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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .


Global Responses to Terrorism: 9/11, Afghanistan and Beyond
Mary Buckley and Rick Fawn (eds.)

London: Routledge, 2003, 334pp. £ 22.99, Paperback, ISBN 0415314305

Mary Buckley and Rick Fawn have compiled an excellent volume of short but precise analyses written by acknowleged experts in their particular field. The book contains 26 papers and reflects an impressively wide variety of perspectives on the responses to the attacks of al Qaeda of September 11, 2001 in the United States.

The states selected for discussion include those central to the action in the war against terrorism but in different parts of the world and in different ways, namely the USA, Britain, France, Pakistan, Russia, the Central Asian states and Canada. Inclusion of Germany and Italy also highlights contrasts in linkages between domestic and foreign policy in two member states of the EU and NATO. The situation in the Middle East is more complicated. States here supported a condemnation of terrorism to differing degrees and for varying reasons. The focus is on Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Israel-Palestine peace process. In the periphery of key decision-making, but nonetheless seriously affected by international developments, albeit in very different ways and with various regional consequences, are states in Southeast Asia and Africa and also China and India. Mary Buckley stresses that geopolitics is crucial to our discussion since recent developments in Pakistan and Central Asia – such as US aid to Pakistan and the provision of bases for US troops in three states of Central Asia – would not have occured without proximity to the war in Afghanistan. Unfortunately it is not possible in a book review to give a brief description of all articles included, therefore I will confine myself to discuss some of the highlights, and recommend the reader to have a deeper examination of the other papers as well.

In his detailed account of the history of al Qaeda, Rohan Gunaratna offers valuable insights about the emergence and development of the group, from recruitment in the Afghan war to the expansion of today’s network after the take over by Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda’s present structure was created when the organization had headquarters in Khartoum (1991-1996) then relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, and moved its basis for European and North American operations to Turkey. In preparation to wage his global campaign, Bin Laden established links with two-dozen Islamist terrorist groups and political parties. As the west was perceived as assisting the opponents of these groups, the trajectory of their guerilla and terrorist campaigns turned towards the Muslim regimes and Western countries, especially the USA. For describing the tactics of the 9/11 attack, Gunaratna cites an al Qaeda member: ‘it was like me tightly holding your finger, turning it towards you and poking it into your own eye.’ (43). After this introduction to the background of the trigger event, the articles describe the particular responses in the chosen countries. While most articles offer detailed descriptions of different reactions, Singh’s paper on the US focus seems a bit too narrow examining mainly the political sphere, while in the country most affected by the dreadful attacks, society has gone through all different kinds of traumatic reactions. Readers would also expect more details on the military responses and its consequences. For the United Kingdom, 9/11 meant a deep involvement into the military responses following the attack, and a new legislation, especially the return of imprisonment without trial. But the attacks had also an unexpected impact upon the peace process within Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin saw its support within America crumble in the days that followed the attack and has sought to address this by the permanent decommissioning of the weaponry of the Irish Republican Army.

Whereas Europe was in shock after 9/11, the Middle East became under an immediate world spotlight. Roland Dannreuther examines reactions in Iran and Iraq, noting that these states had histories of Anti-Americanism and were potential suspects for the attacks. He also explains why the USA labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an axis of evil and what affect this had in these countries. By contrast, Syrian leaders, as Raymond Hinnebusch outlines, were willing to cooperate with the international coalition against terrorism, but the situation was complicated by its rapprochement with Iraq, and by Syria’s dissatisfaction with Israel’s continued occupation of the Golan Heights. David Newman notes how Israel was omitted by the Bush administration from its coalition against terrorism in preference to having Arab states on board. Prime Minister Sharon had expected to be a key ally of the USA in its battle and also to see Palestinian organizations, such as Hamas, on the hit list, but they were not.

Samina Yasmeen shows precisely how Pakistan –an important ally in the coalition - experienced serious domestic cross-pressures after 9/11. Bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan unexpectedly found itself at center-stage in a global attack on terrorism. According to Yasmeen, General Musharraf adopted a liberal approach to domestic and foreign policy whilst Islamists viewed the situation in terms of a clash of civilizations.

Looking at the people in the direct crossfire, Joanne van Selm argues that public attention did not think of Afghan refugees as people in need of large-scale protection, as had been the case for Kosovo’s refugees, but rather as those needing technical help in form of food, blankets and tents. The Taliban’s destruction of Buddha statues had hit the headlines more than thousands of desperate refugees. These reasons added to the harsh criticism of US foreign policy that was common in the developing world. It is assumed that such criticism is fundamental to the root cause of the problem that then triggers terrorism. Views varied on the African continent but as David Kenda Adaka Kikaya argues, everywhere there was a deep-seated concern that 9/11 meant that donor countries would marginalize Africa even more, as funds were channeled into the fight against terrorism.

Focusing on reactions in the UN Security Council and General Assembly to 9/11, Joanne Wright argues that the UN’s lack of a prominent public role in the war against Afghanistan is due to the fact that the USA responded with an independent initiative. Member states however are keen for the UN to adopt a long-term strategy. Also NATO’s reaction to 9/11 was mere symbolic with a minimal military contribution. In contrast to that, the EU seems to be well placed to assist in countering terrorism outside its own borders. Even if it does not have a full range of effective military instruments, it does have a number of political and economic ‘weapons’ at its disposal.

In sum, this is a worthwhile collection that contains a good overview of the far-reaching consequences that terrorist attacks - as part of a provocative strategy - are able to trigger. Fortunately the editors did not neglect to relate the analysis of the perpetrator, al Qaeda, and a conceptual analysis of terrorism to the studies of more visible consequences of and responses to the attacks. Although the contributions vary in their theoretical depth, practical insight and writing style, together they make a coherent and interesting book. We would recommend it as well to researchers as to students of peace and conflict studies as required reading. The deep-seated reluctance, if not outright refusal, throughout academia to recognize that studying terrorism is useful and necessary, might be easier to overcome if we begin by understanding its wider impact on social entities.


Matenia Sirseloudi, University of Augsburg, Germany, INCORE Marie Curie Fellow, 2005



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