Sinai

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Counterterrorism Bookshelf: 30 Books on Terrorism &
Counter-Terrorism-Related Subjects

by Joshua Sinai

This column consists of capsule reviews of books from various publishers. The reviews are arranged in alphabetical order, per authors’ last names.

Neil Krishan Aggarwal, Mental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft. (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2015), 232 pages, US $50.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-2311-6664-5.

As explained by the author, “The goal of this book is to analyze the cultural meanings of mental health knowledge and practice produced throughout the War on Terror. My framework for studying the interrelationships of mental health, culture, and power come primarily from cultural psychiatry and medical anthropology.” (p. ix) Viewing the application of medical systems in the War on Terror as “cultural systems,” the book’s chapters cover topics such as bioethics and the conduct of mental health professionals in counter-terrorism; the meanings of symptoms by Guantanamo detainees, such as their underlying motives and their “psychological deterioration,” including an assessment of hermeneutical adjudications in specific detainee cases; how psychodynamic scholarship depicts Arabs and Muslims; how suicide bombers are depicted in mental health scholarship, such as in the works of Donatella Marazziti, Anne Speckhard, Arie Kruglanski, Jeff Victoroff, Fathali Moghaddam, Jerrold Post, and Talal Asad; and assessing the effectiveness of de-radicalization programs, with an assessment of the approaches of specialists such as John Horgan, Rohan Gunaratna, as well as selected programs in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Yemen. In assessing the effectiveness of de-radicalization programs, the author offers practical insights, such as “Which components of deradicalization programs embody local knowledge and practice and which components can be applied across cultures? How do such programs reflect implicit, unspoken norms about politics, religion, and society, as with state allegiance programs for Yemen and Saudi Arabia enveloped within religious instruction? How do these programs create new ways of being, feeling, and experiencing in the world for militants, their families, and supervising government officials? How do these programs produce new cultural materials such as pedagogical texts and policy documents, as well as novel institutions that reconfigure kinship, community, and social relations?” (p. 156) Although one might criticize the author’s uncritical view of Islamist terrorists, there is significant methodological and analytical insight in this study to recommend it as a major contribution to the literature on the psychology of terrorism and the application of psychology and psychiatry to address the phenomenon of terrorism. The author is an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University and a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Sadik Al-Azm, 1967: Self-Criticism After the Defeat (London, England, UK: Saqi, 1968/2011), 191 pages, US $21.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-8635-6488-8.

In 1968, Syrian philosopher Sadik al-Azm—who had obtained his doctorate in modern European philosophy at Yale University, and was teaching at the American University of Beirut—wrote Al-Nakd al-Dhati Ba’da al-Hazima (Self-Criticism After the Defeat), which was a stinging critique of Arab society for its failure to adopt to the modern world, exemplified by the decisive defeat of its militaries in the June 1967 war with Israel. This book was highly influential at the time among progressive Arab intellectuals, and was reissued in an English translation by the publisher in 2011, with a foreword by the late Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese American academic who was also a critic of Muslim Arab society. What is especially pertinent about this book is that the author’s critique of Arab society now especially applies, not necessarily to Arab state political leaders, but to the extremist Islamist movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadi groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State (ISIS) who are waging their various insurgencies throughout the Muslim world. What is al-Azm’s critique? As explained by Ajami, in his foreword, “A ‘traditional people’ who spoke of war in obsolete terms of chivalry and the ‘clinking of swords,’ the Arabs were not ready for a modern war, they had thought of the war as a triumphant ‘excursion.’” (p. 11) In what also applies to jihadi-type insurgents (but not current Arab societies), al-Azm had observed that such preoccupation conceals “reactionary resistance to the scientific progress, scientific socialist practice, and cultural revolution that societies walking these paths seek. All this in the name of defending the people’s traditions, values, art, and heritage, when it actually shields popular supernaturalism, superstitions, ignorance, and backward worn-out values, regurgitating the old in its obsolescence and leaving social conditions and human relations as they are, that is, in a condition of severe backwardness.” (p. 118) By shifting the book’s lens to focus on current Islamist extremism, it is such insights that make this book so pertinent in understanding the reactionary nature of these movements and the measures that are required to counter them. The author died in December 2016, while living in Berlin, Germany.

Mel Ayton, The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, Inc., 2007), pages, US $29.95 [Hardcover], US $19.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-5979-7079-2.

This is an important and extensively documented account of the motivations and steps that led Palestinian American extremist Sirhan Sirhan to assassinate of Senator Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968, which in retrospect (according to the author) can be considered as “the first act of the tragedy that culminated in 9/11.” (p. 11) Sirhan’s pathway into violent extremism fits the profile of homegrown Islamist terrorists. As the author explains, “Sirhan might have been mentally unstable and angry at a society that had relegated him to the bottom of the heap…. [but he] clearly saw himself, like today’s suicide bombers, as an Arab hero.” (p. 10) The book also discusses the assassination’s aftermath, the trial—including controversies over physical evidence and witnesses used at the trial—and Sirhan’s political attitudes and obsessions. Even though it was written some 10 years ago, the chapter on “The Unaffiliated Terrorist” is especially pertinent to understanding current lone wolf terrorists, as it discusses leading forensic psychology theories to explain Sirhan’s possible mental state and motivations. This includes the discussion of psychologist Eric D. Shaw’s personal pathway model, “which includes a socialization process, narcissistic injuries, escalatory events, and those terrorists ‘who have suffered from early damage to their self-esteem….Family political philosophies may also serve to sensitize those persons to the economic and political tensions inherent throughout modern society….As a group, they appear to have been unsuccessful in obtaining a desired place in society, which has contributed to their frustration.” (p. 244) Targeting Senator Kennedy, the author concludes, was due to Sirhan’s political motivations; he writes that “without Sirhan’s Arabness and without the bitterness and hatred toward Jews that had their roots in the conflict in the Middle East, it is unlikely he would have assassinated Robert Kennedy. All the hatred that spewed forth from Sirhan’s gun can ultimately be traced back to one source – Palestinian nationalism.” (p. 263) The author is a veteran British journalist and author of numerous books on national security subjects.

Ram Dev Bharadwaj and Joseph Benjamin, Conflict, Terror & Violence in Indian Society & Polity (New Delhi, India: Ess Ess Publications/Portland, OR: ISBS, Inc., 2015), 354 pages, US $72.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-8-1700-0747-0.

The contributors to this edited volume examine the internal and external factors shaping terrorist-type conflicts in India. These include the Dalit movements and violence in Maharashtra, anti-caste violence, ethnic conflict by the Bodos in Assam, the Naxalite threat in Bihar, inter-group conflicts in India, violence against women in Jammu and Kashmir, and challenges to India’s security presented by narco-terrorism and cyber-terrorism. One of this volume’s contributions is its presentation of the perspectives and insights by leading Indian academic experts on these threats and how to solve them. An example is Deepika Chakraborty’s chapter on “Naxalism: Threat to Internal Security, in which he writes that “Until the [Indian] government implements employment, poverty alleviation and land reform programmes, counterinsurgency measures cannot achieve much. Social justice and inclusive growth are the planks on which the government must build its programme. Only with consolidated efforts on the part of the legal and political framework socio-economic reforms can be implemented, and the problem of Naxalism tackled.” (p. 260)

Nicholas Burns and Jonathan Price, editors, Blind Spot: America’s Response to Radicalism in the Middle East (Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute, 2015), 215 pages, US $21.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0898436297.

