Terrorism Bookshelf:

23 Books on Terrorism & Counter-Terrorism-Related Subjects

Reviewed by Joshua Sinai

This column consists of capsule reviews of books from various publishers. The reviews are listed in three sections: “Terrorism – Global”, “Radicalization, Islamism, and al Qaida/Islamic State”, and “Reference Handbooks and Textbooks”.


Bjoran Brenner [Foreword by Magnus Ranstorp], Gaza Under Hamas: From Islamic Democracy to Islamist Governance (New York, NY: I.B. Taurus, 2017), 256 pp., US $ 35.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-78453-777-7.

This account is based on the author’s extensive fieldwork from 2009 to 2012 in Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and addresses the nature Palestinian Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip, primarily from 2006 (when Hamas gained control over Gaza) to the present. As explained by Ranstorp’s Foreword, three themes permeate this book: (i) the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah [which Hamas had evicted from Gaza-JS], (ii) Hamas’ relations with the Palestinian Salafi elements and jihadi fringe groups that had been growing in popularity in Gaza, and (iii) the way in which Hamas re-established order, which was expressed in its reform of the judicial system. What makes Brenner’s account especially valuable is its focus on how Hamas has managed to create a functioning government in Gaza – a subject that is little known – as opposed to Hamas’s behavior towards Israel, which the author explains is not discussed in this book as it has been extensively studied by others. The author concludes that, with regard to democratic procedures, “Hamas does not question the concept of democracy as such, rather it has been concerned to advance its own idea of democracy – an Islamic democracy. However, Hamas’s actions on the ground have often clashed with liberal principles.” (p. 198) Although Brenner’s account can be criticized for being uncritical with regard to Hamas’ rule, for instance, there is little mention of the widely publicized personal corruption by many of its leaders and the enormous poverty of Gaza’s population, this book is recommended for providing other insights into the nature of its rule which, due to the author’s access to Hamas leaders and operatives, will not be found in other studies. The author is Lecturer at the Swedish Defence University in Stockholm, Sweden, and Research Fellow at Institut Français du Proche-Orient in Amman, Jordan.

Andrew Fitz-Gibbon, Talking to Terrorists, Non-Violence, and Counter-Terrorism: Lessons for Gaza from Northern Ireland (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 92 pp., US $ 54.99 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-3-319-33836-1.

In this short book the author argues that the peace process that successfully resolved the Northern Ireland conflict can be applied to bringing about Israeli-Palestinian peace, although, in a twist, he believes that this peace process should focus on Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as its initial partners to the peace process. To be fair, the author admits that “I am mindful that Gaza is only one issue among many in Palestine,” and that “I am aware that any solution for Gaza must ultimately be a viable solution for all Palestinian people.” (pp. viii-ix) The book’s second chapter offers a general account of terrorism, responding to terrorism and state terrorism, while the third chapter offers a discussion of the Northern Ireland peace process. Also insightful is the fourth chapter’s discussion of how the seven components of the Northern Ireland peace process can be applied, at least in a general sense, to “the situation between Israel and Gaza: retelling an empathic narrative, using back-channel negotiations to begin the conversation, finding a suitable, honest broker, disarming and rejecting violence, employing the principle of self-determination, repatriating political prisoners, and affirming the plasticity of religious tradition in a pluralist society.” (p. 45) What is missing from the author’s discussion, however, is awareness of an initiative advanced by Israeli moderates following the 50-day Israeli-Hamas War in July-August 2014 when Hamas found itself significantly weakened (and, supposedly, willing to moderate its position), for Israel, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to provide massive socio-economic aid, as a first step in re-starting an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This initiative was not accepted by the Benjamin Netanyahu-led coalition government, thereby dooming chances for re-starting a significant peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, with strong Arab state support. The fact that this initiative is not mentioned in the book makes the author’s argument for a Northern Ireland-type peace process to be applied to the Israeli-Hamas arena appear too utopian to be accepted as a realistic solution to the conflict. Also unrealistic is the author’s suggestion that “it is time to revisit bi-nationality” as a possible end-state, (p. 67) and that, as part of this solution, “in a pluralistic state, with no one religious idea at the center, there would be room for the practice and growth of all religious visions and none” (p. 74) – which neither any Israeli government nor Hamas would realistically ever accept. Despite the author’s naïve utopianism on possible solutions to the conflict, this book is recommended for its analysis of the Northern Ireland peace process and the components required in an effective peace process in general. The author is Professor and Chair of Philosophy, and Director of the Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice, at the State University of New York College at Cortland.

Charles Brossman, Building a Travel Risk Management Program: Traveler Safety and Duty of Care for Any Organization (Cambridge, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann/Elsevier, 2016), 222 pp., US $ 42.46 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-12-801925-2.

