Work Title: 25 Top Books for Today's Bookshelf on Terrorism
Work Author(s): Joshua Sinai
Byline: Joshua Sinai
Terrorist rebellions, in all their configurations, constitute the primary warfare threats facing the international community. This was especially the case following 9/11, 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 warfare against Israel, even localized conflicts have regional and international repercussions.
Because of the worldwide reach of al Qaeda and its affiliates, including the spontaneous emergence of al Qaeda-inspired groupings 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 other degrees offered in terrorism studies.
To meet the great demand for resource materials 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 religions 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.
Limits on scholarship in works on terrorism
Despite the great attention expended on terrorism and counterterrorism studies, however, the general state of the discipline is uneven. One problem is that terrorism is first and foremost a covert activity, with governments' intelligence services, but not academic analysts, possessing primary data about terrorist groups and their activities, causing terrorism studies to be less scientifically valid than the natural sciences. Paradoxically, another problem is that among the many published works on terrorism, only a few reflect the latest advances in academic research (as much as such advances are possible), with most approaches more journalistic than social science. Fortunately, there still are plenty of excellent books on this subject to merit recommending them to general and academic readers.
The books reviewed in this essay are divided into four categories: first, those with a general focus on terrorism; second, those that focus on specific aspects of terrorism; third, case studies on terrorist groups; and fourth, studies that focus on countering terrorism.
The best comprehensive study on terrorism and counterterrorism is Leonard Weinberg's Global Terrorism: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld Publications, 1-85168-358-5). Despite its relative brevity (133 pages of text), it succeeds in explaining the history of terrorism, how to define terrorism, what is new about al Qaeda's type of terrorism, the conditions that give rise to terrorism, the types of individuals that become terrorists, the nature of governments' responses, and how terrorism ends. The author is a veteran academic specialist on terrorism and readers will greatly benefit from the accumulated wisdom that is sprinkled throughout this wonderfully written book.
Stephen Sloan is another veteran academic expert on terrorism. In Terrorism: The Present Threat in Context (Berg, 1-84520-343-7), another short book (114 pages of actual text plus some 34 pages of appendices), the author provides an overview of the meaning and history of terrorism, the rationale that drives terrorists to conduct such warfare, their strategies and tactics, the psychological...