This book is a collection of papers commissioned for the 2015 Aspen Strategy Group Summer Workshop, in Aspen, Colorado. The workshop was convened to assess America’s response to radical extremism in the Middle East. The book is divided into four parts: Part 1, “The Roots and Appeal of Extremism” (e.g., the history and ideology of the Islamic State, strategies to win the ideological war, and lessons on radicalization pathways from Egypt and Tunisia); Part 2, “The Rise of the Islamic State” (e.g. the spread of ISIS in the Middle East and how to fight it); Part 3, “A Toolbox to Counter ISIS” (e.g., military, political and cyber strategies to counter ISIS); and Part 4, “The American Strategy to Combat ISIS and Violent Extremism” (e.g., the principles of a successful strategy for America and its allies to defeat ISIS, and the challenge of countering violent extremism). The numerous insights by the volume’s contributors include Princeton University’s Professor of Near East Studies Bernard Heykal, who observes that groups such as ISIS flourish because of “an ideology of religious power and domination as well as political, social, and economic realities that provide a wellspring of recruits and supporters who feel deeply disenfranchised and increasingly marginal to the flow of history. Only by addressing seriously these underlying causes and grievances will the phenomenon of jihadism be effectively dealt with.” (pp. 27-28) The volume’s authors are prominent experts with high-level government and think tank experience.

Mark Calderbank, ‘For Only Those Deserve the Name’: T.E. Lawrence and Seven Pillars of Wisdom – A Literary Biography & Study (Brighton, England, UK/Chicago, IL: Sussex Academic Press, 2017), 360 pages, US $64.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-8451-9804-4.

Thomas Edward Lawrence (known as T.E. Lawrence and “Lawrence of Arabia”), lived from 1888 to 1935. He became famous worldwide as a British archaeologist, military officer, diplomat, and author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which recounted his involvement as a British military officer seconded to assist the successful guerrilla warfare-based Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, which helped to lay the basis for the modern Middle East. This book focuses on the Seven Pillars of Wisdom as “part biography, part essay in interpretation.” (p. 1) The book is divided into two parts. The first part is an account of the more than seven-year period that Lawrence spent writing his book, which was published in 1926. The second part examines Seven Pillars from different angles, including accounts by other participants in the Arab Revolt, and the author’s interpretation of major themes in the book, such as Lawrence’s attitudes towards the Arabs, “his presentation of history, and the meaning of his autobiography.” (p. 3) The book’s Epilogue presents a chronology of four versions of the book’s text, as well as other resources for the book’s and its chapter’s editions. The author recommends that the book’s readers first read Seven Pillars since the text provides page references for additional information. This book will especially appeal to T.E. Lawrence bibliophiles and others interested in delving deeper into literally everything associated with Seven Pillars. The author is a Cambridge University-educated British writer with extensive experience in the Middle East, who has written extensively about Lawrence.

Aaron Edwards, UVF: Behind the Mask (Dublin, Ireland: Merrion Press/Portland, OR: Distributed by ISBS, 2017), 448 pages, US $23.98 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-7853-7087-8.

This is a highly informative, authoritative and well-written account of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) within the wider landscape revolt by Irish Republican militant groups from the 1960s to the current era in Northern Ireland. As explained by the author, the UVF in its new form was reconstituted in 1965 “as a preemptive defence mechanism against a perceived Irish Republican Army (IRA) threat, though its main purpose was as an instrument to put pressure on the ruling Unionist Party that was seen as weak on Irish republicanism and far too liberal in its views on northern Catholics and the Republic of Ireland.” (p. xviiii) The author describes how, during the period of what became known as the “Troubles,” the UVF “killed 564 people, mostly Catholic civilians, and injured thousands more Protestants and Catholics between its first killing in 1966 and its most recent in 2010).” (p. xviiii) It is within this context that the author seeks “to uncover the real causes of the ‘mental or emotional’ reactions that lead people to engage in violence” (p. xxi) and “the generic features of the UVF as a militant group – how it recruited, trained and organized, the disciplinary system of control exerted over its volunteers, its command structures, how it operated when carrying out its ‘counter-terrorist campaign against violent nationalism’ and everyone else, and, perhaps, most controversially of all, the forensic details of violence. It is my intention to look behind the mask of UVF terror to paint as accurate and comprehensive a picture as it is possible to give of a ruthless, organized and determined armed group.” (p. xxiv) This is excellently accomplished through the author’s extensive research and inside access to the UVF’s leading members, such as Billy Mitchell, David Ervine, Billy Wright, Billy Hutchinson and Gary Haggarty. Their loyalist rivals are also interviewed for a balanced perspective on the UVF’s activities. The UVF’s high profile bombing and shooting operations are also examined. The author concludes on a promising note that “The chances of needing to reactivate the UVF as a military-based organization are now slim.” (p. 334) This will depend, however, on “completing its process of transition. It will require legislation from the British and Irish governments to ensure that those who have moved away from their paramilitary pasts can be fully reintegrated and rehabilitated into society. And it will require victims and survivors of the troubles to work through the past to address the toxic legacy of political inspired violence and to ensure that the mantra ‘never again’ becomes the watchword on everyone’s lips.” (p. 334) The author is a Senior Lecturer in Defence and International Affairs at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Camberley, England.

Richard English, Eds., Illusions of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism (New York, NY: Oxford University Press/The British Academy, 2015), 200 pages, US $70.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-1972-6590-1.

This edited volume’s chapters are based on a symposium on “9/11: Ten Years On,” held at a joint British Academy/University of St Andrews meeting in September 2011. As noted by the volume’s editor in the introductory overview, the contributors’ bring a multidisciplinary approach to examine the relationship between the challenges presented by terrorism and the effectiveness of counter-terrorism response measures. To address these issues, the volume’s contributors discuss a range of topics, such as Alia Brahimi’s chapter on al-Qaida and the 9/11 decade (in which he argues on p. 38 that “the illusion of counter-terrorism was the possibility of a military solution”); Rashimi Singh’s chapter on assessing the effectiveness of counter-terrorism in the post 9/11 era (three lessons are highlighted: a shift in the overall strategic character of war, the law of unintended consequences, and over-securitization of counterterrorism has fueled al-Qaida’s brand of ideology); David Omand’s chapter on recommended limits for Western counter-terrorism policy (with government ensuring that ethical principles are used in security and intelligence operations for public protection against major dangers); Conor Gearty’s chapter on the origins and utility of Western counter-terrorism policy (in which he argues that the 9/11 attacks ushered in new frameworks of laws not only to control al-Qaida-type militancy but to control dissent by other groups deemed subversive); Adrian Guelke’s chapter on misinformation in counter-terrorism (in which he proposes the intriguing observation that Western states, in their eagerness to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria had inadvertently become de facto allies of the insurgent jihadi groups); Audrey Kurth Cronin’s chapter on how and why terrorist campaigns end (with five patterns proposed: decapitation of terrorist group leaders, negotiations with terrorist groups, terrorist groups achieving their objectives, failure by terrorist groups, military defeat by government forces, and shifting terrorist campaigns to other areas, such as criminal activities); Richard English’s chapter on using the case of dissident Irish Republicanism to explain how terrorist campaigns do not end (but will “become enduringly marginal”); and David A. Lake’s chapter on the role of the global insurgency in contemporary world politics (in which he argues that with “no total or permanent solution to the global insurgency” the United States, which overextended itself in countering terrorist insurgencies around the world, “should favour a strategy of retrenchment.”). The interesting arguments offered by the volume’s contributors are worth addressing in examining the challenges presented by contemporary terrorism and how to counter them effectively.

Richard English, Does Terrorism Work? A History (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016), 512 pages, US $39.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-1996-0785-3.

