Review: Why Terrorism Works

4 Star, Terrorism & Jihad

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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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Review: American Jihad–The Terrorists Living Among Us

5 Star, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Terrorism & Jihad

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5.0 out of 5 stars Gives Citizens More Intelligence Than FBI Can Handle,

February 16, 2003
Steven Emerson
The FBI–as shown by the recent Congressional testimony of its Director–is still hapless, flailing and clueless when it comes to understanding the specifics of terrorist fund-raising, recruiting, training, and planning based in the USA. Pakistanis are fleeing to the Canadian border as this review is being written, because they know something the FBI is unwilling to compute: the greatest threat is not Al Qaeda, but rather Hamas and militarized Pakistanis, most of whom are legitimate US residents.Steve Emerson, who first made history in the mid-1990's with his Public Broadcast Service documentary on mullahs in American mosques calling for the murder of Americans deep in the heartland of America, has produced a “citizen's handbook” that is vastly superior to anything the FBI or the White House has been able to offer its taxpayers–and we can buy this for under $12, which compares rather favorably with the $3 billion or so we pay for the FBI, and the $35 billion or so we pay for national intelligence overall.

There are really three stories in this book, which I urge every American–and every other citizen of the world–to read.

First, and most importantly, the book documents the wide-spread and robust network of Islamic “charities” and other front organizations–the most important based in Texas where they have been ignored–that do fund-raising for terrorism overseas as well as terrorist recruiting and training in the US. The map at the end of the book showing over 50 terrorist nodes in over 30 US cities, is along worth the price of the book. *More than 20% of the addresses and phone numbers in a top terrorist's phone book, when captured, where in the US.*

Second, the book provides insights into why the US Government is failing in the war on terrorism. The reasons for failure are balanced between policy failures–a pure unwillingess to confront Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and other governments that nurture terrorists–and intelligence failures, including such mundane things as refusing to demand police record checks on individuals from countries known to be exporting terrorists, and poor relations (and a lack of unilateral clandestine penetrations) with key intelligence services such as the Sudanese, which knew about the “Day of Terror” well in advance but did not tell us…and if it did tell us, our Intelligence Community failed to notice and failed to communicate the warnings.

The third story in this book is about sources and methods and mindsets, and the bottom line is this: an open mind can use open sources of information to such advantage, that it makes our closed source and closed mind bureaucracy look pitiful in comparison. The US taxpayer is not getting their money's worth from the US Government with respect to national security expenditures.

Finally, although perhaps not intended by the author, his insights are helpful in identifying four specific strategic psychological operations (PsyOp) or “cultural outreach” themes that the US should have been pursuing these many years since the Soviets left Afghanistan: 1) Arab-Afghans isolated and despised; 2) Arab arrogance in relegating all Pakistani's to “untouchable” nonentity status; 3) Oneness of umma fanatically pursued actually attacks and undermines the many varied Muslim cultures, especially non-Arab Muslim cultures; and 4) US has made mistakes–in crime, in morality, in support for repressive regimes–and seeks to change in the true spirit of the Koran.

The book's documentation of the crimes against the US of the American Muslim Council, to name just one ostensibly legitimate organization that is revealed in this book (which has been “lawyer-checked” and is bullet-proof against false claims of slander), and other similar “charitable” organizations, constitutes “citizen intelligence” at its best. Every Muslim in America should read this book before donating another dollar to any organization pupporting to be helping Muslims.

There is one other cautionary note: the book addresses the specific strategy of bin Laden and other terrorist leaders of deliberately seeking out Muslim youth with US passports who can be used as couriers and suicidal volunteers. The actual examples provided–real people with real terrorist support missions–easily destroy the common misperceptions of terrorists as “foreign.” As the author documents, they are within us, they are of us, and what we are doing now to defend ourselves is not likely to work in this context.

This is an easy to read, informative book with an excellent map, several tables of Islamic extremist organizations based in America, good notes and a good index. I recommend it without reservation.

