Thesis Title

Understanding Islamist Terrorism: What It Is and How It Threatens the United States of America

Date of Graduation

Summer 2005


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

C. Walton


The attacks of September 11, 2001 brought the threat of Islamist terrorism to the fore in the minds of American policymakers and strategic thinkers. As the War on Terror unfolded, it has become clear that this new threat is radically different from the monolithic threat of the Cold War era. This thesis offers a three-part analysis of the Islamist threat. First, it offers a comprehensive definition of the threat. This understanding also includes a detailed examination of the socio-cultural background of modern Islamist terrorists. Second, it delves into some of the sources of the Islamists’ capabilities by examining their use of intelligence and counterintelligence as well as the benefits they receive from their state sponsors. Finally, this Thesis details the terrorist threat to the United States and offers a clear and objective assessment of America’s vulnerabilities as well as the terrorists’ capabilities. This final section examines the threats of nuclear, biological, chemical, and cyber terrorism.


Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Islam, Islamism, international terrorism, nuclear terrorism, biological terrorism, chemical terrorism, psychology, anti-Westernism, intelligence, counterintelligence, Jihad

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Caleb M. Bartley