In this conceptually innovative, well analyzed, and important book, the author examines the question of whether terrorism works. This is an important question, the author writes, because answering it explains “some of the central dynamics of terrorist activity: its causation (why does it occur where and when it does?); its varying levels across place and time (why does it endure for periods and at the specific, differing levels that it does?); the processes by which terrorist campaigns come to an end (why does it dry up in some settings at some moments, but not in and at others?); and the patterns of support involved in terrorism (why are some people more likely to endorse and practice it than others?).” (p. 2) To answer these questions, the author insightfully formulates a conceptual framework, based on four outcomes for a terrorist campaign: 1) strategic victory (in terms of achieving a group’s central, primary goal or goals); 2) partial strategic victory (such as a protracted stalemate); 3) tactical success (operational success or acquisition of publicity); and 4) the inherent rewards of struggle (such as attaining prestige and status for the group). (p. 30) This framework is applied to examining the effectiveness of terrorist insurgencies in the cases of al-Qaida, the Northern Ireland Provisional IRA, the Palestinian Hamas, and the Basque ETA, with numerous other terrorist groups also examined, although in lesser detail, such as the Lebanese Hizballah, the Sri Lankan LTTE, the African National Congress (ANC), the German Baader-Meinhof Group (or Red Army Faction), the Pakistani LeT, and others. Among the author’s numerous findings is that all these case studies involved considerable human suffering, and yet none of the groups achieved their central goals. Further, “contrary to the confidence so often evinced by terrorist activists about violently achieved progress, very many of the political futures that they have helped to create have been far less worthy of celebration than they had anticipated. Indeed, in tune with historians’ frequent skepticism about historical watersheds, very much in political life (in our al-Qaida, PIRA, Hamas, and ETA case studies, for example) has actually proved continuous before, during, and after those groups’ violent campaigns in pursuit of dramatic change.” (p. 265) As demonstrated by such insights, this book is an important contribution to advancing the discipline of terrorism and counterterrorism studies. The author was, until recently Wardlaw Professor of Politics in the School of International Relations, and Director of the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

Baya Gacemi, [Translated by Paul Cote and Constanina Michell], I, Nadia, Wife of a Terrorist (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), 160 pages, US $50.00 [Hardcover], US $24.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-8032-7124-1.

This is an interesting “autobiography” by an Algerian journalist of “Nadia” (a pseudonym) – a young Algerian woman who (against her parents’ wishes) had been married at a young age to “Ahmed,” a petty criminal who became a local leader of the Islamic Action Group (GIA) in the 1990s. As recounted to the journalist, “Nadia” describes her difficult marriage to “Ahmed,” who was constantly disappearing to carry out operations for GIA, while she had to constantly seek GIA safe houses to avoid the government’s security services. Of particular interest is her description of what her husband told her was expected of a terrorist’s wife: “he told me about his brothers and what they expected of me: ‘Now that we’re married, you’re part of the clan. You’ve become a sister. It’s your obligation to cook for them and do their laundry. It will be your way of contributing to the creation of an Islamic state in Algeria. Somebody has to do those chores. The brothers are fighting against the taghout [false idols]. God has ordered them to do it. Besides, anyone who supports them is also indirectly taking part in the fight. I want you to be the one to help. That way, when I become an emir, you’ll have the title of ‘mother of the faithful’ and God will count you among the chosen of the earth.’” (pp. 37-38) With her husband eventually murdered, “Nadia” was able to pull away from the GIA and regain her own life. In the conclusion, “Nadia” writes that “I hope my story can serve as an example for other young women. It got into this mess because I was in love with a man who, all things considered, I hardly knew. We lived together for only three months. I’ll tell my son everything as soon as he’s old enough to understand. He has to know the truth some day.” (p. 150) With so many women, whether in the Middle East or the West, marrying jihadi fighters in Syria and Iraq, this book is instructive in showing the actual life they end up living with their husbands, which often is the opposite of the rosy expectations they are promised when they marry them.

George Hawley, Making Sense of the Alt-Right (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2017), 232 pages, US $28.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-2311-8512-7.

The Alternative Right, commonly known as the Alt-Right, is a set of far-right wing ideologies, groups and individuals in the United States whose core beliefs is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces (i.e., non-white and liberal elements) who seek to undermine the prominence of white people and their civilization. The Alt-Right is considered a destabilizing force in American politics, especially the intentionally provocative protest demonstrations by their adherents around the country. In an example of what may be a precedent to future Alt-Right terrorism, on August 12, 2017, an Alt-Right adherent deliberately rammed his car against a counter-demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one person and injuring more than 30 others. To understand this threat, Making Sense of the Alt-Right is an excellent account of its goals, predecessors, and activities. What does the Alt-Right want? As the author explains, “The new-Nazi element of the Alt-Right desires the creation of something akin to the Third Reich, with everything this entails. Their best known website is the Daily Stormer, run by a new-Nazi named Andrew Anglin.” (p. 14) Another leader, Richard Spencer, the originator of the Alt-Right term, “supports the idea of creating one or more white ethnostates in North America.” (p. 15) The most prominent Alt-Right leader is Steve Bannon, a “right-wing nationalist and a populist,” (p. 129), who was fired as President Donald Trump’s strategic adviser in mid-August 2017 and then returned to run Breitbart, the movement’s influential media publication. In the concluding chapter, the author observes that “In a postconservative America, zero-sum identity politics may become the norm, and the Alt-Right will be on the periphery, pushing racial polarization at every available opportunity.” (p. 175) The author is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Thomas Hegghammer, editor, Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of Militant Islamists (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 284 pages, US $99.99 [Hardcover], US $28.99 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-1076-1456-7.

With much of the literature on jihadi terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State (ISIS), focusing on their warfare activities in ‘physical’ and ‘cyber’ space, this is one of the few books to examine the cultural dimension of jihadism as it applies to its militant adherents. This is an important topic for study, the volume’s editor explains in his introductory overview, because “militancy is about more than bombs and doctrines. It is also about rituals, customs, and dress codes. It is about music, films, and story-rituals, customs, and dress codes. It is about music, films, and story-telling. It is about sports, jokes, and food.” (p. 1) This “rich aesthetic culture,” the editor adds, “is essential for understanding their mindset and worldview.” (p. 1) Research on this topic, the editor notes, is “also highly policy-relevant” about terrorism in general “because it can shed new light on why people join extremist groups and why some groups and movements survive longer than others.” (p. 17)

To analyze these topics, the contributors to the volume, who are leading experts in their respective fields, discuss topics in jihadi culture such as poetry, a cappella songs, a musicological perspective on jihadi anashid (Islamic chants), cinematography, and the relationship between the tradition of Islamic dreams and jihadi militancy, including martyrdom (as Muslim operatives are promised by their terrorist groups to continue living in an afterlife paradise following their death in suicide bombing attacks).

In the concluding chapter, the editor presents an inventory of non-military devotional practices in jihadi groups, such as prayer, invocations, ablution, Qur’an recitation, and exorcism; recreational practices such as video watching, storytelling, and dream interpretation; as well as identity-markers such as dress and grooming, adopting noms de guerre (kunyas), and slogans.

While this volume does accomplish, as the editor notes, an important survey of “the jihadi cultural universe and provide[s] a starting point for more research into the cultures of rebel groups,” (p. 201) one of its weaknesses is that much of the discussion concerns jihadi propaganda which paints an overly glorified portrait of jihadi life. Nevertheless, for counterterrorism services to counter these jihadi narratives, this volume provides the rich material that needs to be considered in counter-messaging campaigns. The editor is senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) and adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Oslo.

