The Complex Terrain Laboratory (CTlab) is an independent, interdisciplinary project focused on problems of international relations, international law, and political violence. CTlab deals with the conceptual and social science dimensions of legal and policy challenges in current affairs. It  is especially concerned with the politics of place and space, and with variable geometries of conflict and militancy.

Its approach is multidisciplinary, built around the notion that "terrain" is a metaphor for complex physical, human, and virtual environments.

Its goals are four-fold:

  • Cross-pollinate academic, practice, industry, and policy interests
  • Promote relevant concept development and communication
  • Establish itself as a creative and authoritative "thinklab"
  • Generate a critical mass of informed commentary

 CTLab's mission is to:

  • Connect academic and non-academic practitioners
  • Foster interdisciplinary research in arts & sciences
  • Make scholarly research more accessible to the public
  • Challenge conventional wisdoms and political orthodoxies
  • Promote understanding of culture, conflict, and space in international affairs

 

History

CTLab is a direct outgrowth of legal and social science inquiries into the dynamics of security in the post-911 period.Official reports, doctrinal revisions, and concept papers have redefined thespatial syntax of war, challenging social scientists to investigate and illuminate thetextures, nuances, implications and consequencesof variable geometries of violence. Scholars havegrappled with the transformation, newness,or changing character of war, simultaneously striving to identify elements of continuity and change, andto redressemergent practicaland conceptual imbalances in the way war is governed.

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Under the aegis of the Institute for National Security and Counter-Terrorism (INSCT) at the University of Syracuse, and the Institute for Counter-Terrorism Policy (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary (IDC) Center Herzliya, a joint researchinitiative entitled New Battlefields, Old Laws: From the Hague Conventions to Asymmetric Warconducted workshops and meetings to debate these complexities. New Battlefields, Old Laws (NB-OL) asks a basic question: "Are the traditional laws and norms of armed conflict sufficient guides in asymmetric war - where weaker combatants use strategies and tactics outside the rules to offset their military disadvantage?"

Initial discussions among NB-OL participantssuggest that the Laws Of Armed Conflict, elements of which were first drafted over a century ago as a means of regulating conduct on linearbattlefields, face a pandora’s box of apparently non-linear challenges. Conflicting political and security metaphors of spatial knowledge, simulation and control - "failed states", "human terrain", "terrorist sanctuaries" - have revealed deep divisions over the perception and management of threat. The analytical and methodological levers needed to pry open these intricate and contentious lines of inquiry are as many as their subjects are varied - looking to everything from the obligations of states in the international system, to the role of ethnographic intelligence,the limits oftechnological fixes,the challenges ofholistic surveillance indemocratic societies, and the ethics of scholarly engagement in security research.