This handbook is an authoritative and comprehensive account of applying what are considered industry best standards for an organization’s travel risk management (TRM) program framework and metrics. It also contains numerous case studies. TRM is aimed primarily at ensuring the safety of business travelers in foreign countries, whether politically stable or unstable (i.e., threatened by politically-motivated terrorism and criminal violence). The volume’s chapters cover topics such as planning for travel risks; the duty of care organizations need to follow in ensuring their business travelers are as safe as possible; examples of potential risk exposures and incident types, such as biohazards and pandemics; coping with medical emergencies and natural disasters; the potential for kidnapping and ransom incidents and how to avoid or mitigate their consequences when they occur. It also assesses an organization’s approach to TRM, including conducting a risk assessment (with risk defined as the magnitude of a threat minus the resources required for mitigation). Furthermore it discusses the components involved in building an organization’s TRM program; managing crisis response when an incident, such as terrorism, occurs; how to ensure hotel safety from a traveler’s perspective; and tips for procuring the services of private-sector TRM companies. The author, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a veteran practitioner expert in travel risk management.

T. E. Lawrence, Revolt in the Desert [An Abridged Edition of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”] (New York, NY: Tauris Parks Paperbacks, 2016), 352 pp., US $ 19.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-84885-665-3.

Thomas Edward (known as “T.E.”) Lawrence was a British military officer who became renowned for his role as liaison to the Hashemite dynasty. The Hashemite dynasty (at the time ruler of the region that would later become part of Saudi Arabia), had agreed to join Britain in spearheading the ultimately successful Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the second half of the First World War (1916-1918) in return for a general promise of “Arab independence.” A full 700 pp. account of Lawrence’s role in the Arab Revolt was published in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom in 1922, while Revolt in the Desert, its abridged edition, was first published in 1927. This book is a reprint edition of the publisher’s revised edition, published in 2011. In addition to being considered as classic work of literary writing, the guerrilla tactics that Lawrence promoted in this military campaign are considered classics in guerrilla warfare.

Alex S. Wilner, Deterring Rational Fanatics (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 264 pp., US $ 65.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-8122-4668-1.

In this important and well-organized account the author seeks to expand the scope of traditional deterrence theory by “pairing it with a more nuanced understanding of contemporary terrorism.” (p. 2) As he explains, “When tailored appropriately, states can use the logic of deterrence to influence, coerce, and deter terrorist groups, delimiting the type and ferocity of the violence those groups are willing to use, and influencing their behavior more broadly.” (p. 2) The end state and the metric of success in counterterrorism, the author points out, “requires diminishing a group’s ability to organize and orchestrate acts of violence, as well as undermining a group’s motivation to use violence.” (p. 14) One of the virtues of this book is the application of its conceptual approach to the examination of targeted killings by state actors. It explores its effectiveness in eliminating the threat posed by a specific group, forcing its leaders to hide from possible drone strikes; leaving the targeted group in disarray by eliminating a crucial professional cadre; forcing them to engage in “power struggles and internecine conflicts”, following the killing of their leaders (p. 103), and lowering overall morale. Targeted killings do not succeed, the author argues, when they lead to civilian casualties and miss their targets, provoke international condemnation for violation of international law or retaliation by the targeted terrorist group, while there is also a risk of the emergence of “unknown successors” who may be worse than the ones killed. A separate chapter examines the effectiveness of American targeting of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan during the period of 2007-2008. The author concludes that a fully-fledged deterrence approach can empower a counterterrorism campaign to compel “terrorist organizations to change their behavior, to limit the scope of their attacks, to reorganize their internal structures, or to shift tactics….” (p. 187) The author is Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, in Canada.

Radicalization, Islamism, and al Qaida/Islamic State

Martha L. Cottam and Joe W. Huseby, With Bruno Baltodano, Confronting Al Qaeda: The Sunni Awakening and American Strategy in Al Anbar (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 158 pp., US $ 45.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-44226-485-4.

This book, as described by the authors, “is a study of decision-making process and the political psychology of the Sunni Awakening in al Anbar and the change in American military strategy that has made the Awakening a collaboration between the Sunni tribes and the US forces. We describe the change in the tribal leaders’ perspective and the change in American military strategy as two vectors with different origins that came together successfully to defeat AQI [al Qaida in Iraq-JS] in al Anbar.” (p. 2) To explore these issues, the authors conducted field work in Iraq in which they interviewed Iraqis and Americans involved in the Awakening, and then utilized concepts from “political psychology, specifically, the effects of changing perceptions, of images, of one another, and the dynamics of social identity” in order to frame their response. (p. 2) This framework is applied to the book’s chapters which discuss tribal make-up and interactions in the al Anbar Province, the political-military strategy employed by the United States at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the expectations by the Sunni tribes about their roles in the future of Iraq, the shift in the mutual images that enabled the Americans and the tribal leaders to collaborate in fighting AQI, and the lessons learned from this case, including whether such successful cooperative strategies could be applied elsewhere. The concluding chapter examines the current situation in the relations between the Sunni tribes and ISIS in al Anbar. Although the Anbar Awakening, which began in September 2006, proved successful at the time in containing AQI, the authors conclude that “In al Anbar today we see again signs that ISIS is building ties and networks with some tribes in the region as their perception of threat from an Iranian-controlled Baghdad grows.” (p. 134) This was caused, the authors add, because “if the tribal identity is threatened, the tribes will seek allies to preserve that identity and to promote their own interests.” (p. 134) Thus, it is “Only by providing security, and meeting the social and cultural standards of the tribes, and helping to promote a sense of involvement in the political fate of Iraq, did the United States make headway into al Anbar politics and improve security. Current evidence provided above suggests that these security and political needs are not currently being met.” (p. 134) It is realistic insights such as these that make this book an important contribution to the literature on counterinsurgency. Cottam and Huseby are professors at Washington State University, and Baltodano is professor of political science at Florida Southwestern State College.