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Review: Understanding International Conflicts–An Introduction to Theory and History

5 Star, Atlases & State of the World, Country/Regional, Diplomacy, Games, Models, & Simulations, Intelligence (Public), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, Post 9-11 Update, Excellent Adult Foundation,

January 10, 2003
Joseph S. Nye
First, it is vital for prospective buyers to understand that the existing reviews are three years out of date–this is a five-star tutorial on international relations that has been most recently updated after 9-11. If I were to recommend only two books on international relations, for any adult including nominally sophisticated world travelers, this would be the first book; the second would be Shultz, Godson, & Quester's wonderful edited work, “Security Studies for the 21st Century.”I really want to stress the utility of this work to adults, including those like myself who earned a couple of graduate degrees in the last century (smile). I was surprised to find no mention of the author's stellar service as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council–not only has he had full access to everything that can be known by secret as well as non-secret means, but he has kept current, and this undergraduate and affordable paperback was a great way for me–despite the 400+ books I've read (most of them reviewed on in the past four plus years–to come up to speed on the rigorous methodical scholarly understanding of both historical and current theories and practices in international relations. This book is worth anyone's time, no matter how experienced or educated.

Each chapter has a very satisfactory mix of figures, maps, chronologies, and photos–a special value is a block chart showing the causes for major wars or periods of conflict at the three levels of analysis–international system, national, and key individual personalities, and I found these quite original and helpful.

Excellent reference and orientation work. Took five hours to read, with annotation–this is not a mind-glazer, it's a mind-exerciser.

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Review: Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace – How We Got to Be So Hated

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Public Administration, Religion & Politics of Religion, Science & Politics of Science, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), Strategy, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
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Gore Vidal

5.0 out of 5 stars You Get the Government You Deserve…., May 28, 2002

This book should be read in conjunction with Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy Vidal's book should be subtitled “you get the government you deserve.”

I cannot think of a book that has depressed me more. There are three underlying issues that make this book vitally important to anyone who cares to claim the title of “citizen:”

1) Citizens need to understand what their government is doing in the name of America, to the rest of the world. “Ignorance is not an excuse.” All of the other books I have reviewed (“see more about me” should really say “see my other reviews”) are designed to help citizens evaluate and then vote wisely in relation to how our elected representatives are handling national security affairs–really, really badly.

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Review: How Did This Happen? Terrorism and the New War

4 Star, Terrorism & Jihad

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4.0 out of 5 stars Conventional Wisdom At Its Very Best–Missing the Edge,

March 10, 2002
Gideon Rose
This is an extraordinary collection, conventional wisdom at its very best, and would have to be considered a fundamental and useful reference. It does, however, have a weak underbelly, and misses the edge of truly breath-taking genius.I will sum it up concisely: every one of these pieces adheres to the core idea that that what we are doing in general is adequate, we simply need to do it a bit differently. Even authors who have been brilliant, such as Laurie Garrett, who clearly documents in her book Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health, that the real enemy is bacteria and disease, and the collapse of preventive public health in favor of the more expensive medication and remediation approach, have been “subverted” as it were, in how they are represented here.

We spend half a penny of the taxpayer dollar on foreign aid–we spend 16 cents of the taxpayer dollar on military defense that is useful roughly ten percent of the time. Let me say this in a different way: we spent 32 times more on military weapons and forces useful only 10% of the time, than we do on addressing what George Soros calls “the other axis of evil–poverty, disease and ignorance.”

Several of the articles by folks I admire and respect, are simply off the mark–the article on intelligence, for example, tends to accept the attacks as unpreventable and unpredictable, while failing to note that we have been spending less than 2% of our intelligence budget on terrorism, and that our continuing excesses in technical collection (85% of the intelligence budget) have forced the consistent underfunding of everything else including serious clandestine operations, access to foreign-language open sources, and top-notch analysts who actually have the deep foreign historical, cultural, and language knowledge necessary to make sense of it all. The fact that our intelligence community spends $30 billion a year and more on the 5% of the information it can steal, and less than one half of one percent on foreign language open sources, suggests such a severe imbalance that in a person, this would be called lunacy–instead, we use secrecy to delay a full accounting, and elected politicians who don't know any better tell our citizens that we have the best intelligence we could have had. That is utter nonsense and should be exposed as ignorance at the highest levels about what intelligence can or cannot do.

Others refer to Afghanistan as unconquerable, a view that prevailed within the Administration until Russian President Putin persuaded our President that we could take Kabul before the winter set in. The articles on defense assume that we should spend a bit more on confronting rogue nations, but do not really get into the larger trade-offs, between hard power and soft power, between force and assistance, between state on state and people on people accommodations.

