Course Syllabus

Terrorism and Counter-terrorism from a European Perspective

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2023 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Core Course Study Tours:

Århus, (Denmark) and Dublin (Ireland) and Belfast (Northern Ireland)

Major Disciplines:

History, International Relations, Political Science

Faculty Members:

Martin Cleemann Rasmussen

Time & Place:

Mondays + Thursdays 8.30-9.50. 

Classroom: Fi6, Metro 103

Description of Course

Terrorism and counter-terrorism has been on everybody’s mind and has been a top-priority security issue since 9/11. However, terrorism didn’t just appear out of the blue on that horrifying September day when the towers fell. It has been a part of European and world politics for decades and even centuries before as well as long after.

This course is a study of terrorism - its causes, aims, and forms - and of counter-terrorism measures introduced by the international community and individual states. The course examines the implications of terrorism for international politics and the different approaches to countering it in the 20th and 21st century.

In order to better understand the concept and phenomenon of terrorism and the attempts to fight it as well as the many challenges faced, we will look at some of the many cases where the use of terror and attempts to deal with terrorism from a European perspective have been central elements.

It is both relevant and important to study terrorism from a European perspective, because several European countries have a very long history of dealing with terrorism (e.g. Northern Ireland (IRA), Spain (ETA), Italy (Red Brigades), Germany (Red Army Faction), Russia (The People’s Will and The Black Widows) and in recent years also Belgium, France, and Denmark (Al Qaeda and IS)). Following the full Russian invasion of Ukraine in february 2022, the European Parliament has labeled the State of Russia a terrorist state.  At the same time, the actual use of terror, which is often not seen as such and in a different perspective by the terrorists (or states) themselves, gives an important perspective on why, how, and to what extent terror is useful as a military and political tool for achieving the aims of the terrorists.      

These perspectives will allow us to gain better insight as to why terrorism occurs, how terrorists organize and operate, experiences and problems of counter-terrorism, and the consequences of reacting in different ways to terrorism.

Learning objectives of the course:  

By the end of this course students will be able to better understand why terrorism occurs, how terrorists organize and operate, aspects of counter-terrorism possibilities and limits, and what some of the consequences are of reacting in different ways to terrorism. Students will also have an understanding of a number of historical and contemporary European conflicts, where terror has been a key element, which will strengthen the student’s abilities to use comparative analysis.

Faculty Instructor

Martin Cleemann Rasmussen 

MA (Russian and History, University of Copenhagen 2004, graduated on Civil-Military relations in Russia, 1993-99). Associate professor at the Royal Danish Officer Academy (2011- ), Senior Advisor NordGEN at the Nordic Council of Ministers 2005-2009 on Russia and the CIS. Lectures to the general public on military and security affairs as well as used as analyst on Russian matters in Danish news media and the Danish Defence College. With DIS since 2015. Martin also teaches a number of classes at DIS related to Russia, the Ukraine as well as on international relations and Cold War history. 


Please note there is no textbook in this course. Main books and articles used in this class (supplemented by a number of films, documentaries etc. ) are listed below

