Counterterrorism Bookshelf:16 Books on Terrorism & Counter-Terrorism-related Subjects

Reviewed by Joshua Sinai

This column consists of capsule reviews of books published by various publishers, with the authors listed in alphabetical order. Please note that most of these books were recently published, with several published over the past several years but deserving renewed interest.

Yaniv Barzilai, 102 Days of War: How Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda & the Taliban Survived 2001 (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2013). 194 pp., US $ 19.96 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1612345338.

A detailed, authoritative and extensively footnoted account of how al Qaida, led by Osama bin Laden, succeeded in escaping from Afghanistan into Pakistan, following the United States-led intervention that overthrew the Taliban regime in late 2001. The book also chronicles the Pakistani government’s efforts to assist the Taliban’s retreat into Pakistan. Al Qaida and the Taliban were not defeated at the time, the author writes, because “The absence of unanimity over the objectives for Operation Enduring Freedom reflected a lack of united strategic vision that would ultimately enable al Qaeda to continue its existence in the region. While most of the [United States] civilian and military leaders recognized that al Qaeda and the Taliban were the enemies, a clear and unified understanding of how to defeat these adversaries never emerged. The President and his subordinates considered the primary objective to be to remove Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorism” (pp. 46-47). In the Epilogue, the author concludes that in contrast to the Battle of Tora Bora, which took place in December 2001, where U.S.-led forces had failed to prevent al Qaida’s escape from Afghanistan, the U.S. government, under President Barack Obama, succeeded in finally killing bin Laden in his hideaway in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011, because this operation “was planned during a stable and routine time of the Obama presidency,” where counterterrorism campaign planners “had the time to proceed through a deliberate and composed decision-making process.” (p. 125). The author is a foreign service officer in the U.S. Department of State.

Paul Berman, The Flight of the Intellectuals: The Controversy Over Islamism and the Press (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2011). 304 pp., US $ 11.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1935554448.

Taking the form of a polemic, this well-written book examines the intellectual atmosphere in the West that caused prominent non-Muslim intellectuals and journalists, such as Timothy G. Ash and Ian Buruma, to “fumble badly” in their appeasement of Islamist ideas and accompanying terrorist violence, with Swiss- and UK-based Tariq Ramadan (the grandson of Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood), succeeding in ‘deceiving’ his Western audience that Islamism is compatible with Western democratic and pluralistic values. This polemic is set against the larger context of how some Western intellectuals responded to the Rushdie Affair (when the Iranian Islamic Republic had issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie in February 1989 in reaction to the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses” the previous year), with the author concluding that “The Rushdies of today find themselves under criticism, contrasted unfavorably in the very best of magazines with Tariq Ramadan, who is celebrated as a bridge between cultures – Ramadan, an alumnus of the anti-Rushdie Islamic Foundation in Britain.” (p. 298). Paul Berman is an American writer on politics and literature.

Robert J. Bunker and Charles “Sid” Heal (Eds.), Fifth Dimensional Operations: Space-Time-Cyber Dimensionality in Conflict and War [A Terrorism Research Center Book] (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse LLC, 2014). 290 pp., US $ 21.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1491738726.

The contributors to this edited volume examine what is termed “fifth dimensional operations” in conflict and war, which, as explained by Charles “Sid” Heal, one of the contributors, is cyberspace, with the other four consisting of the three dimensional “space” (length, width and height/depth), with the fourth dimension being “time.” The fifth dimension plays an important role in counterterrorism, Robert Bunker explains in his introductory chapter, because it is in the “cyber” battlespace that a terrorist operative’s movements might come under camera surveillance, which would make it possible to eventually apprehend him in “physical” space. As Mr. Heal explains, “Of critical importance is to understand that each of these five dimensions is fundamentally distinct from one another and rules for one dimension are completely irrelevant for another. For example, speed in space means nothing without time and there is no distance in time. Likewise, in cyberspace, time and space are completely irrelevant for one simple reason: knowledge can reside in more than one place at the same time” (p. 129). Mr. Heal then concludes that “Despite their fundamental differences all five dimensions interact with one another with humans the common ‘go between’ or element” (p.129). The book is composed of an introduction, 14 chapters (most of which were previously published, beginning in 1998), a postscript, a symbol key and glossary, and appendices. Dr. Bunker is a Visiting Professor and Minerva Chair, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, while Mr. Heal is a retired Commander, Los Angeles Sheriffs Department.