James J. Hentz and Hussein Solomon, editors, Understanding Boko Haram: Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa (New York, NY: Routledge, 2017), 304 pages, US $155.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-1386-9622-8.

The contributors to this conceptually interesting and informative edited volume apply a multi-disciplinary approach to analyze the nature of the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria. As explained by the volume’s editors, Boko Haram’s objective is to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the Borno State in the North East that would ultimately cover the areas of the former “Kanem-Borno Empire,” thereby replacing the modern state system imposed on Nigeria by Western colonialism. The book’s coverage begins with Hussein Solomon’s interesting introductory overview that discusses the contending approaches of traditional counter-terrorism studies and what is known as “Critical Terrorism Studies” (CTS) to analyzing terrorism and counterterrorism in the African context, in which he argues that both approaches are required, although he criticizes the “traditional” approach for “privileging the African state, an artificial and alien entity and often the source of its citizens’ insecurity.” (p. 10) The CTS approach, on the other hand, highlights the importance of “objective conditions” such as economic factors that generate terrorist movements, although he admits that “it remains short on policy options.” (p. 11)

To analyze these issues, the book is divided into three parts. The first part contextualizes the phenomenon of Boko Haram, with chapters on Boko Haram as a jihadist group, its ethnic and religious characteristics, and the influence on it of ideological and operational antecedents with previous revolts in Nigeria. The second part, “The Nigerian State and Boko Haram,” covers Boko Haram’s exploitation of cleavages in Nigeria, the roles of identity and deprivation in driving its insurgency, and problems in the Nigerian government’s response, for instance, focusing on countering terrorism while overlooking the role of radicalization in driving the group’s adherents into violent extremism. The fourth part, “Responses,” assesses the effectiveness of the counter-terrorism campaigns by the government, the West, and regional bodies.

The chapter by John A. Stevenson, Amy Pate and Elvis Asiamah, on “Effective Counter-Terrorism Against Boko Haram,” is especially interesting as it applies an empirical approach, based on field research and quantitative incident data, to assess the effectiveness of various government counter-measures during the period of 2009 to 2014. Although their recommendation may be more ideal than practical, given Nigeria’s deep seated problems, it is still worth noting, as they write that “the United States should encourage the use of local knowledge in counter-terrorist operations against Boko Haram, by simply providing technical assistance for combinations of the military and vigilantes to engage in sweeps to clear the extremist group, as well as ensuring sustained resources for local law enforcement agents to have and employ in their territory. Therefore, the best policies to most effective counter Boko Haram will emerge not from a Nigerian military-led solution but from a more balanced and coordinated effort through CVE programs, hardened target preference, negotiations and police-vigilante combat operations.” (p. 208)

In the concluding chapter, “Nigeria and a War Across States in Northwest Africa,” co-editor James J. Hentz discusses the Boko Haram insurgency within the context of three types of African wars: interstate, civil war, and what he terms “new wars.” He concludes that “The catholic approach taken by this volume – that of sociology, history, political science, economics and policy studies – is a step toward a critical examination of Boko Haram and conflict in Africa.” (p. 266) Hentz is Professor and Chair of the Department of International Studies and Political Science at the Virginia Military Institute, in Lexington, Virginia. Hussein Solomon is Senior Professor in the Department of Political Studies and Government at the University of the Free State, South Africa.

Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism [Third Edition] (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2017), 528 pages, US $85.00 [Hardcover], US $26.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-2311-7477-0.

This is the third edition of the author’s masterful and best-selling comprehensive account of the history and manifestation of global terrorism, which was first published in 1998, with the expanded second edition (456 pages) issued in 2006. This edition is some 70 pages longer than the previous edition, with much of its material remaining intact, and it brings the author’s analysis of terrorism to the current era, especially with an update on al-Qaeda and new sections on the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as discussions of new developments in terrorists’ exploitation of the Internet. While the previous edition’s concluding chapter was entitled “Terrorism Today and Tomorrow,” this edition provides two concluding chapters: “Terrorism Today and Tomorrow I: Force Multipliers” and “Terrorism Today and Tomorrow II: New and Continuing Challenges.”

Like the book’s previous editions, this book covers topics such as defining terrorism, the origins and evolution of terrorism, particularly in the aftermath of the First and Second World Wars, the internationalization of terrorism, religion and terrorism, suicide terrorism, terrorism’s exploitation of the media of communications, the psychology of terrorism, terrorism’s modus operandi (e.g., tactics and weaponry), and new trends and challenges.

There is much to commend in this important book, such as the author’s insightful observation that “While some terrorist movements have been successful in achieving the first three objectives [attention, acknowledgment, and recognition], rarely in modern times has any group attained the last two [authority and governance]. Nevertheless, all terrorists exist and function in hopes of reaching this ultimate end. For them, the future rather than the present defines their reality.” (p. 268) Another pertinent observation is the author’s conclusion that “both ISIS and al-Qaeda and their respective branches and affiliates have locked the U.S. and its allies into an enervating war of attrition – the preferred strategy of terrorists and guerrillas from time immemorial.” (p. 331) He then adds, “Decisively breaking this stasis and emerging from this war of attrition must therefore be among the highest priorities in our ongoing struggle against terrorism.” (p. 331)

The author is a professor in Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and the director of the Center for Security Studies and the Security Studies Program, in Washington, DC.

William Hopkinson and Julian Lindley-French, The New Geopolitics of Terror: Demons and Dragons (New York, NY: Routledge, 2017), 114 pages, US $70.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-1382-1184-1.

This is an interesting and concise survey of the current conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, and the war between groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS and the geopolitical interventions by Western military and security forces in those countries. This complicated interaction needs to be better understood, the authors write, because “terrorism, misery, state tensions across the Middle East – all interact with wider current geopolitics to create a highly dangerous strategic environment. The West needs a counter-terrorism strategy, a counter-insurgency strategy and a ‘classic’ geopolitical strategy. Weaving such very different elements into one unified whole will be a major challenge.” (p. 2) To analyze these issues, the authors present an innovative framework based on four levels of analysis: “sub-state ethnic and sectarian divisions from which terror groups have emerged; the impact of such groups on state structures and regional state relations; the implications of regional tensions for regional strategic and extra-regional actors, most notably European states, Russia, and the United States, together with implications for the security and defence of those states; and finally the impact of such threats on geopolitics and state competition between Great Powers the world over.” (p. 6)

The book also examines how such power interactions impact on the international system, international institutions and regimes (such as the Arab League, United Nations, European Union, and NATO), including how a strategy can be formulated and implemented to manage “such a fractious and contentious geopolitical environment.” (p. 6) The authors conclude that with Syria and the Levant forming “the epicenter of a struggle that is ideological, regional and fast becoming geopolitical,” (p. 93) if the West does not act to solve these conflicts “then a whole spectrum of separate evils could merge into a grand strategic one – the worst of all worlds: a world that is ever more prone to shock, but ever less capable of coping with shock. The world is indeed complex, but managing complexity is what government is mean to be for.” (p. 95) Such geostrategic insights make this book an important guide for understanding the challenges facing Western governments who are involved in this Middle Eastern cauldron and the solutions that need to be implemented to stabilize the region. William Hopkinson is a former Director of Studies and Deputy Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and Assistant Secretary of State (Policy) in the Ministry of Defence, London, England. Julian Lindley-French is a strategic analyst and Vice President of the Atlantic Treaty Association, Brussels, Belgium.

Khaled Hroub, Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide [2nd edition] (Pluto Press, 2010), 224 pages, US $95.00 [Hardcover], US $26.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-7453-2972-7.

