Review: Why Terrorism Works

4 Star, Terrorism & Jihad

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Half Brilliant, Half Flawed, Worth Reading,

May 24, 2003
Professor Alan M. Dershowitz
There is much in this book that I find compelling, disturbing, and meritorious. There is also much that is missing. On balance, it is essential reading.It’s most important flaw is that the author completely discounts the possibility that suicidal terrorism might be both a rational strategy, and an inherent instinctive, acceptable means, for those groups whose religions and cultural dynamics literally groom children from birth for a glorious exit as a martyr. COnsider the following, inserted to document this most important flaw in the book, from US News U.S. expert: Suicide bombers are not crazy by Haaretz Via Virtual Jerusalem News (Israel)on 24 May 2003: SAN FRANCISCO – A top expert on the psychology of terrorism who spent two decades in the CIA said on Thursday that suicide bombers are not crazy and are often seen as models of exemplary behavior in their societies. Jerrold Post, who founded the Central Intelligence Agency’s Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, presented his findings after interviewing 21 radical Islamic extremists in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. “We should not think of these individuals as crazed fanatics, as seriously psychiatrically ill,” he told the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting. … “These are very normal-sounding individuals who have basically been bred to hate from very early on,” he said.

I leave it at that. Having addressed the negative up front, I now will emphasize the positives that demand this book be in the forefront of any discussion about dealing with terrorism.

First off, of all the books I have read on terrorism, most by either researchers or investigators of former spies, this is the one whose author is, by any standard, the most educated, most logical, most grounded in the precepts of rational law, and most articulate on why governments need to have firm and constant policies for dealing with terrorism in such as way as to “discourage others.”

Second, the author’s 22-page list of acts of Palestinian terrorism that went unchecked prior to 9-11, is alone worth the price of the book. While I do agree with one other reviewer who suggests that the author is obsessing on Palestinian terrorism (as opposed to Saudi or Pakistani or Egyptian-sponsored terrorism), he has a point and this list merits close attention.

Third, although I may not agree with all of his recommendations for imposing internal security while sacrificing considerable civil liberties, this is as close as I have seen anyone get to a comprehensive practical list of things that need to be done, to include controlling the media so that terrorists are not rewarded with publicity.

There is one minor shortcoming in the book–minor because so many of us have documented this across 15+ books in the 1999-2002 period: the author does not truly comprehend the ineptitude of the US Government, with its 1950’s mind-sets, 1970’s information technology, and 1990’s ideologies that place cheap oil and tax cuts above homeland security and economic sustainability. As a remedy to the author’s shortcomings in this area I recommend Robert Baer, SEE NO EVIL (on the CIA’s inability to penetrate terrorist groups), and a combination of books on the FBI’s ineptitude: Aqil Collins, My Jihad, and Anonymous, TERRORIST HUNTER–most interestingly, both a US mujahid that has lost a leg to combat, and an Israeli researcher on US terrorism, agree that the FBI is extraordinarly inept, and remains so two years after 9-11.

This is an intelligent book that requires discipline to appreciate–it cannot be accepted without question, but it also cannot be ignored. Highly recommended.

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