Ophir Falk and Henry Morgenstern (Eds.), Suicide Terror: Understanding and Confronting the Threat (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009). 336 pp., US $ 107.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-470-44776-5.

The contributors to this edited volume examine the threat of suicide terrorism in all its dimensions. This ranges from a general overview, how the global jihad, including al Qaida, employs suicide terrorism, the use of suicide terrorism against Israel and the United States, and how suicide terrorism is employed worldwide in countries such as Lebanon, Sri Lanka, India, Turkey, and Chechnya. They also discuss high-risk future scenarios in suicide terrorism (such as against energy facilities, civilian aircraft, maritime targets, and subways), countermeasures against suicide terrorism, and medical management of suicide terrorist incidents. Much of the material will be of special interest to law enforcement and public safety practitioners as it deals with the types of weapons and tactics employed by the groups and the operatives who carry out suicide bombings. There is also an invaluable chapter by Shmuel C. Shapira and Leonard A. Cole on the medical components in managing those injured by such mass casualty incidents. While most of the incidents covered in the book do involve suicide bombing tactics, a few do not, such as the March 2003 Madrid train bombings. One of the book’s future scenarios involves a MANPAD attack against a civilian airliner, which represents a more conventional ‘attack and escape’ tactic. While the book’s sections on profiling the characteristics of suicide operatives are weak, this volume’s discussions of the mechanics and modus operandi of suicide terrorism represent an important contribution to the literature on this topic. Mr. Falk, an attorney, is a noted Israeli counterterrorism expert, and Mr. Morgenstern is President of the American-based Security Solutions International.

Edward Follis and Douglas Century, The Dark Art: My Undercover Life in Global Narco-Terrorism (New York, NY: Gotham Books, 2014). 288 pp., US $ 28.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1592408931.

This is a highly engaging personal account by a former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent of his 27-year career, including operating as an undercover agent in drug cartel hotspots such as Mexico and the front lines of counterterrorism in Afghanistan after 9/11, where he served as a DEA attaché at the American Embassy in Kabul, and dealt with the country’s criminal drug lords. With the discipline of threat convergence involving the close intersection of terrorism and criminality becoming increasingly prominent in terrorism and counterterrorism studies, readers will benefit from the author’s description of his numerous encounters with ‘narco-terrorists’, including his conclusion that “Indeed, narco-terrorism is now the face of twenty-first-century organized crime. Far-flung groups like the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, and FARC…are two-headed monsters: hybrids of highly structured global drug-trafficking cartels and politically motivated terrorists” (p. 248).

Stephen A. Harmon, Terror and Insurgency in the Sahara-Sahel Region: Corruption, Contraband, Jihad and the Mali War of 2012-2013 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014). 273 pp., US $ 119.95 [Hardcover], ISBN-13: 978-1409454755.

A comprehensive account of the historical origins, current manifestations, and possible future trends regarding terrorist and insurgent outbreaks in the Sahara-Sahel region, focusing, in particular, on Algeria, Mali, and Nigeria. The volume includes a discussion of the effectiveness of international and regional initiatives to counter the spread of these insurgencies. Among the author’s numerous findings are that “southern Libya may become the Sahara’s new terrorist haven now that northern Mali has been largely denied to them,” and that “The problems facing Mali are not particular to one country but are regional issues: Islamic extremism and the terrorism it frequently generates; the organized criminal networks that thrive off of the price differentials resulting from arguably artificial borders in the Sahara-Sahel zone; and the problem of corruption in political and economic relations that eats away at the social contract and the economic base of society” (pp. 228-229). Dr. Harmon is a Professor in Pittsburg State University’s Department of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences.