First published in 2006, this revised edition updates the coverage of Hamas to 2009. As a guide, the book’s chapters are structured chronologically and thematically, with sub-headings taking an interesting—and, at times, even provocative—format of questions and answers (e.g., “Who are the Muslim Brothers?”, “In Hamas’s view, what would be the future of the Jews in Palestine?”, “How much influence does Hamas have on Palestinians inside Israel proper?”, and “Are we witnessing the rise of an ‘Islamic and radical arc’, starting from Iran, spanning Syria, Hizballah and then Hamas?” The book’s 13 chapters start with the origins of Hamas, its ideology, strategy and objectives, its leadership and structure, Hamas and Israel, its resistance and military strategy, its political and social strategy, Hamas and ‘international Islamism,’ and ending with what the author terms the ‘new’ post-2006 Hamas, in which it gained control over the Gaza Strip. Although the guide requires an updated edition to account for latest developments, it is recommended as an informative and multi-dimensional account of Hamas. The author, a Palestinian who was born in a refugee camp in Bethlehem, is a senior research fellow at the Centre of Islamic Studies and the co-ordinator of the Cambridge Arab Media Project at the University of Cambridge, England.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance 2017 (New York, NY: Routledge, 2017), 504 pages, US $618.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-85743-835-2.

The annual The Military Balance, which is published by the London-based The International Institute for Strategic Studies, is considered the most authoritative, comprehensive and detailed assessment of latest developments in the military capabilities and defense economics of 171 countries. It is widely used as an open-source based reference resource by governments’ military and intelligence agencies, as well as public policy research institutes and academic researchers, around the world.

The volume is divided into two parts. The first part, “Capabilities, Trends and Economics,” is the volume’s primary section. Following two chapters that provide analyses of defense and military trends (including interesting sections on topics such as the changing defense-industrial landscape, trends in challenges to deterrence, and a four page overview on the roles of special operations forces in projecting military capability), seven chapters provide detailed information about the military capabilities of the 171 countries, with the countries listed according to their geographic regions. For each country, a short section provides a general overview, followed by their organizational formations (e.g., army, air force, navy, cyber, special operations, etc.). The last chapter consists of tables that provide data on country comparisons and defense expenditures. The volume’s second part, “Reference,” provides explanatory notes about using the volume’s data and definitions of concepts and terms, such as defense economics and army, air force, and navy forces and equipment.

The volume is also useful for the terrorism and counterterrorism research community as it provides extensive details about selected non-state groups that constitute militarily significant armed actors. In a two-page section on “Selected non-state armed groups: observed forces and military equipment holdings,” (pp. 563-564) three terrorist groups are profiled: Hizballah, the Islamic State (ISIS), and Boko Haram. We learn, for example, that Hizballah has an estimated 4,000 to 8,000 active forces, with an additional 20,000 reserves, and that among these forces between 4,000 and 8,000 are estimated to be committed to operations in Syria. Hizballah’s military equipment includes MBT T-72 armored fighting vehicles, surface-to-surfaces missiles launchers, and SAM air defense systems. At its height, ISIS’s total combat strength (at least prior to its current military setbacks and killed fighters) had totaled an estimated 20,000-35,000 personnel, of whom 12,000-15,000 had operated in Syria. A fourth non-state actor, the Kurdish Peshmerga, although not considered a terrorist group, is also profiled.

Of particular interest to the counterterrorism community is the volume’s detailing of countries’ combating terrorism forces. Thus, for example, it details that the United States’ Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) consists of 63,150 active forces and 6,550 civilians (p. 56); France has 3 Special Forces groups (p. 114); Norway’s Army has 2 Special Forces groups and one Naval Special Forces group (p. 143); the United Kingdom has a large contingent of Royal Navy, Army and RAF Special Forces regiments and squadrons (p. 174); Russia has a total of 659,000 paramilitary forces, which consist of 10,000-30,000 Federal Protection Service forces, and 160,000 Federal Border Guard Service forces (p. 223); India has 1,403,700 paramilitary forces, which consist of 63,900 Ministry of Home Affairs’ Assam Rifles forces and 230,000 Border Security Force personnel, an anti-terrorism contingent of 7,350 National Security Guards, 10,000 mainly ethnic Tibetan Special Frontier forces, a Special Protection Group with 3,000 personnel, and 450,000 State Armed Police forces; and Israel has 3 Army Special Forces battalions and 1 Special Operations brigade, 300 Naval Commandos, and 8,000 Border Police forces (pp. 382- 384).

Sarah Irving, Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation (London, England, UK: Pluto Press/Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 168 pp., US $80.00 [Hardcover], US $22.00[Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-7453-2951-2.

This is a revealing and important account of the life and activities of Leila Khaled, dubbed ‘the poster girl of Palestinian militancy’ in the late 1960s and 1970s, but who has continued to be active in the Palestinian resistance movement to this day. This biography details Khaled’s terrorist activities, beginning with her involvement on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the August 29, 1969 hijacking of flight TWA 840. This incident, led by her partner Salim Issawi, involved diverting the flight from Rome to Athens, and then its eventual landing in Damascus. In a second hijacking, on September 6, 1970, she partnered with Patrick Arguello (a Nicaraguan-American member of the Sandanista movement) in an unsuccessful plot to hijack an El Al Boeing 707 at Amsterdam Airport. After Arguello was killed on board the plane, Khaled was arrested and spent the next month in London’s Ealing police station. She was later released as part of a prisoner exchange. This account, which is based on a series of interviews conducted by the author with Khaled in Amman, where she lived (at least by 2008 when the interviews were conducted), then details Khaled’s later life as wife, mother, a member of the Palestinian National Council, a leader of the General Union of Palestinian Women, and a spokesperson for the Palestinian cause.

This book is highly relevant to the current era because of the important questions that it posed to Khaled: “how do militants whose careers start with violent action end them in the arena of political negotiation and discussion? Why, and how, do people – especially women – decide to follow the path of armed struggle, and what do they gain and lose? How does the left-wing revolution of Khaled’s day link to the Islamist parties which dominate the armed Palestinian resistance of today? And how does the romanticized, sexualized figure of the “Aubrey Hepburn terrorist” fit into the wider Palestinian struggle?” (p. 5) Many of Khaled’s answers are especially noteworthy, including her criticism of the culture of suicide bombings, which she refers to as “about death, not about life,” that it “dehumanizes the idea of struggle: ‘We don’t want this generation to think they can just fight by pushing the button,” and “we don’t see this as the best way to mobilize the people.” (p. 124) Khaled also criticizes “the impact that the rise of the Islamist parties has had on the position of women in the West Bank and Gaza.” (p. 126) Finally, Khaled supports Palestinian – Israeli peace once “the core issues, the land and the refugees, are dealt with in a just way…” (p. 138) The author is a British journalist who has published books on Palestinian affairs.

Gilles Kepel, Terror In France: The Rise of Jihad in the West (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 240 pages, US $29.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-6911-7484-6.

This is an interesting account of the nature of what the author refers to as the third wave of jihadism in Europe, including France, the primary subject of this book. The first wave, as explained by the author, lasted from 1979 to 1997, and was centered in Afghanistan, with episodes in Bosnia, Egypt, and Algeria. The second wave was focused on al-Qaida’s jihad against America, with its “high” point reached in its 9/11 attacks, and followed by the jihadists’ failure in Iraq. The third wave, the subject of this book, began in 2005, with its focus on jihadi radicalization of Western Muslims and terrorist activities in Europe. The peak of the third wave, the author points out, was reached with the shooting rampage at Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 and the attack at the Bataclan concert in November of that year.

