Why are the jihadists attacking America and its allies, what are the underlying causes of terrorism and how should we respond? These issues are discussed in the following four books.
In Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America (Palgrave, $24.95, 284 pages), Walid Phares explains the evolution of the terrorist warfare waged by the global Salafi jihad and its al Qaeda spear. Mr. Phares, a former professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University, is currently senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a frequent commentator on television news programs.
In this book, Mr. Phares peels away the layers of misunderstandings about the jihadists that led to America’s unpreparedness for what happened on September 11by exploring the jihad’s historical roots, including its doctrines of faith by conquest, dividing the world into the zones of Islamic believers and infidels and its organizational predecessors in the Wahhabi (Saudi Arabian) and Muslim Brotherhood (largely Egyptian) movements.
Mr. Phares also exposes the jihad’s true nature in its World War II alliance with Nazism — in many ways, its ideological counterpart. He also demonstrates how the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist movements are part of the global jihad’s opposition to Israel’s continued existence. Among the book’s many strengths is its discussion of the jihadists’ strategies against America, why September 11 was inevitable, jihadism in America (where it has been building an infrastructure for future activities) and its projections regarding the future of jihadi warfare.
Mr. Phares backs up many of his arguments with historical data, but a few of his assertions require greater empirical evidence. In particular, in explaining America’s failure to defeat the jihadi challenge, Mr. Phares criticizes the Middle East studies academic community for “misinforming” their students that the jihadists are “rebels” against unjust societies, rather than religious expansionists who use terrorism as a tactic to attain their imperialist objectives.
He also asserts that such thinking has penetrated the country’s media, government, foreign policy and the military, where it has succeeded in “blurring” the nation’s understanding about the true nature of the jihadi threat. While there may be some validity to this assertion, it comes across as a blanket indictment, failing to take into account the spectrum of different views that are present in academic and government circles on these issues.
Overall, however, Mr. Phares’ book raises important issues that need to be considered for effective counterterrorist strategies to defeat the jihadi threat.
Turning from the general problem of jihadism to more specific areas of operation, Al Qaeda in Europe: The New Battleground of International Jihad, by Lorenzo Vidino (Prometheus Books, $27, 384 pages), discusses some, but not all, of al Qaeda’s operations in Europe. Mr. Vidino, a Washington-based consultant on terrorism issues, shows how the jihadi terrorists and their supporters have created infrastructures in Europe to support and expand their activities. This infrastructure had been in place prior to September 2001, when an al Qaeda cell in Hamburg carried out the suicide attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In December 2000, for example, the German police thwarted a plot by members of an Algerian cell to bomb an outdoor market in Strasbourg.
Following September 11, other thwarted plots have included a possible ricin attack in London in early 2003, with the most lethal attack taking place in March 2003 when jihadi operatives bombed trains in Madrid’s railway station, killing some 190 passengers. Although the book was completed prior to the July 2005 London bombings, it nevertheless succeeds in explaining the magnitude of the jihadi threat in Europe.
How does terrorism originate? Many answers are provided in Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality and Ways Forward (Routledge, $115, $29.95 paper, 288 pages), edited by Tore Bjorgo, which is the product of an experts workshop (in which this reviewer participated) that was held in Oslo, Norway, in June 2003. This meeting explored the concepts and methodologies used to conduct analysis on root causes of terrorism. As such, this volume will generate great interest in its findings.
In the introductory chapter, the volume’s editor, Mr. Bjorgo, a professor at the Norwegian Police University College, discusses the levels of causation that underlie terrorism, ranging from structural causes, facilitators (or accelerators), motivational causes and triggering causes. The task of uncovering a rebellion’s root causes is complicated, Mr. Bjorgo reminds us, because certain types of causes, such as poverty or modernization, produce “all kinds of social outcomes, of which terrorism is just one.”
It is this sort of insight that permeates the other contributions to this volume, which address the underlying social and psychological causes of terrorism, state sponsorship as a root of terrorism, causes driving specific terrorist rebellions such as Palestinian, Sri Lankan, right-wing or left-wing, and conceptual frameworks for resolving terrorism’s causes.
In The McGraw-Hill Homeland Security Handbook (McGraw-Hill, $99.95, 196 pages), David Kamien, the volume’s editor and a homeland security business entrepreneur, has compiled a massive reference handbook of 59 chapters divided into 13 sections, with an additional 13 brief chapters introducing each of the sections. Written by a virtual “Who’s Who” of terrorism, counterterrorism and homeland security experts, the handbook includes chapters on virtually every aspect of this subject, ranging from the nature of the threat posed by al Qaeda and the global jihad; threats by other groups, such as Hezbollah, and terrorism in general (the psychology of terrorists, terrorist funding, and terrorism and WMD); the role of government in countering terrorism, whether domestically or abroad, and preparing the American population and physical infrastructure to respond to terrorism; the roles of intelligence analysis, risk assessment methodologies and media in countering terrorism; the role of post-incident emergency response in mitigating the impact of actual attacks; and the roles of universities, the private sector and science and technology in improving our capabilities to counter terrorism. The final section addresses the issue of domestic security and civil liberties.
This book is a bargain at $99.95 if used as a university textbook or as a reference resource by government and business executives.
Joshua Sinai is program manager for Terrorism Studies, Logos Technologies, in Arlington, Va.