- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 29, 2002

John F. Murphy Jr.'s Sword of Islam: Muslim Extremism from the Arab Conquests to the Attack on America (Prometheus, $26, 424 pages) is a comprehensively sweeping and revealing account of the historical origins and current threats posed by global Islamic terrorism. Mr. Murphy, a professional military historian and consultant on guerrilla warfare and terrorism, provides a historical context for the threats facing us today, beginning with the proliferation of radical Islamic movements as the Ottoman Empire was unfolding in the late-19th century, particularly in Arabia (Saudi Arabia's predecessor) and Egypt.
Mr. Murphy traces the growth of such movements, which reemerged in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the Mujahideen resistance to the Russian invasion in Afghanistan in the 1980s. By doing so he shows how the latest threats posed by these groups threaten their own regimes and the Western world.
He then traces the intricate worldwide interconnections among today's Islamic terrorist cells, led by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, noting its relationships with Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Moro extremists in the Philippines, and other Islamic underground movements in Algeria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Pakistan, Yemen, and even South America.
To resolve the terrorist threats posed by radical Islam, Mr. Murphy recommends convening an international conference to deliberate on the root causes behind the conflicts in the regions where such threats originate. While such a conference is unlikely to resolve these disputes, the issues that Mr. Murphy raises are valid and merit consideration by Washington's national security community.

Roger Scruton's The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat(ISI Books, $19.95, 187 pages) is a slim volume. Nevertheless, Mr. Scruton, a prominent English philosopher, succeeds in brilliantly analyzing the different religious and philosophical roots that have given rise to the "clash of civilization" between Islam and the West. It is important to understand these clashing civilizational components because they are exploited by groups such as al Qaeda and their allies to rationalize and motivate their terrorist campaign against the West.
These clashing components, according to Mr. Scruton, center around the way the social contract, the territoriality of the nation state, law governing society, and globalization are interpreted differently in Western and Islamic countries. Thus, the West is not merely threatened by a terrorist campaign, but a "culture of repudiation," whose root causes must be understood in order to effectively counteract these twin challenges.

In Targeting Terror: U.S. Policy Toward Middle Eastern State Sponsors and Terrorist Organizations, Post-September 11 (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, $19.95, 141 pages) Matthew Levitt covers a myriad of issues involved in targeting Middle eastern terrorist organizations. Mr. Levitt, a senior fellow on terrorism issues at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, previously served as an FBI counterterrorism intelligence analyst, specializing in covering Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.
In this book, Mr. Levitt considers how the United States and European governments go about compiling their official terrorism lists documents that are important because they drive a government's counterterrorism policy.
He demonstrates how the Syrian and Iranian governments directly sponsor terrorism and how countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority "facilitate" terrorism by tolerating such activities. Mr. Levitt also identifies the varieties of Palestinian terrorism in the shape of the pro-Arafat al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades; the adoption by Hamas of the Lebanese Hizballah group's successful war of attrition against Israel; the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's success in carving out a niche for itself as the smallest yet sufficiently successful Palestinian terrorist grouping and the potential for Palestinian terrorism to add new targets, such as attacking American interests in the Middle East.
In the concluding chapter, Mr. Levitt sets out the requirements for counteracting terrorism such as targeting the "practice of terrorism itself" and confronting state sponsors and facilitators.
While Mr. Levitt provides readers with a comprehensive overview of Middle Eastern terrorism, this volume is marked by several shortcomings. The chapters are short and the author ignores the terrorist threat to any Israeli-Palestinian peace process posed by right-wing Israeli extremists and the Israeli government's expansive settlement policy in the occupied territories which exacerbates the conflict with the Palestinians. Nevertheless, this book is an important contribution to understanding the magnitude of the terrorist threats to Israel and the United States posed by Iran, its proxy Hizballah and the Palestinian groupings.

Alan M. Dershowitz is a professor at Harvard's Law School, a prominent commentator on television news programs and a prolific author of numerous magazine articles and books. In Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge (Yale University Press, $24.95, 271 pages) he turns his attention to resolving the terrorist threats confronting us.
Mr. Dershowitz's arguments, however, are not entirely persuasive because they lack the necessary scholarship and objectivity to back them up. He argues, for example, that the root cause of terrorism is that "it is successful terrorists have consistently benefitted from their terrorist acts." He even charges that for the past 35 years the international community has rewarded terrorism "by tying one hand behind its back while extending another hand of encouragement to the terrorists."
This premise is faulty because the reality is much more complex and there are real problems that give rise to terrorism, which Dershowitz completely ignores. As an example of his lack of objectivity, in a 20 page long table that is skewed with misleading illustrations, he attempts to demonstrate how Palestinian terrorist acts have been rewarded by Israel and the international community in the form of political gains to the Palestinians.
This discussion, however, fails to take into account the complexities that drove Israel to reach the Oslo accords with the Palestinians not to reward terrorism but to address the conflict's root causes, namely the requirement to arrive at a territorial compromise between the two communities. This requirement, which remains unresolved, still drives the conflict's root causes to the present day.
Mr. Dershowitz also claims that terrorism can be defeated by employing the full force of the state, "without following the Marquess of Queensberry rules." Here he is on firmer intellectual ground, yet by refusing to acknowledge the need to accompany a counterterrorism campaign's necessary military and law enforcement measures with a "root causes" resolution component, he has not crafted a plan that can successfully respond to terrorism's challenge.

Joshua Sinai is a senior analyst on terrorism issues at ANSER (Analytic Services), in Arlington, Va. He also teaches the "Forecasting Terrorism" course at the on-line American Military University and a terrorism overview course at the Joint Military Intelligence College.


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