  • Coker, C. “Asymmetrical Warfare: Ends or Means?”, in John Olsen, ed., Asymmetric Warfare (Oslo: Norwegian Air Force Academy 2002
  • Coll, Steve:  Ghost Wars – The secret history of the CIA….”. 2005
  • Dolnik, Adam ”13 Years since Tokyo: Re-visiting the ”superterrorism” Debate”, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol. II, 2008 
  • Duyvesteyn, Isabelle “The Role of History and Continuity in Terrorism Research”, in Magnus Ranstorp, ed., Mapping Terrorism Research, London: Routledge 2007
  • Jespersen, Knud “A history of Denmark”, 2011
  • Elster, Jon “Motivations and Beliefs in Suicide Missions”, in Diego Ambetta, ed., Making Sense of Suicide Missions, Oxford: OUP 2005
  • Gus Martin, ”Violence in the Name of Faith: Religious Terrorism”, in Understanding Terrorism: Challenges Perspectives, and Issues, Sage 4th ed., 2013
  • Gurr, Ted: Why Men Rebel, Princeton, NJ: PUP 1970
  • Hoffman, Bruce "Inside Terrorism", Columbia University Press, 2017
  • Hoffman, Bruce “Radicalization and Subversion: Al Qaeda and the 7 July 2005 Bombings and the 2006 Airline Bombing Plot”, in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, #32 2009
  • Hong, Nathaniel “Occupied – Denmark’s Adaptation and Resistance to German Occupation 1940-1945”, 2011 
  • Jackson Richard, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth,,”Conceptualizing Terrorism”, in Terrorism: A Critical Introduction, Palgrave 2011. 
  • Lipman Report: “The Rising Tide of Cyberwarfare: Cyberterrorism and Cybercrime in a Climate of Heightened Global Risk and Economic Instability”, September 2009
  • Monaco, Lisa: "Preventing the next attack - an inside strategy for the war on terrorism", Foreign Affairs, Vol 96, No 6. , November-December 2017.
  • O´Brien, Brendan, “A pocket History of the IRA”, 1997
  • Nacos, Brigitte L. ”Terrorist Propaganda and the Media”, in  Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Understanding Threats and Responses in the Post-9/11 World (Pearson, 2nd ed. 2007.
  • Obeidallah, Dean “Are all Terrorists Muslims? It’s not even close”,
  • Powell, J. “Talking to terrorists – How to end armed conflict,” GB, Vintage, 2015.

Field Studies

Wednesday, 22nd of February, 9:00-12:30: Visit to Mindelunden - The Danish Memorial Site to the executed Resistance Fighters and Victims of the Concentration Camps.

Wednesday, 3rd of May, 13.00-17.00: Social event

Guest Lecturers

  • Dennis M. Brink - Terror and religious satire, and experiencing a terrorist attack (TBC)

Approach to Teaching

This course will be a combination of lectures and a discussion-based course using case studies, manual simulations as well as group-work. 

Expectations of the Students

As the course is partly a discussion-based course, case studies and manual simulations, a high degree of student participation, preparation and engagement is required. Throughout the course, you will also have to develop and practice your own critical thinking by analyzing texts, concepts as well as specific cases to understand the complexity of the field of terrorism and counter-terrorism.

Manual simulations: This class will use a number of manual simulations, which aims to increase the students’ awareness and understanding of issues, dilemmas and decisions involved in terrorism and counter-terrorism. Manual simulations include elements from leadership training, role-playing and crisis management. All students are expected to prepare VERY THOROUGHLY for each of the simulations and it is expected, that students actively engage in all simulations and indulge in the roles assigned. Manual simulations constitute 20% of the overall grade.




Participation and engagement


Manual simulations


 Midterm exam


 Final paper/project thesis


Final Paper/project


Study tour work and activities



Core Course Week and Study Tours

Core Course week and study tours are an integral part of the core course as we take the classroom on the road and see how theory presented in the classroom is translated into practice in the field. You will travel with your classmates and DIS faculty/staff on two study tours; a short study tour during Core Course Week to Aarhus and a long study tour to Ireland and Northern Ireland.

 Expectations for study tours:

  • Participate in all activities
  • Engage in discussions, ask questions, and contribute to achieving the learning objectives
  • Respect the destination, the speakers, DIS staff, and your fellow classmates
  • Represent yourself, your home university and DIS in a positive light

 While on a program study tour DIS will provide hostel/hotel accommodation, transportation to/from the destination(s), approx. 2 meals per day and entrances, guides, and visits relevant to your area of study or the destination. You will receive a more detailed itinerary prior to departure.

 Travel policies:

You are required to travel with your group to the destination. If you have to deviate from the group travel plans, you need approval from the program director and the study tours office.   

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due