The author focuses on the case of jihadism in France because it “is exemplary and premonitory, and a deeper knowledge of it can help us decipher situations in which we see jihadism spreading in the West, whether in the rest of Europe or in North America.” (p. xii) In the epilogue, the author criticizes what he terms the French “establishment’s incompetence” in misunderstanding how to deal with its jihadist problem, which was caused by a number of factors, such as neglecting the academic field of Islamic studies, with no “innovative thinking to be found at the top of the highly hierarchical French security apparatus, which would need to be retooled in order to grasp the shift in jihadist organization from pyramidal structures to an unprecedented model in which the actors operate in swarms.” (p. 189) Some of the author’s language is highly philosophical and is difficult to comprehend, such as the following sentence: “In such a context, the places of religion or obedience to which the secularism of the Republic grants a legitimate place within human society – the church, the mosque, the synagogue, and the temple (whether Protestant or Masonic) – cannot be erected into the primordial relays of state intervention.” (p. 198) Despite such complications in the text, the book is still worth reading for the insight it presents on the problem of jihadism in France. The author is professor of political science at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, who has published numerous books on these issues.

Hein G. Kiessling, Faith Unity Discipline: The ISI of Pakistan (London, England, UK: Hurst & Company/New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016), 320 pages, US $70.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-8490-4517-9.

This book is a comprehensive and detailed account of the history, current operations, and effectiveness of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s primary domestic and external intelligence and agency. The ISI, the author notes, plays a crucial role in Pakistan due to its involvement in Kashmir and in Afghanistan and its role as “a state within a state – as an intelligence agency that was influencing and controlling Pakistan’s domestic and international politics.” (p. 10) The book’s chapters cover topics such as the ISI’s first decade (it was established in 1948) and its operations through the early 1990s, especially its involvement in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Also discussed is the ISI’s involvement in anti-Indian operations in the disputed Kashmir province, as well as its involvement with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT – “Army of the Pure”) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (“Army of the Prophet Mohammad) terrorist groups, which the author characterizes as “the preferred partners of the ISI.” (p. 193) With regard to issues such as greater civilian government control over the ISI, the author writes that “They still see the military and the ISI as guarantors of the existence of the state of Pakistan, which will only be weakened by excessive reforms.” (p. 236) The author is a German political scientist and historian who had lived in Pakistan from 1989 to 2002, where he formed relationships with Pakistan’s political, military and intelligence elites.

Robert Manne, The Mind of the Islamic State: ISIS and the Ideology of the Caliphate (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2017), 175 pages, US $18.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-6338-8371-0.

This interesting and well-argued book traces the evolution of the jihadi ideology that drives groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS. It is important to study this ideology’s origins and evolution because, as the author correctly points out, “Political ideologies take decades to form. The mind of the Islamic state represents the most recent iteration of an ideology that has been developing over the past fifty years.” (p. 12) The book’s discussion, therefore, begins with an examination of Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian author of Milestones, which was published in 1964, and which the author (citing Gilles Kepel) regards it as “the Islamist version of Lenin’s What Is to be Done?” (p. 13) Other noteworthy jihadi tracts include the Egyptian militant Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj’s The Neglected Duty, which called upon Muslims to carry out jihad; the Palestinian Abdullah Azzam’s The Defense of the Muslim Lands and Join the Caravan, which were published in the 1980s; and the Egyptian Muhammad Khalil al-Hakim’s The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage through which the Umma Will Pass, which was published in 2004. The current Salafi jihadist movement, the author points out, “which originated in Egypt during the late 1960s and the 1970s, and expanded during the 1980s in the war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, represents the fusion of Salafi-inflected Egyptian revolutionary jihadism and politically awakened Saudi Wahhabism.” (p. 21) Now, these extremist ideologies, the author writes, find expression in Dabiq, ISIS’s online magazine. The author concludes that “Fifty years after Sayyid Qutb’s execution, this is what the tradition of Salafi jihadism, the mind of the Islamic State, has become. There are no more milestones to pass. We have finally reached the gates of hell.” The author is Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, Emeritus Professor and Convenor of the Ideas & Society Program at La Trobe University, in Melbourne, Australia.

Gordon Martel, Editor, Twentieth-Century War and Conflict: A Concise Encyclopedia (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), 440 pages, US $30.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-1188-8463-8.

The articles in this concise encyclopedia were drawn from the editor’s five-volume The Encyclopedia of War (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). This version is devoted to the subject of war since 1900. While most of the entries cover regular warfare, some also discuss terrorism and guerrilla warfare. The coverage of terrorism and counterterrorism is highlighted by the excellent 11-page entry by Seumas Miller on “War Against Terrorism,” which consists of interesting sections on “Terrorism as Crime and Terrorism as War,” “Terrorist Attacks, Disasters, and States of Emergency,” and “Terrorism, Internal Armed Struggles, and Theaters of War.” Of particular interest is the author’s taxonomy of the three contexts of terrorist activity: “(1) well-ordered (non-totalitarian) nation-states in peacetime: specifically, well-ordered, liberal democratic states at peace; (2) theaters of war in the context of wars between nation-states; and (3) theaters of war in the context of wars involving non-state actors (e.g., a civil war or an armed insurgency between a government’s security forces and some other armed and organized military force).” (p. 201) Other entries on wars, whether inter-state or internal, include coverage of the activities of terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hizballah, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and others. This encyclopedia is recommended for placing terrorism and counterterrorism within the larger context of war studies. The editor is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Northern British Columbia, in Canada.

Susanne Martin and Leonard Weinberg, The Role of Terrorism in Twenty-First-Century Warfare (Manchester, England, UK: Manchester University Press; New York, NY: Distributed by Oxford University Press, 2017), 288 pages, US $100.00 [Hardcover], US $26.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-7849-9409-9.

This is a conceptually innovative approach, based on extensive empirical data, to examine the use of the tactic of terrorism by insurgent groups in major armed conflicts that have erupted during the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century, in locations such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. As the authors write, the book “concerns the role of terrorism in twenty-first century warfare. This is a study of the ways in which militants use terrorism to trigger and sustain insurgency. It is also a study of the ways in which the resort to terrorism may signal an end to insurgency, or its failure.” (p. 2) The insights generated by the “patterns in the incidence of terrorism as a tactic” in such conflicts and wars, the authors note, are intended to provide findings for efforts to counter these continuing threats.

There is much to commend in this theoretically groundbreaking book, such as the authors’ findings about the uses and timing of terrorism within wider-scale warfare. As they write: “Terrorism may be used prior to or early in a violent confrontation to incite further violence, gain attention, or for some other purpose. Terrorism used in these early stages is likely a sign of military weakness. Terrorism used later in the context of wider-scale warfare may indicate something different. It may indicate a weakening of an armed group. Terrorism may serve as a weapon of last resort, used when alternative forms of armed action are no longer available or seen as viable.” (p. 6)

With the first chapter defining terrorism (including the phenomenon of “new terrorism”), guerrilla warfare, and insurgency, the discussion concludes with an analysis of the point in an armed conflict when insurgents are likely to use the tactic of terrorism, and whether this timing impacts on the success or failure of the insurgents’ campaign. The successive chapters then examine past and current insurgencies in order to test the validity of these hypotheses in “the role of terrorism as a leading, concurrent, or trailing indicator of armed conflict.” (p. 55) The case studies include Turkey’s Armenian and Kurdish insurgents, the Sikh Punjabi insurgency in India, the insurgencies in the former Yugoslavia, Colombia’s leftist guerrillas, the Shining Path in Peru, the LTTE’s insurgency in Sri Lanka, Hizballah’s insurgency in Lebanon, the Naxalites in India, and the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Information for the data gathering was primarily derived from START’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD), as well as other sources.