Nowhere in this book, which is excellent and a must read, do we learn of the daunting water shortages that threaten to further destabilize China, Turkey and Egypt, Russia, and other less developed areas already producing plagues, refugees, and corruption. This book addresses terrorism as an annoyance, as something we can deal with if we simply adjust our corporate organization a tad. It does not go deeply into the much larger issues, and rather than suggesting that such readings are available elsewhere (they are not, at least in a single work), I will end by complementing the editors of this work, and suggesting that they go to work immediately on a sequel–only this time, we need a sequel that highlights both the deep conditions of poverty, disease, conflict and ignorance that characterize the world within which we live, and the iconoclastic authorities-most of them not American and none of them “members of the club”-whose views will cause discomfort to those who still think they are in charge.

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Review: Afghanistan’s Endless War–State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban

4 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Country/Regional, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), War & Face of Battle

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4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtfully Antisceptic–Chaos Edited into Prose,

November 12, 2001
Larry P. Goodson
This is a very impressive book, perhaps one of the best all-around books on Afghanistan, yet when I finished it I had the strongest feeling that it had been a rather antisceptic review. Eurudite, one of the best outlines I have ever seen for examining a truly chaotic situation, everything falling into place from chapter to chapter–yet at the end of it I simply did not have the guts of the matter in my hands.I found the answer in other materials, including a special project to map all of the existing tribes, sub-tribes, and individual leaders where they could be identified. The project required monitoring of local radio stations in various languages, some of which did not have print media. At the end of it all what came across was massive–massive–chaos in a medieval environment where everyone, without exception, regards every foreign power–and especially the superpowers–as an intruder, and every other Afghan as someone to be killed, exploited, or followed, depending on the situation.

This is a very fine book, but when one examines the list of organizations (14) and key individuals (16), what comes across is antisceptic simplicity. This is not a criticism of the author, the research (virtually every English-language reference of note), or the conclusions–all fit well within a very thoughtful approach to describing this failed state called Afghanistan. What jumps out at me is the fact that we do not have the access to the same story as told in Russian, Chinese, Dari, Farsi, Pashto, Urdu, Hindi, and we have done nothing to actually get below the state level–what I call “two levels down”–to the sub-tribe level.

As the world gets more complex, as “wild cards” such as Omar bin Laden cause massive dislocations within major developed countries, not just in isolated failed states, it seems to me that we do not have the sources and tools in hand to get a truly comprehensive coherent view of any particular situation. I would go so far as to say that each book such as this can only be considered a calling card–an audition–and that a real understanding of the Afghan situation could only emerge from a multi-national effort that brings together such talented authors, across cultural and national lines, and gives them the kind of collection, processing, modeling, and operational intelligence support that are normally reserved for just a few great nations. In brief, what we understand about Afghanistan is now too important to be left to a single author or a single perspective–and certainly too important to be left to a single failed intelligence community that thinks only in English.

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Review: Jihad vs. McWorld–How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World

4 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Culture, Research, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Jihad and Cultural Creatives versus McWorld and Davos,

September 24, 2001
Benjamin Barber
Others have written good summaries of this book, so I will focus on bringing out one key point and recommending two other books.

The heart of this book, in my opinion, is on page 210 where the author carefully distinguishes between the Jihad's opposition to McWorld consumerism and development patterns, as opposed to democracy or other political notions.
All groups have their extremists and lunatics, and all groups have their bureaucracies and overly-rigid institutionalizations of past preferences. The one needs to be stamped out, and the other radically reformed–no matter what beliefs you aspire to.
Where I see the vitality and promise of this generation is in the possible energizing of the publics of many nations, including the nations of Islam, and public engagement of the core question of our time: what changes must we make in our corporate and consumerist behavior in order to, at once, establish both a sustainable model for the quality of life and choice we aspire to, while simultaneously establishing new forms of regional political and cultural accommodations that respect very strongly held beliefs?
There are two books that bracket this one in interesting ways. The first, readily identified from top-notch reviews such as appear in the Los Angeles Times, is Chalmers Johnson book, “BLOWBACK: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire”. The second, less readily perceived, is Howard Bloom's “GLOBAL BRAIN: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century.” ]

In a nut-shell, then, we are engaged in three world wars right now: one between cultures that cannot talk to one another because the necessary portions of the brain have been literally killed in the course of intra-cultural development; one between the political and economic manifestation of our respective cultures, between a politics subservient to corporations on the one side and a politics terrified of the religious zealot individuals on the other side; and a third war, the most important, the war that has not really started yet, between individuals and corporations over campaign finance reform and the consequent outcomes that can be managed with respect to politcal economy and political education.
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