Shane Harris, @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex (Boston, MA: An Eamon Dolan Book/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). 304 pages, US$27.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0544251793.

An interesting journalistic examination of the latest technological trends in the American government’s attempt to ‘control’ cyberspace, where its relentless cyber adversaries range from states (such as China and Iran) to sub-state actors, such as the Anonymous hacktivist group and overseas criminal cyber networks. Developing the capabilities to mount such countermeasures is so challenging and pervasive, the author writes, that the American government has mobilized the country’s private sector to support the development of cutting edge cyber tools to counter its cyber adversaries, as well as to build up its own cyber ‘offensive’ capability, with cyber-warfare becoming a crucial component in a state’s modern warfare arsenal on the ‘ground’ and in ‘cyber’ space. As to future trends, the author points out that, in one such trend, to protect people from cyber threats (especially in the form of cyber breaches of one’s bank accounts or other types of personal stored information), companies are likely to create “Internet safe zones,” consisting of new domain names for their websites. The author is a senior writer with the “Foreign Policy” magazine and a Fellow at the Washington, DC-based New America Foundation.

Jennifer Hesterman, Soft Target Hardening: Protecting People from Attack (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2015). 321 pp., US $ 62.96 [Hardcover], ISBN 9781482244212.

Since this reviewer wrote the book’s Foreword, this should not be considered a review, but a capsule write-up of the book’s contents. The volume’s chapters cover topics such as defining soft targets (e.g., schools, religious houses of worship, hospitals, shopping malls, sports and entertainment venues), motivations by terrorists to target such facilities, and how such soft targets can be hardened through various security measures to deter terrorists from attacking them. The appendices include various checklists on risk mitigation, including a bomb threat standoff chart. The author is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Air Force who had commanded emergency response forces at military facilities. She is currently a private consultant.

Arif Jamal, Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2009). 303 pp., US $ 26.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 9781933633596.

A comprehensive account of the Pakistani-supported Islamist jihad in Indian-controlled Kashmir, from its inception in 1947 until early 2008. It focuses, in particular, on the rise of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest jihad group in Kashmir, while briefly discussing other prominent Pakistani jihadi militant groups such as Lashkar-i-Taiba and the Jaish-i-Mohammad. Although the book’s coverage is dated, it still provides a valuable background for understanding current developments in Kashmir, especially in light of the author’s forecast that “If the jihadis continue spreading their influence, which is the most likely emerging scenario, they will ultimately extend their control to the borders of Jammu and Kashmir in the East and of Afghanistan in the West, connecting the two. If the territory between Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan come under control of jihadis, they would be able to freely move between Kashmir and Afghanistan” (pp. 271-272). While current development in Kashmir likely preclude a jihadi military victory in that territory, the author is likely correct in his prediction of increasing territorial control by the Pakistani-backed Taliban in Afghanistan, thereby providing their Kashmiri insurgents greater incentives to continue their armed struggle in Indian Kashmir. The author is a leading Pakistani journalist.

Roy Licklider (Ed.), New Armies From Old: Merging Competing Military Forces After Civil Wars (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2014). 320 pp., US $ 54.95 [Hardcover], US $ 34.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1626160439.