Jessica Davis, Women in Modern Terrorism: From Liberation War to Global Jihad and the Islamic State (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), 192 pp., US $ 70.00 [Hardcover], US $ 35.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-44227-498-3.

This is a well-written, empirically-based account of the role of women in modern terrorism. Following an introductory overview on women in modern-day terrorism [the role of women in earlier terrorist struggles, such as the 19th century anarchists, is not discussed]. The author discusses women’s roles in terrorist organizations and the role of gender in the radicalization processes into terrorism. Five chapters examine the roles of women in the Lebanese Hizballah, in Palestinian organizations such as Fatah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers (LTTE), the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK), al Qaida, Chechen groups, the Nigerian Boko Haram, the Somali Al-Shabaab, female suicide bombers in Iraq, and the Islamic State (IS/ISIS). Drawing on the author’s extensive database, these chapters examine why susceptible women are drawn to such terrorist organizations; how such organizations, ranging from secular to religious, employ them, whether as combat operatives (such as suicide bombers) or in tactical support roles (with groups such as the Lebanese Hizballah never using them in combat roles or even publicizing their support roles at all, while the Islamic State publicizes their roles extensively, including attracting substantial numbers of women as foreign operatives, including as wives for their male fighters), and future trends. Interestingly, the author points out that in all terrorist groups examined in this study, none employ women in leading organizational roles. Women also constitute only a tiny fraction of lone wolves. The author concludes that “In essence, while women are frequently seen as an aberration in terrorism, it is time for researchers and counterterrorism practitioners to view them as they are: a permanent and important feature of modern terrorism.” (p. 145) The book’s Annex includes a useful dataset on women in terrorism incidents. The author is an Ottawa-based writer who has worked in the Department of National Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Jean-Pierre Filiu, From Deep State to Islamic State: The Arab Counter-Revolution and Its Jihadi Legacy (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015), 224 pp., US $ 24.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-19026-406-2.

This is a critical account of what the author terms the ‘Arab counter-revolution’ – the response of ‘the Deep State’ (dawla ‘amiqa) to a democracy-seeking Arab Spring, with “the repressive dynamics designed to crush any hope of democratic change…” (p. x) This framework is then used to examine the repressive responses to the Arab Spring by ‘Mamluk’ and ‘police state’ governments–some of which began themselves as revolutionary movements. It covers events in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Yemen. Their regime responses are contrasted with a more enlightened and successful response by the Tunisian government, which the author explains, “highlights a democratic way out of the Mamluk impasse.” (p. xiii) The author concludes on a pessimistic note that “Four years into the Arab revolution, the depressing realization prevails that, with the significant exception of vanguard Tunisia, the whole democratic uprising is at best a failure, at worst a fraud.” (p. 249) He adds that “The massive surge of the jihadi menace is … not to be blamed on the Arab democratic uprising, but on its worst enemies, the dictatorships that played with jihadi fire to deny any substantial power-sharing. More democracy should be the answer, not a new ‘war on terror’ that would ultimately feed more terrorism.” (p. xv) The author is Professor of Middle East Studies at Sciences Po in Paris, France.

Phil Gursky, Western Foreign Fighters: The Threat to Homeland and International Security (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), 224 pp., US $64.00 [Hardcover], US $ 32.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-4422-7380-1.

This insightful, practitioner-based account by a retired Canadian government intelligence analyst examines the challenges facing Canada and its Western allies from homegrown Islamist extremists “who see violent jihad as a divine obligation.” Using his background, his approach is to “seek to collect information, analyze that information, and provide advice to the government of the day” to which he adds “a chapter on what we are doing about foreign fighters and what else we could do to deal with this phenomenon.” (p. 3) This framework is applied, first, in a chapter on the nature of war and why nations resort to conflict, which sets the stage for an examination of personal motivations by Canadians and other Westerners to volunteer to join military forces in past wars in which their governments were involved, such as World War One and the Vietnam War, as well as ‘unsanctioned’ conflicts where the democratic governments were not directly involved, such as the Spanish Civil War. This provides the book with a comprehensive context in which to understand why several thousand Western Islamists have decided to join groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The rationales for these Islamist foreign fighters, the author explains, include their sense that the Ummah (Islamic nation) was at risk, a duty to embark on hijrah (migration) to the Islamic State, “disgust” with Western nations, anti-Shia and anti-Assad sentiments, but also to be part of the “apocalypse” in which such “end-of-days” events will usher the arrival of a Muslim messiah and the “Armies of Khorasan.” (p. 83) This is followed by a chapter that discusses the motivations and roles of women in the jihad, with the Islamic State ushering a new era in which more Western women than heretofore have been encouraged to join the organization, including forming “an all-female cohort known as the Khansaa Brigade.” (p. 100) With regard to the possible threat posed by the estimated 10 percent (or so) proportion of the foreign fighters who return to their Western countries of origin, the author writes that this threat needs to be examined as threefold: the threat before their travel, the threat they pose during their travel, and the threat they pose after returning. The nature of the threat by the returnees is categorized as fivefold: “nothing”, “returning as ‘broken men”, “acting as radicalizers”, “making preparations to leave again”, and “executing terrorist acts at home”. (pp. 108-110) The author then discusses what he considers to be effective security services’ responses to these categories of threats, such as investigating and monitoring radicalization, early intervention to counter radicalization, placing them on ‘no-fly’ lists to prevent their travel, seizing their passports, arresting them based on solid leads prior to their travel, or “doing nothing.” In case such Islamists succeed in traveling to Syria and joining groups such as IS, the author examines the effectiveness of counter-measures such as revoking their citizenship, arresting and trying them in a criminal court, or using them in “anti-radicalization” programs. (pp. 122-125) The author concludes that “There is no quick and easy solution to the problem of what to do with returning foreign fighters. As with radicalization to violence, each case must be examined individually to determine, where possible, what the intentions of the returnees are. This is not an easy task: those with violent intent will not openly declare.” (p. 129) This book is recommended as a secondary textbook in courses on terrorism and counterterrorism, with each chapter beginning with a chapter abstract and concluding with a summary. The Appendix includes useful excerpts from leading Islamic texts, including the Quran, which illustrate how the Islamic religion and ideology are used by foreign fighters (and others) to justify their resort to violent jihad and join terrorist groups. The author heads Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting, in Gloucester, Ontario, Canada.

