To meet the great demand for academic and public policy resources on this subject, the…
Article first published on “Perspectives on Terrorism” (www.terrorismanalysts.com)
Terrorist rebellions, in all their configurations, constitute the primary warfare threats facing the international community. This was especially the case following September 2001, when al-Qaeda demonstrated that it had world class ambitions to inflict catastrophic damages on its adversaries. In other conflicts, such as the Palestinian-Israeli arena, terrorist targeting is primarily localized, although as demonstrated by Hizballah’s rocket and guerrilla warfare against Israel in summer 2006, even localized conflicts have regional and international repercussions. Because of the worldwide reach of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, including what are referred to as al-Qaeda-inspired “self-starter” home-grown cells in Western Europe, North America, and elsewhere, many nations have been upgrading their homeland security defenses, and calling on their academic communities to provide analytical understanding of the origins, nature and magnitude of the terrorist threats around the world and how to counteract and resolve them. In response, academic courses and research institutes have been proliferating at colleges and universities worldwide, with graduate certificates and degrees offered in terrorism studies. To meet the great demand for academic and public policy resources on this subject, the publishing industry has been releasing a plethora of books on terrorism in general, the groups that engage in terrorist warfare, the radical religious movements that drive individuals to join terrorist groups and employ terrorist tactics on their behalf, the conflict zones where such warfare is being waged, and the types of counteraction that governments are employing in response.
The books reviewed in this essay are divided into nine sections, which are not intended to be mutually exclusive: textbooks on terrorism, using the social sciences to study terrorism, terrorism and the Internet, radical Islam, suicide terrorism, 9/11 and its aftermath, Palestinian terrorism, terrorism in the United States, and counterterrorism.
This list of 50 books is not intended to be final, but will be continuously expanded with additional titles. Readers are encouraged to nominate additional books for inclusion in future lists.
Textbooks on Terrorism
Gus Martin’s Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues [Second Edition] (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006; 696 pages; $63.95) is one of the finest stand-alone, comprehensive textbooks for university courses. Its 696 pages cover the spectrum of all issues involved in studying terrorism, ranging from the early history of terrorism, how terrorism is defined, causes of terrorism, the “morality” of terrorist violence, the objectives, tactics and targets of terrorists, the role of the media, the phenomenon of religious terrorism, the role of women in terrorism, the nexus between terrorism and organized crime, terrorism in the United States and internationally, the components of counterterrorism, and future terrorism trends. Each chapter is organized pedagogically, with opposing viewpoints and issues for classroom discussion.
Since its original publication in 1998, Bruce Hoffman’s Inside Terrorism [Second Edition] (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006; 456 pages; $24.95) has become one of the most widely read books on terrorism. This revised and expanded edition incorporates new developments and trends in terrorism, particularly since 9/11’s catastrophic attacks by al-Qaeda. The book’s chapters discuss how to define terrorism, the origins of contemporary terrorism, the internationalization of terrorism, the role of radical religions in driving terrorism, suicide terrorism, the exploitation by terrorist groups of old (e.g., print) and new (e.g., internet) media, terrorists’ objectives, “tradecraft,” technological innovations in their use of weapons, targeting, and future trends in terrorist warfare. The author may be faulted for adopting the thesis that a strategic logic drives suicide terrorism (when, in fact, it is hugely self-destructive to their group’s cause), but otherwise the book’s comprehensiveness will generate much interest from general readers.
Countering Terrorism and Insurgency in the 21st Century: International Perspectives [Three Volumes] (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007; 2016 pages; $400.00), edited by James J.F. forest, brings together chapters by dozens of experts (including this reviewer) to discuss terrorist threats around the world and how to defeat them. Volume I covers “Strategic and Tactical Considerations”, Volume II examines “Sources and Facilitators”, and Volume III discusses “Lessons Learned from Combating Terrorism and Insurgency”. Dr. Forest is Director of Terrorism Studies at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.
Christopher C. Harmon’s Terrorism Today [Second Edition] (New York: Routledge, 2007; 248 pages; $39.95) is a substantially revised and updated edition of the author’s original edition, published in 2000. The textbook is comprehensive in scope, covering the history of terrorism, strategies of terrorist groups, terrorist modus operandi, technologies and tactics, counterterrorism, and an analysis of how terrorism ends.
Using the Social Sciences to Study Terrorism
Mapping Terrorism Research: State of the Art, Gaps and Future Direction, edited by Magnus Ranstorp (New York: Routledge, 2007; 352 pages; $37.95), is an attempt to take inventory of the strengths and weaknesses in terrorism research in order to identify a set of priorities for future research. Fourteen academic experts (including this reviewer) contributed chapters on new trends in terrorism studies, the impact of 9/11 on terrorism research, responding to the roots of terror, the socio-psychological component of terrorist motivation, al-Qaeda’s warfare, recruitment of Islamist terrorists in Europe, the landscape of intelligence analysis and counterterrorism, terrorism in cyberspace, and the components of terrorism and counterterrorism studies.
Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality and Ways Forward (New York: Routledge, 2005; 288 pages; $47.95), edited by Tore Bjorgo, is the product of an experts workshop (in which this reviewer participated) that was held in Oslo, Norway, in June 2003. This was the first time that an academic meeting had ever been held to explore, in a systematic manner, concepts and methodologies to conduct analysis on root causes of terrorism.
John Horgan’s The Psychology of Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 2005; 224 pages; $41.95) is one of the best applications of a social science discipline, in this case, psychology, to explain the drivers that motivate individuals to become terrorists, function as terrorists, and, in ideal cases, disengage from terrorism. Also noteworthy is the author’s discussion on how to define terrorism and conduct academic research on terrorism.
Ely Karmon’s Coalitions Between Terrorist Organizations: Revolutionaries, Nationalists and Islamists (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2005; 426 pages; $176.00) is an important and innovative study of how terrorist organizations form cooperative coalitions and how they function within the changing international system. Dr. Karmon focuses on the cooperation between European left-wing terrorist organizations from 1984 to 1988 and cooperation between European and Palestinian terrorist organizations during the period of 1968 to 1990, in order to use these findings to develop a broader theory concerning cooperative coalitions between organizations involved in international terrorism in the 1990s and early 21st century. In a masterful 70-page chapter on the Islamist terrorist networks, the hypotheses generated by the previous case studies are tested to determine whether the new terrorist actors who emerged in the 1990s, such as al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups around the world, who are driven by religious motivation, act in a similar fashion as their ideological and nationalist predecessors in forming cooperative coalitions.
In Forecasting Terrorism: Indicators and Proven Analytical Techniques (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004; 103 pages; $40.00), Sundri Khalsa identifies 68 indicators of terrorist activity, based on terrorist capability and intention. These indicators, when applied to actual terrorist group activity, are intended to be used in a warning framework to anticipate terrorist activity that requires early warning. A CD-ROM is included to graphically display the forecasting system and explain the author’s methodology.
The actual and potential resort by terrorist groups to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) warfare is an issue of great concern to governments that might be targeted by such intentions. One of the best treatments of this subject is The New Face of Terrorism: Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction (New York: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 2002; 336 pages; $29.95) by Nadine Gurr and Benjamin Cole.
Terrorist organizations and criminal enterprises, especially narco-traffickers, share a number of characteristics, especially adaptability to changes in governmental law enforcement responses. In From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007; 312 pages; $24.95), Michael Kenney examines how narcotics traffickers and terrorists “learn” to adapt to new countermeasures against them and the lessons from such “learning” experiences that can be used for more effective governmental responses.
Terrorism and the Internet
The Internet has become the “seductive hypermedia” for radical Islamic terrorists, with official and unofficial Web sites, forums and chat-rooms that appeal to supporters worldwide. Most Web sites are intended to advance a group’s propaganda to increase their supporting audience, while some have operational intentions. How can we defeat such terrorism in cyberspace? Hypermedia Seduction for Terrorist Recruiting, edited by Boaz Ganor, Katharina Von Knop and Carlos Duarte (Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2007; 300 pages; $150.00) is an important collection of papers by an eclectic group of international experts (in which this reviewer participated) in terrorist use of the Internet, advertising and graphic design specialists, who had been convened to formulate a comprehensive response campaign. The volume’s chapters examine radical Islamist websites, the use of symbolism in Islamic fundamentalism and Jihad, mining the Jihadist network in cyberspace, the use of the Internet as a “seductive” recruitment technology, and practical ways to counter the “seductive” terrorist web.
Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004; 320 pages; $19.95) by Olivier Roy, discusses the driving forces behind the revival of militant Islam in Western Europe. Mr. Roy, a leading French academic expert on political Islam, explains how many Muslims in Western Europe have turned to radical Islamic ideologies as a way of coping with political and psychological crises in their own lives and what they perceive to be threats against their Muslim brethren around the world.
In Fundamentalism: The Search for Meaning (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005; 254 pages; $16.95), Malise Ruthven provides a penetrating analysis of the nature of fundamentalism around the world, including Islam. Fundamentalism in other religions, such as Christianity and Judaism, are discussed, as well. Mr. Ruthven is a British writer who has taught at several universities.
Bassam Tibi’s Political Islam, World Politics and Europe: Democratic Peace and Euro-Islam versus Global Jihad (New York: Routledge, 2007; 328 pages; $41.95), assesses the impact and manifestations of political Islam, particularly in Europe, which faces a growing conflict between radical segments within its large Muslim minority and the continent’s democratic and pluralist institutions and values. Dr. Tibi, one of the world’s foremost experts on political Islam and Arab nationalism, is Professor of International Relations at the University of Goettingen, in Germany and a visiting professor at Cornell University.
In Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007; 327 pages; $26.00), Neil J. Kressel, a professor of psychology at William Paterson University, incisively explains the nature of religious extremism. To Dr. Kressel, religious extremists are “those persons who — for reasons they themselves deem religious — commit, promote or support purposely hurtful, violent, or destructive acts toward those who don’t practice their faith.”
It is not only Islam that fosters religious extremism, Dr. Kressel points out. Christianity and Judaism have their share of anti-secularists who elevate sacred religious texts, such as the Bible or Koran, to a position of supreme authority in a state. While Dr. Kressel is critical of religious extremism, this is emphatically not an anti-religion treatise. He recommends that once a religiously extremist minority within a religion begins to act violently, then mainstream leaders must immediately identify and “self-police” such outbreaks. In this way, constructive elements have the best chance of overtaking destructive ones. All those in the counterterrorism community who wish to understand and respond to the characteristics of religious extremism that lead to terrorism will greatly benefit from reading Dr. Kressel’s important book.
Unmodern Men in the Modern World: Radical Islam, Terrorism, and the War on Modernity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007; 304 pages; $19.99) by Michael Mazarr, is one of the best diagnoses of the resentment by Islamist forces toward modernity, which has led them to utilize terrorism to retaliate against the effects of modernity on traditional life in their respective societies. In one of his many insightful passages, Dr. Mazarr, a professor at the National War College, writes that modernization challenges the religious and spiritual element of tradition by threatening to secularize society “in order to replace a religious view of the world with a scientific, rationalist one… modernization and modernity place faith under stress, call it into greater question, threaten to trade it out in favor of rationalist humanism. And one result, unsurprisingly, is a flight back to religion, so that the actual effect of modernization in many contexts is an upwelling of devotion.”
In The Martyr’s Oath: The Apprenticeship of a Homegrown Terrorist (John Wiley & Sons Canada, 2005; 288 pages; $36.95) Stewart Bell, a Canadian journalist, chronicles the story of Mohammed Jabarah, a young Canadian Muslim who became radicalized and recruited by al-Qaeda for a bombing mission in Singapore in 2001. By investigating why an intelligent young person who grew up in a comfortable middle class family in Canada (although originally from Kuwait) would end up as an operative in a terrorist organization in East Asia, Mr. Bell searches for answers on how best to counter the proliferation of similar types of recruits in North America and Europe into radical Islamic terrorism.
9/11 and its Aftermath
Once al-Qaeda started its devastating bombing campaign against America in East Africa in 1998, the world’s attention began to focus on the group and its leader, Osama bin Laden. One of the best of the first crop of books on this topic was Peter Bergen’s Holy War: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (New York: Free Press, 2002; 320 pages; $14.95), which was based on first-hand investigative reporting and interviews with bin Laden, his associates, and counterterrorism officials. In 2006, Mr. Bergen published The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader (New York: Free Press, 2006; 528 pages; $15.00), which updates his account by drawing on primary documents and interviews with more than fifty people who knew bin Laden personally.
Terry McDermott’s Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008; 368 pages; $14.95) is an excellent account of the personal histories of al Qaida’s 9/11 hijackers and the beliefs and motivations that drove them to commit such horrendous acts. McDermott, a Los Angeles Times correspondent, traveled to some 20 countries to conduct research for the book.
Although primarily focusing on the al-Qaeda-led Global Salafi Jihad, Marc Sageman’s Understanding Terror Networks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004; 232 pages; $29.95) is considered one of the most original and innovative social science studies conducted on how individuals are driven to join terrorist organizations. Utilizing his background as a forensic psychiatrist, political sociologist and former CIA case officer in Pakistan, Dr. Sageman’s study is based on his knowledge of radical Islamic ideologies and compilation of dozens of biographies of terrorist operatives which enable him to generate a myriad of findings on trends in recruitment and operational warfare by today’s Jihadi operatives.
Dr. Sageman’s Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty First Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008; 208 pages; $24.95), updates and expands his earlier work on what drives radical elements of a society to terrorism. According to Dr. Sageman, the pre-9/11 al-Qaeda has become morphed into a social movement consisting of several thousand members. This makes al-Qaeda even more dangerous because as a social movement it has dramatically grown beyond its organizational origins.
How do al-Qaeda’s supporters become radicalized? Dr. Sageman formulates a four phase process that depends on an individual’s sense of moral outrage in response to perceived suffering by fellow Muslims around the world; how he might interpret such moral outrage within the context of a larger war against Islam; whether or not the sense of “moral outrage” resonates with one’s own experience, for example, discrimination or difficulty in making it in Western society and, finally, being mobilized by networks that take one to the next level of violent radicalization in the form of terrorist cells.