The contributors to this edited volume examine different categories that characterize the way that states that emerge from protracted civil war attempt to integrate former rival militaries (including terrorist and guerrilla forces) into their newly reformed and reconstituted military armies. The volume’s case studies attempt to answer three overarching research questions: “(1) Why has military integration been used? (2) What particular strategies seem to work better under what circumstances? (3) Has successful integration made the resumption of civil war less likely?” (p.3). To apply this conceptual framework, the volume’s chapters cover military integration cases such as Sudan (1971), Zimbabwe (1980), Lebanon (1989), Cambodia (1991), Angola (1994), Bosnia (1995), South Africa (1997), and Burundi (2004). The concluding chapter by Roy Licklider is especially insightful, as he discusses the nature of those integration efforts that were most effective (e.g., when former adversaries are integrated as individuals rather than units). He finds that international assistance is often useful, that quotas actually do work, and, citing one of the volume’s contributors, that “the success of military integration depends on the political will of the local elites.” (pp. 260–261) This volume’s conceptual framework and findings are especially pertinent to the current period, particularly in shedding light on the factors that appear to be absent in the unsuccessful military integration efforts in Iraq’s Shi’ite dominated military. Roy Licklider is Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Kirk S. Lippold, Front Burner: Al Qaeda’s Attack on the USS Cole (New York, NY: Public Affairs, 2012). 408 pp., US $ 27.99 [Hardcover], US $ 16.99 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1610391245.

A personal account by the commander of the USS Cole of the events that preceded and followed the suicide terrorist attack by al Qaida operatives against his ship when it was docked in the port of Aden in Yemen on October 12, 2000. Seventeen American sailors were killed and 37 were wounded in the attack, with the ship itself being saved and eventually refurbished for future sailing. What makes Commander Lippold’s book of special interest is his detailed and objective account, including his inclusion and discussion of numerous government reports and investigations about the circumstances that led to the attack, particularly an examination of the effectiveness of the anti-terrorism force protection measures that were in place at the time, including the threat environment in Yemen. Also of interest is Commander Lippold’s account of the aftermath of the attack and the circumstances that prevented him from being further promoted in the Navy.

Kenan Malik, From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Aftermath (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2014). 272 pp., US $ 19.99 [Hardcover], US$ 13.55 [Paperback], ISBN: 9781935554004.

This is a balanced and objective discussion of the chain of events that followed the 1988 publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel, “The Satanic Verses,” that led to the issuance of the fatwa by the Iranian Islamist government the following year. The fatwa called for Rushdie’s assassination and the murder of anyone associated with the book’s publication or selling. This chain of events, the author writes, also transformed the relationship between the radicalized version of Islam and the West into a war of terror that became unconstrained geographically, leading to its current explosive manifestation. In one of the book’s numerous insightful passages about the impact of the Rushdie affair on Western writers, Mr. Malik quotes the British novelist Hanif Kureishi’s observation that “The fatwa ‘created a climate of terror and fear. Writers had to think about what they were writing in a way they never had to before. Free speech became an issue as it had not been before. Liberals had to take a stand, to defend an ideology [i.e., liberalism and free speech] they had not really had to think about before.’” (p. 202) One may not, however, necessarily agree with the author’s conclusion that Western ‘overreaction’ “helped build a culture of grievance in which being offended has become a badge of identity, cleared a space for radical Islamists to flourish, and made secular and progressive arguments less sayable, particularly within Muslim communities” (p. 210). Nevertheless, the issues raised by Mr. Malik’s important book form the very essence of the intellectual debate currently raging in the West about how to deal with integration problems and grievances being expressed by many segments in Muslim communities in Western societies. These can now be better understood within the context of the earlier Rushdie affair. Mr. Malik is an English writer and broadcaster.

Angel Rabasa and Cheryl Benar, Eurojihad: Patterns of Islamist Radicalization and Terrorism in Europe (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2015). 245 pp., US $ 32.99 [Paperback], ISBN: 9781107437203.

A detailed and comprehensive examination of the size and demography of Europe’s Muslim populations, the origins, patterns and networks of Islamist radicalization, mobilization and recruitment into violent extremist movements in these societies, the nature of jihadist ideology and strategy, case studies of Islamist terrorist operations and tactics in Europe, and the types of responses by the continent’s governments against such threats. Also discussed are recent developments, particularly the impact of the civil wars in Iraq and Syria on the radicalization and mobilization of Western Muslims, turning several thousands into becoming foreign fighters on behalf of al-Qaida type insurgents in those conflicts. One of the authors’ findings, which is pertinent to the current period, is that “The grievances that propel radicalization and violence are largely vicarious in nature. The motivating factors need not be, and often are not, part of the personal experience of the individual. More frequently, radicalization is fostered by narratives of Muslim oppression in areas of conflict outside of Europe” (p. 192). Both authors are senior analysts at the RAND Corporation.