David Kilcullen, Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016), 312 pp., US $ 24.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-1906-0054-9.

This book, as explained by the author—a leading counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism expert—is “about what the emergence of ISIS tells us about the broader War on Terrorism since 2001. This is linked to the rise of the Islamic State, to be sure, but is also connects the Arab Spring, the resurgence of confrontation with Russia, the Iranian nuclear deal, and the European refugee crisis.” (p. ix) There is much to commend in this important book. This includes his innovative categorization of the evolution of terrorism by groups such as al Qaida and ISIS as “expeditionary terrorist operations” (where a terrorist group will invest considerable resources to train and deploy a combat team to conduct an operation in another country, such as 9/11 and Mumbai in 2008); “guerrilla terrorism” (where a terrorist group will train a foreign operative to return to his country to lead a combat cell in an operation, such as the London 7/7 transportation attacks); and, in the latest evolutionary development, what he terms as “remote radicalization” (where a terrorist group, such as ISIS, will exploit the Internet’s social media connectivity to radicalize adherents in other countries and provide general guidance to carry out attacks on their own in their own countries, such as the Boston Marathon bombers). (pp. 118-122) With much of this account covering the years 2014-2015, the author finds that the Western “War on Terrorism” has failed: “we need a complete rethink. That rethink… needs to start with a threat analysis,” (p. 201). These threats he categorizes as fourfold: the first threat he defines as “home grown terrorism” (the insider threat presented by extremist adherents of groups such as al Qaida and ISIS in their own societies); the second threat, which is closely related to the first, is that of “foreign fighters” from such countries who travel to Iraq and Syria, with an estimated 10 percent returning to their countries to engage in terrorist-related activities; the third threat concerns “the effect of the rise of ISIS on other terrorist groups”; and the final threat is the “most military element of the ISIS threat: the catastrophic war that the rise of the Islamic State and the regional and global response to it, is inflicting on the Middle East and North Africa – primarily Iraq and Syria, but with destabilizing effects radiating to Europe and North Africa, as well as Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.” (pp. 202-211) To counter the final threat, the author proposes a “full-scale conventional campaign to destroy ISIS” (p. 215) that would be based on the ability to “translate battlefield victory into enduring and stable peace.” (p. 231) The author is Chairman of Caerus Associates, a consulting firm, and a Senior Fellow in The Future of War Program at New America Foundation – both in Washington, DC.

Jeremy Kowalski, Domestic Extremism and the Case of the Toronto 18 (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), XLIX + 245 pp., US $ 129.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-349-94959-5.

As the author explains, “Using the case of the Toronto 18, this book attempts to identify and deconstruct the conditions that make the emergence of particular types of extremist actors probable in place-specific contexts.” (p. xiii) Finding ‘conventional’ explanations of the causes of homegrown terrorism to be “constrained and limited by the manacles of state intellectualism,” the author offers a different methodological approach, one that he believes is devoid of “an analytical ossification” to “help escape from the epistemological and ideological narrowing engendered by dominant discourses and authorized narratives.” (p. xiii) Following an introductory overview that discusses the author’s approach to analyzing terrorism, which is influenced by the discipline of critical terrorism studies’ favorite theoreticians (such as Nicos Poulantzas, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, and others), the book’s six chapters discuss, first, the issues involved in analyzing “domestic extremism of the Islamitic type”; second, “the extradiscursive movements” that make “dominant and subversive discursive formations possible” (i.e., in plain English, the conditions that make it possible for radical movements to emerge); third, the “dominant and subversive discursive formations and ideological positions” that influenced the Toronto 18 group; fourth, “the role transnational information flows and ideational connectivities served in the ideological conditioning and political transformation of the members of the group”; fifth, the role of the Canadian state’s policies and practices in contributing to the conditions that make such extremist groups possible; and, sixth, the role of such actions and practices contributing to the “ideological conditioning and political transformation of various members of the [Toronto 18] group.” (p. xxxvi) The concluding chapter discusses the author’s experience as a court observer of their trials. An epilogue outlines the outcome of the criminal proceedings against members of the group. The author concludes that “In the case of the Toronto 18, three distinct yet interconnected and mutually reinforcing spheres of influence served a vital role in the ideological conditions and the political transformation of the group: the transnational sphere of influence, the state sphere of influence, and the group sphere of influence.” (p. 209) As demonstrated by this brief overview, this is a difficult book to read for those who favor clearly-written, non-jargon laden prose, which is unfortunate because the author’s discussion of the nature of the Toronto 18’s group members, including the role of the government’s informant and the trials’ proceedings, provides new information that would be of interest to those studying this subject. The author is Adjunct Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada, specializing in terrorism, geopolitics, and geography studies.

