A Counterterrorist’s Intellectual Odyssey


A man of two hats, Dr. Max Abrahms balances roles of a dedicated academic and an influential political analyst. His international security research, focusing heavily on terrorism, is known worldwide. An assistant professor of political science and public policy at Northeastern University, he educates not only his students on the subjects of national security, foreign policy and the threat of terrorism, but the masses as well. A regular on media outlets like the Atlantic, BBC, Bloomberg, CNN, Newsweek and many others, his original research helps to answer core questions about terrorists, like which attacks they will claim, which targets they will attack, and which government responses are optimal for counterterrorism.


As an undergrad, Abrahms graduated Summa Cum Laude in History and Political Science from Penn, before heading off in 2000 to do a two-year Masters in International relations at Oxford University. Upon arrival, Abrahms expressed interest in writing his thesis on terrorism. But he was told by the faculty it was not a suitable subject within international relations and that he would have a tough time finding a suitable advisor. Over the extended summer break, he returned to see his family in Connecticut, which is when 9/11 happened. Suddenly, everyone was talking about terrorism. Upon returning to Oxford a few weeks later to complete his degree, Abrahms was told by the faculty, “There’s no better place in the world to study terrorism than at Oxford University!”


After getting his degree in 2002, he headed to DC to work as a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. At the time, the looming international event was the decision to remove Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Abrahms watched how seemingly everyone in the policy community lined up behind the war based on all sorts of assumptions that turned out to be empirically baseless. With this realization, he headed back to academia to get his Ph.D. and has been working as an academic on the interface of policy ever since. Over the past several years, Abrahms has held fellowships relating to counterterrorism at Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Tel Aviv University, and the West Point Military Academy.


Currently, Abrahms is also a member at the Council on Foreign Relations, a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, a faculty fellow at India’s Observer Research foundation, and on the editorial board of Terrorism and Political Violence, the flagship peer-reviewed journal on terrorism. He is writing a book with Oxford University Press on why the conventional wisdom about Islamic State has been wrong. For the latest terrorism analysis, follow him on Twitter @maxabrahms.

Written by Celestia Randolph, CVA Intern at Wingate University, edited.