Barak Mendelsohn (right) at a public debate on international politics with fellow political science professor Craig Borowiak.
Studying the War on Terrorism
It was a busy year for assistant professor of Political Science Barak Mendelsohn. In August, his article “Al-Qaeda’s Palestinian Problem” apeared in Survival, the publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a prominent London-based think tank. In September, Foreign Affairs magazine, put out by the Council on Foreign Relations, ran his analysis, “Hamas and Its Discontents: The Battle Over Islamic Rule in Gaza.”
Also appearing in the fall, from the University of Chicago Press, was Mendelsohn’s first book, Combating Jihadism: American Hegemony and Interstate Cooperation in the War on Terrorism. And, in December, International Studies Review published his article “Bolstering the State: A Different Perspective on the War on Terrrorism.”
Aiding Mendelsohn in his research for all of these works: an online database he and his Haverford students created.
Mendelsohn and his students developed the Global Terrorism Resource Database [http://people.haverford.edu/bmendels] in support of several of the courses he teaches, including “The War on Terrorism,” “Introduction to Terrorism Studies” and “The Evolution of the Jihadi Movement.”
“What we have is a master list of sources,” says Mendelsohn, who credits Nicholas Lotito ’10 with completing the project. “We have links to public opinion sources and to data bases of terrorist acts.” In addition to providing links to the websites of major terrorism research centers and the articles and reports they produce, the database also includes links to datasets, document collections, maps, country-specific lists and more. “It is a tremendous achievement and it is the work of our students,” says Mendelsohn.
He is particularly proud of the Al Qaeda Index created by Nick Sher ’10 and subsequently updated by Katie Drooyan ’11 and Harrison Jones ’12, which has over 200 statements by Al-Qaeda leaders that can be searched by key word. “This index proved particularly useful in writing the article about Al-Qaeda,” he says. “If I need something on Al-Qaeda’s attitude toward Hamas, for example, everything that Al-Qaeda has said about Hamas I can locate in the database.” Recently, Mendelsohn received funding from the Provost’s Office to maintain the index and make it even more user friendly. For that purpose, Rose Mendenhall ’10 recently joined the crew. “Now we will be able to update these resources regularly,” he says.
“The database and the index are helpful in my own work, for my students’ work and in my classes,” says Mendelsohn. “If I ask students in a 200-level class to write a 20-page paper, I’m glad I can offer them these tools to help them in their research.”
The Global Terrorism Resource Database is also finding users beyond Haverford. Says Mendelsohn, “ I went to an American Political Science Association conference during the summer and I found out that people from many other schools are familiar with it and are using it. Even staff members with the Congressional Research Service are familiar with our work. I am very proud of these tools and the students who created them.”