Charles R. Lister, Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015), 540 pp., US $ 24.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-19046-247-5.

This is an exhaustively detailed, chronologically organized account of the roles played by Sunni jihadists and their Syrian Salafist allies in the Syria-based insurgency against the Bashar al-Assad-led regime during the years 2011 to 2015. Specifically, as described by the author, “This book will tell the story of how this unfortunate state of affairs came to be. Where did the jihadists come from in the first place? How did they establish themselves, and what was their role in the revolution? What role did external actors play in facilitating the rise of jihadists and how might US-led and Russian intervention impact their status in Syria?” (p. xiv) While the book’s general discussion is authoritative and well-informed, some of the author’s conclusions can be questioned. These include arguments such as that “The current Western focus on countering terrorism in Syria in both understandable and ill conceived” because it does not address the “socio-political conditions in which extremists can thrive” (p. 385) [in this reviewer’s opinion, Western governments are justified in attempting to defeat the Islamic State which has no interest in any peaceful compromise]; that “it appears all but inevitable that Syria’s Islamists will have to be acknowledged as necessary partners in any future peace and political process” (p. 391) [will mainstream Muslims accept to live in such an autocratic theocracy?]; and his characterization of the al Qaida-affiliated (even if loosely) Jabhat al-Nusra as “limiting the extent of its extremist behaviour and behavioral expectations across Syria, combined with its particular effectiveness on the battlefield and willingness to cooperate with a broad spread of opposition groups, has placed it in an ideal position to continue to exploit the ongoing conflict.” (p. 392) [which has been proven false, given the primacy of the Islamic State]. The author is a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and a Senior Consultant at the Dubai/UAE-based The Shaikh Group, where he supports their Track II initiative to mediate the Syrian civil war.

Simon Mabon and Stephen Royle, The Origins of ISIS (New York, NY: I.B. Taurus, 2017), 256 pp., US $ 15.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-78453-696-1.

This is a well-written and informed account of the fragmentation of the Iraqi state since the U.S. invasion in March 2003, which was caused by internal and external factors. These factors, the authors write, “created the conditions necessary for violent extremism to thrive. Indeed, from this chaos, ISIS was able to present an image of strength and security, drawing support from people struggling to find this elsewhere. As a consequence, understanding these conditions will help to understand how best to defeat the group.” (p. 11) What makes this book especially important is the authors’ discussion, which takes the form of a table, of possible solutions for restoring stability to Iraq. These are based on the attainment of conditions such as creating an “environment for local interaction,” allowing “for patterns to emerge naturally,” and continuous “adaptation.” (p. 158) The authors conclude that “Stopping ISIS militarily is not a cure for Iraq’s ills, and therefore a more holistic approach will be required if the violence is to subside.” (p. 162) Simon Mabon is Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Lancaster, and Stephen Royle is a Research Fellow at the Richardson Institute, Lancaster University, Lancashire, England.

Flagg Miller, The Audacious Ascetic: What the Bin Laden Tapes Reveal About Al-Qa’ida (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015), 459 pp., US $ 34.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-19026-436-9.

In late 2002, more than 1500 audiotapes were uncovered by U.S. troops in a house previously occupied by Usama bin Laden and his entourage, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. This rich archive of recordings of speeches by bin Laden and other al Qaida leaders, to which the author had unparalleled access, form the basis of his account of al Qaida as a “discourse”. He explores “bin Laden’s rise as both an ascetic adversary of Western globalization and an important rationale for expanding America’s transnational security commitments within Arab and Islamic worlds especially.” (p. 4) While others might not agree with the author’s main argument, terming it as too uncritical of al Qaida’s expansionist and genocidal ideology, his translation of these audiotapes and inclusion of large excerpts of them in the volume’s chapters, make this book especially important as a primary source for researchers studying AQ’s leadership’s ideological and theological underpinnings and evolution over the course of more than two decades. In the book’s Epilogue, the author writes that “Al-Qa’ida is less a single organization, network, or set of affiliates united by a common ideology than it is a tactic for winning battles within Muslim-majority societies.” (p. 276) The author is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Davis.

Peter R. Neumann, Radicalized: New Jihadists and the Threat to the West (New York, NY: I.B. Tauris, 2016), 256 pp., US $ 17.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-78453-673-2.

