Keith Jaggers, professor of political science for the Honors Program
Editor’s note: Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that impacted Americans everywhere, and fallout from that day continues to change us every day. The Collegian has contacted professors from around the university to see how the day has changed their area of study. Below is just one of their stories.
Sarah Mast: How has Sept. 11 and the aftermath of the last five years changed your field?
Keith Jaggers: It changes it in two ways. It changes what we study and how we teach. It changed the focus of what we examine and put an emphasis on terrorism and security issues. There is an emphasis on what causes instability and what motivates people to act in terms of terrorism.
The second way is how we teach. Since Sept. 11, teachers simply can’t say what they believe or whatever comes off the top of their head. You really have to try to weigh your role in the country and in higher education. You’re trying to balance commitment to the country and commitment to knowledge and truth.
SM: How do you see your field evolving over the next five to 10 years, and will these changes be as a result of Sept. 11?
KJ: There is a re-emphasis on understanding the context of politics. Part of what political scientists do is form policy and, in forming policy, grand theories of politics are a huge mistake and are dangerous in many ways. So whether it be in theories of globalization or theories of democratization, there is danger in assuming those theories are all going to work all the time. Sept. 11 and post-Sept. 11 have made us rethink those theories and whether or not grand theories of politics really work in reality. The grand theories of democracy may look good on paper and look good in my classroom, but they may not look good in Iraq. So I think there is going to be a movement away from the grand theorizing.
SM: Do you think something like Sept. 11 will happen again?
KJ: Statistically, it will happen again, but we all must bear in mind that the chances of any individual American being harmed by a terrorist attack is very small. The fact that another attack will be attempted or will occur is very likely largely because there are small groups of individuals who hate America who are motivated to do something dramatic.
I always think of terrorist attacks like Sept. 11 not so much as a group trying to destroy America as much as an attack on our psyche. These groups tend to be into political theater. The chance of them hurting us physically is small. The threat today is more of a psychological threat.
SM: In a world where globalization is growing, do you think terrorist attacks will continue or eventually end?
KJ: If globalization lives up to its potential to empower all individuals economically, politically, culturally and socially then terrorism will end. The possibility of that happening anytime in the near future is very remote. Globalization has to destroy the old or at least change the old.
Globalization can provide the networks and the technology at everybody’s fingertips that they can use in the name of whatever cause they have. But globalization also provides the opportunity for us to better police the world and control these things. Globalization is really a double-edged sword. Globalization in the long run holds that potential for the end of terrorism, but I think it’s a long way off.
Staff writer Sarah Mast can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.