In the concluding chapter, the authors’ find, based on their data, that “Terrorism was more commonly a trailing indicator than a leading one. It is more frequent for terrorism to appear or peak toward the latter stages of an armed conflict than during its initial phases. The cases, or at least their central tendencies, suggest explanations. First, terrorism appears to be a tactic employed by those whose challenges are losing ground. Second, endgame terrorism also may be carried out in retaliation against segments of a population who are perceived to have betrayed the cause for which the insurgents have been fighting. And, third, there may be a certain amount of desperation involved. The late surge in terrorism may reflect the fact that authorities (or rival groups) are closer to victory. The use of terrorism may reflect desperation and frustration.” (pp. 234-235)

It is such empirically-derived insights about the utility of the uses of terrorism by various types of insurgent groups that make this book an important contribution to the literature on these issues.

Susanne Martin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nevada. Leonard Weinberg is Foundation Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nevada.

T. David Mason and Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, Editors, What Do We Know About Civil Wars? (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 364 pages, US $101.00 [Hardcover], US $39.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-4422-4225-8.

The contributors to this conceptually important volume, as explained by the editors, seek to explain observable patterns in armed conflicts, such as “what do we know about civil wars? How do we explain these shifting patterns in armed conflict? More specifically, how do we account for where and when civil wars are likely to occur, when and how they are likely to end, and whether or not they will recur?” (p. 1) Following the editors’ introductory overview, the book is divided into three parts. Part I, “Factors That Bring About Civil War,” covers topics such as patterns of armed conflict since 1945, the roles of “greed, grievance, and state repression” as antecedents of civil war onset, the roles of ethnic and religious divisions as identity issues in driving civil wars, the influence of state capacity and regime type in shaping civil wars, and transnational dimensions of civil wars. The second part, “Factors That End Civil Wars and Promote Peace,” covers issues such as the impact of third party interventions in the durations and outcomes of civil wars, including their positive influence in facilitating mediation and negotiating peace agreements; the components of negotiated peace agreements, such as power sharing; the impact of peacekeeping on perpetuating violence or democratization in the post-conflict context; and the legacies of health, education, and economic development on the societies that experience civil wars. The third part, “Emerging Trends in Civil War Research,” discusses the role of transitional justice in contributing to post-war peace and human rights, gender and civil wars, and the nexus between conflicts over issues such as resources and environmental conditions and the emergence of civil wars. The third part’s last chapter by David E. Cunningham, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, and Idean Salehyan, on “Trends in Civil War Data: Geography, Organizations, and Events,” discusses new trends in researching civil wars, including new methodologies and technologies “to examine the geographic and temporal patterns of conflict within a given civil war.” (p. 2)

With regard to the overlap between terrorism and civil wars, the chapter’s authors discuss how a 2012 study had found that “about 56 percent of all terrorist attacks take place within geographical areas with ongoing civil war.” (p. 257) In terms of new directions in the collection of event data they note the use of “fully automated or computer-assisted techniques to extract information from news sources,” which would overcome the problem of sorting through massive amounts of text on conflict events. (p. 257) They caution, however, that “for certain more complex tasks – for example, arbitrating between conflicting accounts of the number of fatalities or event attribution to the correct group – the currently available software is limited in its ability to interpret events.” (p. 257) In a concluding observation they write about the need for progress in data collection “in identifying factors that lead to the outbreak of violence,” and in filling “a significant gap in our understanding of why violent civil conflict begins in some places at some times and not in others,” which they attribute to “lack of data.” (p. 259) T. David Mason is the Johnie Christian Family Professor of Peace Studies and Regents Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas, in Denton, Texas. Sara McLaughlin Mitchell is Professor of Political Science and Collegiate Scholar at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Michele R. McPhee, Maximum Harm: The Tsarnaev Brothers, the FBI, and the Road to the Marathon Bombing (Lebanon, NH: ForeEdge/An Imprint of University Press of New England, 2017), 340 pages, US $29.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-6116-8849-8.

This is a highly detailed and authoritative investigative account, which reads like a suspense movie, of how Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, had plotted to carry out the horrific bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, their family backgrounds, and a description and assessment of how the United States government’s counter-terrorism measures functioned in attempting to surveil them prior to the attack and in its immediate aftermath. The author, a Boston-based investigative journalist, had spent three years researching this book, which led her to uncover numerous pieces of new evidence that are recounted throughout this account. These include evidence that “in 2011 Tamerlan secretly worked on an investigation that dismantled a ring of crack cocaine dealers who moved the drug from Boston to Portland, Maine,” that he “drove a Mercedes without holding a job,” and that his lucrative pay as a government informant enabled him to get “away with so much villainy that only a hands-off policy formulated at the local level by one or more agencies responsible for national intelligence could have engineered it.” (p. x) While this reviewer is not in a position to verify such new evidence, it is still worth considering. This account also includes numerous insights into how the U.S. government’s counterterrorism agencies track individuals with a suspected nexus to terrorism, such as the National Counterterrorism Center’s and FBI’s watchlisting databases, including the ‘No Fly’ listings, and how they cooperate with their Russian counterparts (who had warned them about Tamerlan’s suspicious activities). Also noteworthy is the author’s discussion of the dysfunctional nature of the Tsarnaev family, Tamerlan’s radicalization into extremism, his association with other Chechen extremists, his visit to Dagestan, Russia in 2012, and the step-by-step preparation that Tamerlan took to prepare the bombs that were used in the attack.

Suzi Mirgani, Target Markets: International Terrorism Meets Global Capitalism in the Mall. (New York, NY: Transcript/Georgetown University Qatar/Distributed by Columbia University Press, 2017), 200 pages, US $37.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-3-8376-3352-8.

This book is an interesting examination of what the author considers the points of convergence between corporate capitalist and terrorist practice in commercial entities in urban areas, with an emphasis on the shopping mall in general and Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in particular. It assesses the proliferation of terrorist attacks against such commercial entities in order to understand the “spaces” in contemporary culture where terrorism, the most “extreme” force, confronts shopping malls, the most “mainstream” force, in this type of “common ground.” As the author explains, Al-Shabaab’s September 21, 2013 attack against the Westgate Mall “is used as a contextual case study that allows for an interactive reading of the relationship between capitalism, globalization, and terrorism, and how these grand narratives relate to people’s lives within everyday space.” (p. 10) To discuss these issues, the book’s chapters cover topics such as developing and designing the shopping mall as “architectronics of entrapment,” “atmospherics of enchantment,” and “spectacle of consumption;” the architecture of securing the shopping mall, including surveillance for terrorism”; “spectacies of the shopping mall,” including “commodification of terror and media productions”; and “spectors of the shopping mall,” including the “chimeras of consumption.”

One of the problems with the book (aside from its obfuscatory language) is the author’s underplaying of the serious threat posed by terrorism to shopping malls, as demonstrated by the following argument: “In order for the military-industrial complex to continue being profitable, terrorism is a constant threat and is perpetuated as such. In this regard, terrorism is good for business and keeps the security industry buoyed as it continues to construct ever more impregnable structures that require constant improvement by both security agents and security technologies.” (p. 116)

The author is Manager and Editor for Publications at the Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

James E. Mitchell, with Bill Harlow, Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America (New York, NY: Crown Forum, 2016), 320 pages, US $28.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-1019-0684-2.