This is an insightful account of the nature and magnitude of the new wave of Islamist terrorism within the overall context of the waves of global terrorism that had preceded it. To examine these topics, the book is divided into two parts: a discussion of David Rapoport’s notion of the four historical waves since the 19th century to categorize the evolution of modern terrorism (i.e., “Anarchist”, “Anti-Colonial”, “New Left” and “Religious” waves), with each lasting 25 to 30 years, and with each “inextricably bound up with a radical political movement,” (p. 4), and the nature of the current wave, which is “inseparably linked to the Arab Spring and – very particularly – to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.” (4) While al Qaeda still remains a viable terrorist “entity”, particularly in the form of its Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) affiliate, the Islamic State, according to Neumann, is the fifth wave’s penultimate manifestation as it has succeeded, unlike al Qaeda, in controlling – and, most importantly, in governing – territories in Iraq and Syria and in exploiting social media to appeal to adherents around the world to become foreign fighters on behalf of its “Caliphate-in-the- making. The Islamic State’s effectiveness is explained in sections on its philosophy, organization, military, “state apparatus”, and the author’s projection for its likely future.

What makes this book especially important is Neumann’s utilization of his research center’s empirically-based investigative work on the makeup and motivation of the foreign fighters who have joined the Islamic State, and the tasks they perform once in the Caliphate. Also discussed are the factors that motivate some of them to return to their countries of origin, whether due to disillusionment or with the intention to carry out further terrorist attacks. A separate chapter discusses the Salafist characteristics of the Islamic State’s supporters who remain in their countries of origin. Prof. Neumann insightfully differentiating between “fighters”, “cheerleaders”, and “fans” – which, he explains, also requires differentiated counterterrorism response measures, whether surveillance and arrest or countering extremism programs. This is followed by a chapter on Islamist radicalization and terrorism in America, with the author concluding that “In the end, becoming a lone wolf appeared to be the only option in a country where the security agencies are (hyper) vigilant and Muslim communities resilient.” (p. 151) Following a highly informative chapter on the current state of al Qaida and its affiliates, the book’s final chapter provides the author’s suggestions for creating building blocks of effective counterterrorism He writes that “The success of counterterrorism depends on how well the security services can distinguish between (actual) terrorists, the counterculture and the rest of the population, and on how efficient and precisely targeted their measures are for each of those groups.” (p. 178) This volume is highly recommended as a general textbook for courses on terrorism and counterterrorism, as well as a stand-alone account of the nature of the Islamist terrorist threat facing the West, in particular. The author is Professor of Security Studies at King’s College London and Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR).

Alison Pargeter, Return to the Shadows: The Muslim Brotherhood and An-Nahda since the Arab Spring (London, England, UK: Saqi Books, 2016), 304 pp., US $ 24.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-86356-144-3.

With the Arab Spring, which intensified in 2011, expected by many to herald a profound shift in the nature of Middle Eastern regimes from harsh and repressive authoritarianism to popular and moderate Islamic governance, the Muslim Brotherhood movements in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia were regarded as ideally suited to bring about such political reforms. As the author of this excellent study demonstrates, however, all three movements – in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Libyan Brotherhood, and the An-Nahda movement in Tunisia – have failed to achieve their original objectives in these countries. In this account, the author seeks to answer the questions of “What went wrong? And why did it happen so quickly?”, as well as whether, as she cites the Economist magazine, these failures “represented a bigger, more existential crisis related to the end of political Islam itself,” with “Islamism no longer the answer.” (p. 4) The author’s answer is that “political Islam – or at least the version of it articulated by the Brotherhood and its counterparts – turned out to be an empty vessel comprising little more than slogans and generalities that could not be translated into tangible or meaningful political outcomes.” (p. 7) One of the results of such a political vacuum, the author points out, has been the rise of violently extremist movements such as Daesh (or ISIS), which these Muslim Brotherhood movements regard “as hot-headed youths who have become carried away with their religion” (p. 252), but which they are still unable to effectively counter and defeat. One of the reasons for these failures, the author concludes, is the Middle East “is still caught up in the same old dilemma it has been facing for decades – namely, how to confront modernization and Westernisation, and how to map out a sense of itself and its identity.” (p. 253) The author is a UK-based veteran writer on Middle Eastern and Muslim Brotherhood issues.

Joby Warrick, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS [Reprint edition] (New York, NY: Anchor, 2016), 384 pp., US $ 28.95[Hardcover], US $ 16.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0804168939.

This is an authoritative account of the rise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who eventually became the leader of al Qaida’s branch in Iraq. It covers conflictual relations with al Qaida’s top leaders due to
Zarqawi’s use of mass atrocities in his terrorist operations, and how, following al-Zarqawi’s assassination by the U.S. counterterrorism campaign that had targeted him and his deputies in June 2006, his group and other Iraqi military factions that had joined it, eventually resulted in the emergence of the equally brutal, yet more militarily successful Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi-led Islamic State (IS/ISIS). What makes this book so valuable as a top resource on this subject are the author’s extensive contacts in U.S. and Jordanian intelligence communities, which provide it with documentary-like information and detail that would be difficult for academic researchers to obtain, as well as his terrifically clear writing. The author is a veteran reporter for The Washington Post and the author of the highly-regarded The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA (2011).

Graeme Wood, The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State (New York, NY: Random House, 2017), 352 pp., US $ 28.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-8129-8875-8.

