- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 9, 2004

Anew crop of books shows that approaches to combating and preventing terrorism continue to vary widely. Two of the four books under review argue that winning the war on terrorism requires not only setting in place measures that prevent terrorist groups from carrying out catastrophic attacks, but confronting the underlying causes giving rise to terrorist insurgencies. A third book, on Hezbollah, has difficulty coming to terms with the group’s “terrorist” nature, while the fourth focuses on problems and strengths in the academic study of terrorism itself.

In Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe (Times Books, $23, 231 pages), Graham Allison argues that such an attack is not only possible, but inevitable. His prognostication needs to be taken seriously because Mr. Allison is one of the country’s preeminent academic experts on national security, director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former top Pentagon official.

Mr. Allison writes that within the next decade, a nuclear attack on America is “more likely than not,” “[g]iven the number of actors with serious intent, the accessibility of weapons or nuclear materials from which elementary weapons could be constructed and the almost limitless ways in which terrorists could smuggle a weapon through American borders.”

Despite such concerns, however, he argues that nuclear terrorism is preventable. “As a simple matter of physics, without fissile material, there can be no nuclear explosion. There is a vast —but not unlimited — amount of it in the world, and it is within our power to keep it secure,” Mr. Allison writes. “No fissile material, no nuclear explosion, no nuclear terrorism. It is that simple.”

The foundation of Mr. Allison’s strategy for preventing nuclear terrorism is to deny terrorists access to these weapons and materials. To do this, he proposes creating a new international security order according to a doctrine of the Three No’s: No loose nukes, no new nascent nukes, and no new nuclear states.

• • •

In A Practical Guide to Winning the War on Terrorism (Hoover Institution Press, $15, 230 pages), Adam Garfinkle, a State Department official and former editor of the National Interest, has assembled a collection of essays by leading academic and public policy experts to set out general ideas and practical steps to win the war against terrorism.

The book’s contributors are experienced public policy experts who specialize in the Middle East’s social and political cultures, two areas which they also argue are the primary sources of problems that need to be addressed in order to win the war on terrorism.

In his introduction, Mr. Garfinkle notes that terrorism and the environments and conditions that breed it can be defeated through short, mid- and long- term measures. The volume’s contributors address these measures by focusing on discreet steps to marginalize and defeat terrorism, beginning with stigmatizing terrorist actions such as the murder of innocent civilians.

Further attention is paid to preventing the financial support of terrorism, promoting moderate tendencies among Muslim communities in the diaspora and engaging in a public diplomacy “war of ideas.” The refutation of anti-American sentiments, gaining the cooperation of foreign allies, and assisting in social, economic, and political reform in Muslim countries are also addressed.

Lisa Anderson, the dean of the School of International Affairs at Columbia University, sums up many of these steps in her recommendation that the United States and its allies embark on programs of reconstruction and state and government building in the Middle East, in order to provide for more constructive opportunities for citizens to achieve their potential as an alternative to supporting Osama bin Laden-type terrorist insurgencies.

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Hezbollah, translated as “Party of God,” is one of the world’s least understood terrorist groups, veering between respectability as a legitimate party in Lebanon’s Byzantine political system and militancy as a terrorist/guerrilla organization. It emerged in the early 1980s in Lebanon amidst the country’s civil war as an Iranian-backed Shi’ite fundamentalist organization in order to resist the 1982 Israeli invasion. Since then it has transformed itself into a social welfare movement and political party for the country’s Shi’ite population, while retaining its terrorist/guerrilla military apparatus.

In Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism (I.B. Tauris, $24.95, 250 pages), Judith Palmer Harik, an American-born professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, has taken advantage of her close vantage point to conduct research on the mercurial party. However, while claiming to present a balanced account of Hezbollah’s origins and current activities, including the struggle with Israel, the author fails to discuss other issues that would reveal its continuing involvement in terrorism, such as its operational support for Palestinian groups that engage in suicide and other types of warfare against Israel. In spite of such criticisms, the book is worth reading if only to be exposed to a pro-Hezbollah side of the debate over whether or not it should still be considered a terrorist organization.

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In Research on Terrorism: Trends, Achievements and Failures (Frank Cass, $110 cloth/$30.95 paper, 240 pages), edited by Andrew Silke, contributors examine the current issues dominating terrorism research and their impact on counter-terrorism policy and practice. All their findings deserve attention among terrorism analysts. Despite the “massive and growing” volume of the literature on terrorism, much of its quality “leaves much to be desired,” according to Mr. Silke, a professor at the East London School of Law.

Finding that while research has been effective at analyzing the impact of conventional terrorist violence on the wider society, he writes that “surprisingly little research … has been conducted on the perpetrators of terrorist violence.” He further notes that “the activities of terrorist groups and the nature of their membership have by and large been studiously ignored by social scientists.”

John Horgan, of Cork University, echoes this gap, bemoaning the “almost total reliance on secondary and tertiary source material to inform theoretical development,” but admits that it would be difficult for academic analysts to “meet with and speak to individuals who are, or who have been, directly involved with a terrorist organization.” Other noteworthy contributors to this excellent volume include Gavin Cameron, on weapons of mass destruction research, and Frederick Schulze on empirical research and postgraduate studies in terrorism.

Joshua Sinai is a Washington-based writer on terrorism.

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