David Scharia, Judicial Review of National Security (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015). 296 pp., US $ 85.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 9780199393367.

An important examination of how the Israeli Supreme Court has developed an informal set of judicial tools, which the author terms “advisory dialogue,” that enable it to review the legality of certain types of military actions, particularly within the context of an ongoing counterterrorism campaign (such as a hostage taking event or imminent targeted killing operation), that require urgent review, to ensure that both expeditious counter-measures against suspected terrorists and the rule of law are adhered to in a timely manner by all government bodies, ranging from the Executive, the Attorney General, the intelligence community, and the military. This is important, the author writes, so that not only in the case of Israel but in other countries, as well, “By exercising judicial review through advisory dialogue courts can overcome several of their institutional disadvantages on questions pertaining to national security. It could mitigate the tension between the wish to promote human rights and the wish to avoid inter-branch conflict in time of emergency” (p. 235) Dr. Scharia is the Coordinator of the Legal and Criminal Justice Group at the United Nations Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). He had previously worked in Israel at the Supreme Court division in the Attorney General’s office.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture: Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program (Brooklyn, New York: Melville House, 2014). 576 pp., US $ 16.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 9781612194851.

This volume, re-published by a commercial publisher, is the complete official declassified and redacted summary report of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) so-called “enhanced” interrogation and covert detention program established in the aftermath of al Qaida’s 9/11 attacks. This unclassified summary report is based on the full report, numbering some 6,700 pages, which remains classified, and which took five years to produce, together with this volume released by the U.S. government in early December 2014. This volume is divided into seven sections, including background on the Senate committee’s study, the overall history and operation of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, intelligence acquired through the interrogation program, a review of the CIA’s reporting on its interrogation program to the media, the Department of Justice, Congress, and other bodies, and several appendices. This summary report, as well as the full report, have been criticized by the CIA and Republican members of Congress for providing an inaccurate account of the interrogation program and its effectiveness–unlike “The 9/11 Commission Report” (officially known as the “Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States”), which was published in July 2004 and was widely praised for its objectivity and insight.

Brian Glyn Williams, Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on al Qaeda (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2013). 256 pp., US $ 29.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1612346175.

A comprehensive and detailed examination of the effectiveness of the U.S. intelligence and military services’ armed drone campaign against suspected terrorist operatives associated with al Qaeda and its affiliates (including the Pakistani Taliban), whether in Pakistan, Yemen, or elsewhere. Following a discussion of how drones evolved to become an important component in the American counterterrorism campaign against al Qaida–which is illustrated with numerous case studies of their use against such terrorist operatives–the author devotes two chapters to a discussion of the arguments “for” and “against” their use. The employment of drones, the author points out, “have saved civilian lives” by disrupting potential plots to carry out terrorist acts in the West (p. 170), and their “constant threat of attack or surveillance has forced the Taliban and al Qaeda to dismantle their training camps in favor of hidden classrooms or dugouts in the mountains,” (p.181). He also finds that drones have weakened these organizations’ leadership by eliminating top leaders, thereby forcing them to elevate inexperienced mid-level operatives “to higher positions in the organization” (p.181). Arguments against their use, according to the author, include the fact that they “are not perfect; they can (and do) make mistakes that lead to [collateral] civilian deaths” (p. 213). The author concludes that “drones represent the future of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in remote, unpoliced lands, such as Pakistan’s FATA region, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. Where U.S. troops cannot be placed on the ground, drones will increasingly fly to strike at those whom America deems to be its enemies” (p. 229). Brian Williams is professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

About the Reviewer: Dr. Joshua Sinai is the Book Reviews Editor of ‘Perspectives on Terrorism’. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

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