In this largely theology-driven journey into the mindsets of the Islamic State’s adherents around the world, the author, an American journalist, attempts to find answers to questions such as “What do you want? Who are you? Why, among all the versions of Islam, did this most ruthless one attract you?” (p. xxiv) To answer such questions, the author travelled to Australia, Egypt, Norway, the Philippines, as well as the United States. What he found through his interviews with some of the leading jihadi spokesmen and studying their movement’s “essays, fatwas (religious rulings), films, and tweets” is a “coherent view of the world rooted in a minority interpretation of Islamic scripture that has existed, in various forms, for almost as long as the religion itself. This version of Islam bears only passing resemblance to the Islam practiced or espoused by most Muslims.” (p. xxvii) The author then adds that “The Islamic State’s followers revel in their minority status. They see it as evidence of the majority’s error, not their own,” and “They just prefer their violent interpretation over their critics’ peaceful one.” (p. xviii) Their “violent interpretation” is part of an “apocalyptic game plan,” which the author argues “can, at the strategic level, provide clues about why they do what they do – and what they may do next. Certain events must happen, and certain events must not, in a particular order.” (p. 263) As part of their “apocalyptic game plan” is a “final battle…an armed conflagration, not a gentle prodding to follow the one God.” (p. 263) The author concludes, however, that while the Islamic State’s strategy is to forge partnerships with like-minded extremist Muslim groups around the world and to exploit such regions of unrest as “potential niche[s] for the Caliphate,” (p. 278) “After two years of listening to the group’s followers, I have come to think of them as sick romantics, a visionary company whose longing for meaning was never matched by an ability to distinguish good from evil, or beauty from horror….[who] will never be able to undo the misery they have inflicted on so many others.” (p. 279) Focusing on the Islamic State’s theological underpinnings presents only a partial picture of its true nature, which limits this book’s relevance in explaining it as a political-military organization that engages in brutal and genocidal terrorist and guerrilla warfare to achieve its extremist Islamist objectives. Nevertheless, it is recommended for shedding light on the nature of its jihadist theology as explained by its adherents around the world. The author is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and teaches in the Political Science Department of Yale University.

Reference Handbook and Textbooks

David Brannan, Kristin Darken, and Anders Strindberg, A Practitioner’s Way Forward: Terrorism Analysis (Salinas, CA: Agile Press/An Imprint of Agile Research and Technology, Inc., 2014), 158 pp., US $ 23.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-98307-456-4.

This textbook focuses on the importance of understanding two primary components of terrorism analysis: “the analytical frameworks that surround any given subject matter, and the vast variety of sources from which they must draw the facts in order to produce analysis.” (p. x) This is done by explaining the “principles from cognitive science and learning theory,” which enable “the reader to more easily transfer what they learned here to their workplace.” (p. xi) These analytical principles are explained in the book’s six chapters, which cover topics such as (1) challenges to analysis (e.g., how to define terrorism, preventing bias, checking the validity of primary and secondary sources, and managing the issue of access to foreign language sources); (2) how to use structured analytical frameworks, including psychological explanations and rational choice models, to think about terrorism, whether secular or religious; (3) applying a sociological perspective to the study terrorism, particularly through Social Identity Theory (SIT) which the authors’ recommend as “an effective framework for cross- and multi-cultural analysis of sub-national violent groups.” (p. 41); (4) how to understand analytical cultural markers to explain how terrorist groups operate (such as the interaction between terrorist groups and counterterrorism response agencies, and the role of mafia-type patron-client relationships and “honor-shame” cultures that shape the conflict over limited resources); (5) how to understand the role of religion in certain terrorist groups (e.g., the importance of religious texts and whether or how religious ideologies impact terrorist action); and (6) understanding how to use a variety of sources for information (e.g., understanding the overall context of information items that are used, and the importance of being aware that terrorism is not static but a dynamic and ever-changing phenomenon). The authors conclude that “Better analysis makes a better foundation for our operational and policy decisions, which is an important building block in the ongoing effort to improve our homeland and national security.” (p. 133) As a textbook, each chapter consists of an overview and list of focus questions, “Just in time” set-aside boxes that define key terms, drawings that visualize concepts, and chapter summaries that identify central ideas for review. An Appendix provides a listing of reference sources employed in the book. Brannan and Strindberg are affiliated with the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS), in Monterey, California. Darken, previously affiliated with CHDS, is co-founder and Creative Director at Agile Research & Technology.

IEP, Global Terrorism Index 2016: Measuring and Understanding the Impact of Terrorism [IEP Report 43] (New York, NY: The Institute for Economics & Peace, November 2016), 104 pp., No Price [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-9942-4564-9. This publication is available for downloading at: http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2016.2.pdf.

This 4th edition of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) provides a comprehensive and authoritative overview of key global trends in terrorism for the year 2000 to 2015. The GTI’s incident data is derived from the Global Terrorism Database, produced by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), at the University Maryland. One of the report’s findings is that the “overall GTI score deteriorated by six per cent” in 2015 “as many moderately affected countries experience record levels of terrorism.” (p. 2 Overall, the GTI report “reinforces the fact terrorism is a highly concentrated form of violence, mostly committed in a small number of countries and by a small number of groups. The five countries suffering the highest impact from terrorism as measures by the GTI are Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria, accounted for 72 percent of all deaths from terrorism in 2015. Similarly, only four terrorist groups were responsible for 74 percent of all these deaths: ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qa’ida.” (p. 3) These findings are detailed in the report’s five chapters on “Results,” “Trends,” “Terrorist Groups,” “Economic Impact of Terrorism,” and “Correlates & Drivers of Terrorism.” A final chapter provides expert contributions on subjects such “Why Preventing Violent Extremism is the Private Sector’s Business,” “Jihadist Hotbeds and Local Radicalisation Processes,” and “Mapping the New Global Criminal Terrorist Networks.” The Appendices provide data on the GTI’s ranks and scores for the year 2015 and the GTI’s methodology.