To counter the social movement inspired by al-Qaeda, Dr. Sageman proposes a strategy to “take the glory and thrill out of terrorism.” Military operations against them should be conducted swiftly and precisely, with such terrorists considered “common criminals.” The sense of “moral outrage” by young Muslims can be diminished by helping to resolve local conflicts that al-Qaeda’s propaganda highlights as injustices against the Muslim world. The young jihadists want to become heroes, so they need to be provided with alternative role models, such as Muslim soccer stars and other successful community leaders.
Dr. Sageman’s incisive observations based on carefully examined evidence, astute insights and scholarship make “Leaderless Jihad” the gold standard in al-Qaeda studies.
To understand how terrorist groups operate, it is crucial to uncover how they go about recruiting new operatives to maintain themselves as viable organizational networks and, if possible, expand their activities. Such insight is provided in The Lesser Jihad: Recruits and the Al-Qaida Network (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007; 174 pages; $24.95), by Elena Mastors and Alyssa Deffenbaugh. Focusing primarily on the al-Qaeda network, the authors examine “why, how, and where individuals” become involved in that network, which they define as “financial backers and fund-raisers, operators, logisticians, recruiters, trainers, and leaders.” It is important to uncover such recruitment patterns to enable counterterrorism agencies to derive potential strategies for dealing with the “entry” points into their networks. By focusing on the al-Qaeda network’s recruitment processes, The Lesser Jihad is an important contribution to our understanding of the measures required to counter and defeat such a terrorist network.
Brynjar Lia’s Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008; 256 pages; $28.95), is a biography of an important al Qaida theoretician. In addition to writing an influential 1,600 page book, al-Suri had trained a generation of young jihadists in the Afghan training camps and helped establish the organization’s European networks. Syrian-born Al-Suri was captured in Pakistan in late 2005. Lia is a research professor at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI).
Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg explore the underpinnings of the cult of martyrdom among the Palestinians in The Road to Martyr’s Square: A Journey Into the World of the Suicide Bomber (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006; 304 pages; $19.95). Their book is based on their extensive field research in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which enabled them to see first hand and collect documentation and video materials to which most outsiders are not privy. According to the authors, suicide bombings have become so deeply ingrained in Palestinian society as a ‘cult of martyrdom’ that “lengthy indoctrination and training sessions for suicide bombers were no longer deemed necessary. Indeed, the script was so well known that someone who wanted to become a bomber, it was said, was simply given a bomb; he decided the coordinates for himself.” This beautifully written yet disturbing book offers a unique perspective on the intifada and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, written by authors who demonstrate great understanding of the Palestinians’ internal and external struggles.
Anat Berko’s The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007; 216 pages; $49.95) is an insightful examination of Palestinian suicide bombers and the men who dispatch them on their missions. While concrete grievances against Israel and its occupation policy — primarily in the West Bank (since Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip) — drive most Palestinian suicide bombers to attack Israelis, the cult of death through martyrdom is reinforced daily through indoctrination and hate propaganda in Palestinian mosques, schools, media and popular music. How can suicide bombings be stopped? The key, Dr. Berko believes, rests with Muslim religious leaders, who “have the moral responsibility to forcefully condemn suicide bombing attacks and to issue unequivocal fatwas [religious rulings] against them.” They must emphatically state that those who carry out such attacks “not only do not automatically go to paradise, but that they automatically go to hell.” The book contains a wealth of information about Palestinian society, such as the impact of polygamous families and arranged marriages on the sons and daughters who decide to become suicide martyrs.
Bernard Rougier’s Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam among Palestinians in Lebanon (Cambrdige, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007; 333 pages; $28.95) is based on the author’s intensive field work in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, the country’s largest concentration of Palestinians. Mr. Rougier is a Middle East scholar affiliated with Sciences-Po in Paris. Although he is chiefly concerned with how militant pan-Islamism took hold in Ain al-Hilweh, he offers extensive evidence of similar developments in Nahr al-Bared and other refugee camps. He shows how a growing number of disaffected Palestinian refugees now view themselves as part of the global geography of radical Islam, pointing out that this is a position that has led them to identify with the rhetoric of al-Qaeda. Mr. Rougier concludes that militant Islamism among the Palestinians can be mitigated by re-invigorating the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and offering the Palestinians a viable state.
Terrorism in the United States
The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002; 416 pages; $27.95) by Daniel Levitas cautions us that far-right extremist groups in America have always posed a terrorist threat, as exemplified by Neo-Nazi groups such as the Aryan Nations and individuals such as Timothy McVeigh. Extensively researched and documented, this is the most definitive account ever written on America’s far-right militia movements.