This important book is primarily an insider’s account of the author’s extensive involvement, as a civilian clinical psychologist contractor, with the CIA’s interrogation program which was established in the aftermath of 9/11 to elicit intelligence information from just-captured al-Qaida leaders and operatives. It is also an important primer on the mindsets of terrorists, how they operate in their underground worlds, how counterterrorism is conducted by government agencies, the types of interrogation techniques (including enhanced interrogation techniques) that are used to elicit urgently required intelligence information from ‘high value’ captured terrorists, and how such terrorists spend their time in their detention cells. Working as a civilian contractor, the author and his associate, Dr. John Bruce Jessen, his former air force colleague (they had been involved in working with the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training), were involved in the interrogations of high level al-Qaida operatives, such as Abu Zubaydah (who was familiar with logistical operations), Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (the commander of the attack against the USS Cole), Khaled Sheikh Mohammed (the mastermind of 9/11, also known as KSM), Ramzi bin al-Shibh (a key facilitator of 9/11), and Abu Yasir al-Zaza’iri (part of KSM’s entourage). The interrogations of these suspects, the author writes, yielded important intelligence information that led to the capture of other al-Qaida operatives, including thwarting a number of significant potential plots. In the concluding chapter, the author offers numerous insights about the components of effective counterterrorism, including the observation about the difference between a law enforcement approach (i.e., “taking a perpetrator off the streets and convicting that person in a court of law” once “a crime has already been committed”) and, in his opinion, a preferred “war-focused, intelligence-gathering approach” that seeks “to obtain actionable intelligence to prevent upcoming attacks before building a case for prosecution – that comes later.” (p. 294)

Emma Sky, The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq (New York, NY: Public Affairs, 2016), 496 pages, US $19.99 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-6103-9714-8.

This is a highly detailed and well-written memoir of the author’s experiences in Iraq over more than a decade, beginning in mid-2003. The author, a British expert on the Middle East, who had studied Arabic (and Hebrew) as an undergraduate at the University of Oxford, had worked for the British Council in the field of development and conflict resolution for some 10 years, when she was presented with an opportunity to help rebuild Iraq following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Eventually, she became political adviser to General Ray Odierno, the commander of the U.S. military campaign in Iraq, from 2007 to 2010. This book, the author notes, “describes the challenges of nation building and how the overthrow of an authoritarian regime can lead to state collapse and conflict. It reminds us of the limitations of external actors in foreign lands, but also where we can have influence.” (p. xi) What makes this book important in the literature on the U.S. military involvement in Iraq are the author’s insightful descriptions and observations, which read like scenes in a documentary, of her close working relationship and familiarity with the top military and political leaders on the various sides of the rebuilding efforts in the country. Among the author’s many findings is the observation that “After all the initial mistakes, the US military felt they had turned the war around during the Surge. They had done everything asked of them to the best of their ability. But all the gains had since evaporated. There was nothing to be seen from all the blood and treasure we had invested. Iran was resurgent, a proxy war was raging in the region and the US appeared to be in global retreat.” (p. 361) In a prescient observation the author writes that concerning the Islamic State (also known as Da’ash), “if the very conditions that gave rise to Da’ash are not addressed, then its ideology will continue to attract adherents, and it will likely be succeeded some time in the future by son-of-Da’ash. And the cycle will continue.” (p. xiii) The author is director of Yale University’s Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program and a Senior Fellow at the Jackson Institute, where she teaches Middle East politics.

Amulya K. Tripathy, D. Santishree Pandit, and Roshni Kujur, Understanding Post 9/11 Cross-Border Terrorism in South Asia: U.S. and Other Nations’ Perceptions (New Delhi, India: Ess Ess Publications, 2016), 330 pages, US $70.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-8-1700-0800-2.

The contributors to this edited volume, who are leading Indian academic experts on terrorism, examine significant aspects of the threat of terrorism in South Asia and how to counter them. These threats range from cross border terrorism in the cases of Pakistan and India, Indian-Sri Lanka relations in a post-LTTE era, new safe havens for terrorists and smugglers along the Indo-Nepal border, the rise of radical Islamism in Bangladesh, the implications for India of geopolitical rivalries in Afghanistan, and counterterrorism cooperation between India and the United States, including their cooperation in combating terrorism in South Asia. The concluding chapter by Sudhansubala Das and Narottam Gaan, “Combating Terrorism in South Asia: Role of US and India,” presents a valuable overview of the region’s terrorist threats in the cases of the al-Qaida-Taliban nexus within the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan, indigenous Pakistani terrorist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Pakistan-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation, Pakistan’s military operations against terrorist groups operating in the country, the problem of youth bulge and violent conflict, separatist terrorism in Kashmir, and terrorism in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. In the chapter’s conclusion, the authors insightfully observe that “Regional counter-terrorism efforts will only be as good as the national capacities of individual states to tackle militant efforts,” (p. 300) and that “The international community at large should recognize that deviations from the rule of law will make sustainable counter-terrorism successes less likely.” (p. 301) Amulya K. Tripathy, is teacher at the Science College (Autonomous) Hinjilicut, Odisha, India. D. Santishree Pandit is a Professor at the Department of Politics & Public Administration, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Maharashtra, India. Roshni Kujur is a faculty member in the P.G. Department of Political Science, Berhampur University, Odisha, India.

Wang Yizhou, et al., ([Translated by Zhang Yidan, Polisher: Jonathon Richard Gartner], The Global Threat of Terrorism: Perspectives From China (Paths International Ltd./Social Sciences Academic Press (China)/Distributed by ISBS, Portland, OR, 2016), 286 pp., US $130.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-8446-4465-3.

This is a substantially expanded edition of the author’s 86-page book On Terrorism: Chinese Perspectives (2014) [which was reviewed in this column in PoT’s August 2017 issue]. The book’s chapters cover topics on terrorism such as definitions of terrorism (with an important point made on p. 1 that “a theoretical definition of terrorism is ultimately an abstract manifestation of a very physical entity”); types of contemporary terrorism (e.g., nationalist and religious extremism, cult-based, far right and far left, and criminal); the North-South income gap and terrorism (e.g., the impact of the economic gap between the North and the South in driving terrorism); great power relations and terrorism (e.g., the dominance of a “single power” such as United States imperialism in strengthening Islamic terrorism); national strategies for eliminating terrorism (e.g., hegemonic powers such as the United States not dealing with “ethnic relations in a healthy way”); racial conflicts and terrorism (e.g., the role of ethnic revenge in driving terrorist groups); religions and terrorism (e.g., terrorism in ethnic and religious conflicts such as in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, and Chechnya, Indian Sikh and Islamic terrorism, and cult terrorism); and the three major wars and terrorism in cases such as the Middle East, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf.

It is valuable for a book on terrorism to be produced in China, but it’s unfortunate that the only “Chinese perspective” on the terrorist threat in this volume is a criticism of the United States that “people are wondering why the United States, the most powerful country in the world, was so easily attacked by terrorists and if the military and national defense strategy of the U.S. is rational.” (p. 123) Moreover, it would have been valuable for a chapter to be included on the Chinese approach to analyzing the Islamist Uyghur terrorist insurgency in Xinjiang and the Chinese government’s counter-terrorism campaign against it – but this topic is not discussed in the volume.

As an edited volume, the identity of the chapters’ authors is confusing, with a researcher listed at the end of each chapter, so should one assume that Wang Yizhou is their primary author and that these researchers had assisted in writing each of them? The researchers are affiliated with the Institute of World Economics & Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing. Wang Yizhou is Professor of international Politics and Chinese Foreign Affairs and Associate Dean in the School of International Studies (SIS), Peking University.

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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