7th March 2011: First Supervisor’s Meeting

Issues from my PhD-related first supervisor’s meeting:

1. Profiling groups. Early work in strategic culture built on the ‘operational codes’ literature of the 1940s and on political psychology (e.g. Walter Langer’s OSS study on Adolf Hitler, and Jerrold M. Post’s more recent work). I don’t speak/write Arabic, and ‘at a distance’ profiling has numerous problems, such as noted by Patrick Porter (2007 and 2009), and in the intelligence studies literature, by Gregory Treverton, Robert Jervis, and Richard K. Betts. I am more interested in comparative analysis of the ‘estimative assessments’ made of groups such as Al Qaeda and Aum Shinrikyo, and where such assessments either fail, or alternative explanations may exist. This approach is similar to ‘mosaic theory’ in law where information is analysed and evaluated from several different sources.

2. Counterterrorism Studies as a sub-field. For the purposes of this study, I am defining CTS as a policy subfield of international security, with sub-field links to strategic studies, and which draws on other fields such as anthropology, sociology and psychology as needed. Stampnitzky’s (2008) PhD notes a range of problems, from lack of academic acceptance, to periodic crises and no accreditation mechanisms. This struck me as broadly similar to Hedley Bull (1968) and Richard K. Betts (1997) on crises in strategic studies. Louise Richardson noted that prior to September 11, the entire sub-field had perhaps 40 key researchers, globally. Andrew Silke, John Horgan, Avishag Gordon and others have written about post-September 11 developments. Since about 2005, there is also a ‘critical’ school of CTS, being advanced by Richard Jackson, Joseba Zulaika, and others.

3. Counterinsurgency. Due to the Mau-Mau insurgency in Malaya, the FLN in Algeria, and the background of Walter Laqueur and RAND studies, there is some overlap between CTS and COIN. There is renewed focus on this due to General David Petraeus, David Kilcullen, Ralph Peters and others. David Ucko’s (2009) PhD was on the US Army’s adaptiveness to COIN, whilst Patrick Porter (2007 and 2009) has included COIN as a driver of recent interest in strategic culture. I emphasise CTS for two reasons: (i) there are gaps in the both the CTS and strategic culture literature; and (ii) whilst COIN is very topical, I also want to include some examples and case studies of some earlier groups and time periods.

4. The project focus. To-date, strategic culture has been applied to nation-states and to national security communities, and in the context of either constructivist international relations theory or security studies. This project examines the utility of strategic culture within CTS to analyse non-state actors, and how intelligence analysts, journalists and scholars seek to understand them. It is also an exercise in theory-building about strategic culture and an analytical evaluation of past CTS work. The hypotheses and postulates are some tentative ideas that have emerged from ‘draft zero’ writing.