Inside Terrorism

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9780231114691: Inside Terrorism

Bruce Hoffman describes the changing face of terrorism, probing the new adversaries, new motivations, and new methods that have surfaced in recent years to challenge many of our most fundamental assumptions about terrorists and how they operate. Hoffman dissects terrorism past and present, charting its evolution and predicting where it might be headed in the next century.

Inside Terrorism traces the history of terrorism from its roots in the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution, to Communist movements in Russia, Germany, and Italy, to longstanding nationalist organizations such as the PLO, which emerged on the world stage after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Despite the ambush and murder of its own members, the PLO became a powerful and notorious terrorist group, and made the cause of a Palestinian homeland well known.

Turning his attention to recent events, Hoffman argues that our notion of terrorism as a form of limited violence has been shattered by the emergence of more lethal and less predictable terrorist organizations, like the Aum sect in Japan -- responsible for the Tokyo subway nerve gas attack -- fanatical Jewish and Islamic groups in the Middle East, and radical wings of the militia movement in the United States. These fringe groups are built upon -- and react to -- a sense of isolation, and are more likely to use weapons of mass destruction than the nationalist terrorist groups with which we are familiar.

Hoffman also considers the issue of media coverage and how it relates to political power. Although the media provide a platform for terrorist agendas, terrorists only occasionally achieve their ultimate political goals by exploiting the media, and are often captured as a result of news reports -- as in the Unabomber case. South Africa's African National Congress, which won sympathy for its plight and eventually obtained power in part through terrorist activities, is a rare exception to the rule.

Carefully researched and filled with up-to-date information, Inside Terrorism presents a sharp and chilling portrait of a phenomenon that poses new and ever deadlier threats to peace and stability around the globe.

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Review:

The word "terrorism" first became popular during the French Revolution, when the régime de la terreur was initially viewed as a positive political system that used fear to remind citizens of the necessity of virtue. The use of violence to "educate" people about ideological issues has continued, but it has taken on decidedly negative connotations--and has become predominantly, though not exclusively, a tactic deployed by those who do not have the powers of state at their disposal.

Bruce Hoffman, the director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, has written a clear summary of some of the major historical trends in international terrorism. He makes careful distinctions between the motivations that drive political (or ethno-nationalist) terrorism and religious terrorism, and he also shows why the rise of religious terrorism, coupled with the increased availability of weapons of mass destruction, may foretell an era of even greater violence. In the past, Hoffman argues, the main goal of the terrorist was not to kill, but to attract media attention to his cause in the hope of initiating reform. "For the religious terrorist," however, "violence is first and foremost a sacramental act or divine duty executed in direct response to some theological demand or imperative ... religious terrorists see themselves not as components of a system worth preserving but as 'outsiders,' seeking fundamental changes in the existing order." Hoffman does not "choose sides" in this framework, pointing to the bombings of the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City and to the sarin nerve gas attacks in Tokyo in order to demonstrate that fundamentalists of any religious denomination are capable of extreme acts of terrorism.

Book Description:

A thoroughly updated edition of a comprehensive and essential work on the history and future of global terrorism.

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