Gus Martin, Understanding Homeland Security (Los Angeles, SAGE, 2017), 456 pp., US $ 86.00[Paperback], ISBN: 978-105063-4613-7.

This is an updated and expanded new edition of the author’s comprehensive, authoritative, and well-organized textbook on the components of homeland security, with a particular focus on the establishment of homeland security agencies in the United States. The volume is divided into four thematic parts. Part I, “Foundations of Homeland Security,” defines homeland security, including its historical origins in the post-9/11 era; how homeland security approaches all-hazards, ranging from terrorism to natural disasters; its legal foundation; the balancing of civil liberties and the requirement for security; and the agencies that carry out homeland security missions. Part II, “Threats and Vulnerabilities,” examines new trends in the terrorist threat environment facing a nation, ranging from religiously-driven, mass-casualty terrorism to cyberterrorism. Part III, “Preparedness, Response, Recovery,” discusses the components required to defend a nation’s critical infrastructure, responding to a terrorism incident, and recovering from such incidents. Part IV, “Homeland Security: An Evolving Concept,” analyzes near-future trends in terrorist threats facing a country, including the deployment of ‘sleeper agents’. As a textbook, each chapter begins with a series of learning objectives, “chapter perspective” boxes that include discussion questions, tables and figures to further illustrate the accompanying text, photos, a chapter summary, key terms and concepts, recommended websites for additional resources, web exercises, and recommended readings. Also included are web-based student study guides and instructor guides. The author is Professor of Criminal Justice Administration at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Gus Martin, Essentials of Terrorism: Concepts and Controversies [Fourth Edition] (Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2017), 336 pp., US $ 82.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-5063-3097-6.

This is an updated and expanded fourth edition of the author’s highly regarded textbook on terrorism and counterterrorism. The volume is organized into three thematic parts, with each consisting of several chapters. Part I, “Understanding Terrorism,” discusses how to define terrorism, presents a historical perspective on ideological origins, analyzes the causes of terrorism, and examines the types of violence committed by terrorists and how incidents are covered by mass media. Part II, “Terrorist Environments,” covers topics such as state terrorism, the use of terrorism by insurgents, religiously extremist terrorism, transnational terrorist groups, and domestic terrorism in the United States. Part III, “The Terrorist Battleground,” examines the components of counterterrorism, the role of homeland security in protecting the United States, and future trends in terrorist warfare. As a textbook, each chapter begins with an introduction; side boxes that present various perspectives on the subjects covered, including questions for discussion; tables and figures to further illustrate the accompanying text, including incident chronologies; key terms and concepts, recommended readings, and additional Web-based resources for additional materials. For course instructors, the volume includes a website that provides resources to supplement the book’s materials, including PowerPoint lecture slides and discussion questions. The author is Professor of Criminal Justice Administration at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Henry W. Prunkhun, Jr., Shadow of Death: An Analytical Bibliography on Political Violence, Terrorism, and Low-Intensity Conflict (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1995), 432 pp., US $ 127.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-8108-2773-8.

With the academic discipline of terrorism and counterterrorism studies more than 50 years-old, it is important to peruse earlier published volumes for background information to provide a wider context to understand current terrorism threats and challenges. One such important earlier volume is Prunkhun’s annotated bibliographic handbook, published in 1995 (and one of the last solely annotated bibliographic handbooks published over the past 20 years), which fortunately is still available in print from the publisher. Beginning with a Preface that explains the handbook’s objective and organizing principles, the volume is divided into two parts. “Part One – Political Terrorism: A Selected Review of the Literature,” provides an overview of the history of terrorism, types of terrorism (e.g., ranging from civil disorders, quasi-terrorism, political terrorism, to official or state terrorism); defining terrorism; and the purpose, objectives, and tactics of terrorism, including the important insight that terrorists prefer to target innocent civilians because “attacks on military or police forces would not generate the disproportional fear so vital to the terrorist offense.” (p. 13) “Part Two – An Analytic Bibliography” – the handbook’s major section – provides annotated bibliographic listings of books and articles on the various types of terrorist and guerrilla groups that have operated since historical times, significant civil wars characterized by episodes or campaigns of terrorism, terrorists’ areas of operations, terrorist philosophies, terrorist weapons and tactics (e.g., bombings, assassinations, aircraft hijackings, maritime terrorism), counterterrorism, and state terrorism. Several chapters provide bibliographic information on terrorism databases, journals, and “book dealers and sellers”. The author is Associate Professor at the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security, Charles Sturt University, Manly, NSW, Australia.

About the Reviewer: Dr. Joshua Sinai is the Book Reviews Editor of ‘Perspectives on Terrorism’. He can be reached at: Joshua.Sinai@comcast.net.

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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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