us because we let women drive.’ ”
Over the 75-minute class period, students debated the location, time, weapon of choice, getaway plan, difficulty of getting a terrorist team into the country, and behavioral patterns of the target, among other challenges posed by their professor and each other.
Their plan ended up being anything but intricate and sophisticated. They first settled on hitting the student-center dining room at lunchtime with a truck bomb. One student pointed out that another delivery truck could be blocking the narrow entrance. They then decided to use a suicide explosive vest.
“So we do get them thinking hard about how difficult it is to guarantee that something will actually come off,” said Kaufmann, who has taught at Lehigh for 20 years. “So what I hope they’ll get out of that particular exercise is an appreciation of why it is so little has happened. It’s not as easy as all the apocalyptic scenarios talk about.”
Kaufmann, whose research focuses on international security, ethnic conflict, nuclear weapons proliferation, and U.S. foreign policy, began teaching the course after 9/11 when interest peaked. He has offered it several times over the last decade. The course in the past has drawn more than 100 students, but this semester, for the first time, it is being taught as a freshman seminar, meaning its size is kept small. It draws students from a variety of majors, this semester political science, Spanish, graphic design, business, premed, and international relations.
The course covers topics from the reasons behind terrorism to its history over the last two centuries. It also explores issues such as the use of torture. Students are required to do a semester-long research project on a case study of political violence.
“It just completely blew my mind,” said William Hoelke, 18, of Sebastian, Fla. “It totally opened me up to a whole other side of the world and what really makes terrorists tick, the methods they use, and how they are truly passionate about the means they are trying to achieve.”
McKenzie Otus, 18, of San Francisco, said it was difficult to put herself in the place of a terrorist.
“We learned about women as suicide terrorists,” she said. “He asked all the girls, what would you do? Would you kill other people for your movement? It’s a tough question, because we’re, like, 18-year-old kids. It’s very thought-provoking and interesting.”
For the discussion on planning an attack, Kaufmann tells students to assume they have no network in the country, which was the case for the 9/11 attackers. They first plot as if it’s a suicide mission and then not, adding the dimension of having to cover tracks and escape.
The class discusses the goal of the attack and types of weapons.
“They often quickly come to the solution that the ideal weapon in terms of how much mess you can make in relation to difficulty of doing it is a truck bomb,” he said.
Kaufmann acknowledged that the exercise “may sound weird” but is nonetheless effective.
“You can show them practically everything that ever happened, but black-and-white doesn’t impress people. But then you make them try to solve it themselves. Now they get it.”
He emphasized that he isn’t passing on sensitive information to students.
“It’s the students’ common knowledge about Lehigh, and none of the modes of attack are things that haven’t gotten ferocious amounts of attention” in the news, he said.
He avoids questions such as what it takes to evade licensing requirements for blasting caps, he said. “I tell them, ‘We’re just going to skip that,’ ” he said.
Kaufmann also provides students with a tip sheet he developed on surviving terrorist attacks, from the use of a biological weapon to a kidnapping.