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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .


Terrorism: Volume I and II
Rosemary H. T. O?Kane (ed.)

Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2005, 984pp. 250.00, HB, ISBN 1843760649

Since the attacks of 9/11 a flood of literature has been published on terrorism, often ignoring the fact that terrorism is not a new phenomenon. The selection criteria for the texts chosen by Rosemary O?Kane for her compilation are not always easy to comprehend, but the edition shows that systematic academic studies on terrorism have been conducted for several decades, taking regimes of terror into account, as also the more visible non-state terrorism. The concept of terrorism is often totally misused as a negative term for any insurgency campaign of which we disapprove of and also it is frequently used loosely and inconsistently ? this is why we have to keep in mind that it is an objective analysis that helps to effectively counter terrorism instead of unnecessarily fuelling violent escalations.

The two-volume edition is organised into ten sections. Section one relates to ?The Concept of Terrorism? analysing the concept of terror in different contexts, well described by Paul Wilkinson as war terror, repressive terror, revolutionary terror, and sub-revolutionary terror. Section two is about ?Regimes of Terror? including Michael Stohl?s excellent theoretical analysis of ?State Terrorism? which still causes thousands of unspectacular victims by using the strategy of intimidation and fear through indiscriminate violence. ?Terrorist Groups and Religion? follow it, with for example, David Rapoport?s still very useful ?Fear and Trembling: Terrorism in Three Religious Traditions? laying the foundation for a scientific discussion on the analysis of religious terrorism. In ?Terrorist Groups and their Underlying Causes? we find classics such as Martha Crenshaw?s conceptual analysis and Ehud Sprinzak?s comparative study of right wing terrorism. Section five and six turn to ?Terrorist Groups and the Dynamics of New Social Movements? with Donatella della Porta?s analysis of European left-wing movements leading into terrorist campaigns, and ?Psychological Explanations for Terrorism?. Both fields are gaining new relevance today when we have to cope with religious radical movements and trans-national terrorist networks relating to them. Section Seven provides us with ?Rational Choice Explanations? of terrorism, a method widely used in recent strategic studies and attempting to adapt tools of economics in analysing terrorist behaviour and assessing alternative antiterrorism policies. The ?Terrorist Group Organization? is the subject of the next section, and again the Grande Dame of terrorism research, Martha Crenshaw paves the way for further research by developing a framework for analysing terrorist groups? dynamics, which strengthen or weaken a group as much as governments? counteractions do.

The focus shifts then to ?Strategy and Tactics? of terrorism including David Fromkin?s article tracing the historical cases of Israeli and Algerian successful terrorist campaigns leading to the establishment of independent states and a precise and subtle paper on the tactic of hostage taking by Brian Jenkins, Janera Johnson and David Ronfeldt. The final section contains articles on ?Counteracting Terrorism? and we realize that scholars analysing problems of democratic response to terrorism have constantly warned against the twin perils of over-reaction, which undermines democracy and human rights, and under-reaction, which would allow the terrorists to threaten public security and the rule of law (Wilkinson). As Martha Crenshaw elaborates ??the importance of governmental response to terrorism cannot be underestimated. If a revolutionary movement survives the regime?s reaction, repression is likely to further revolutionary goals by alienating the civilian population from the government, and in the Algerian case from the Europeans? (21).

While in one case four articles by the same author under one section seem a bit imbalanced, we are missing articles like Brian Jenkins? pioneering article ?International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict? that influenced research on terrorism more than any other paper by stating that ?terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead?. Thus describing the key feature of terrorism on which most of the analytical approaches are based, that it is a violent message directed at a wider audience or target, than the immediate victims, even if groups like al Qaeda set out to kill as many civilians as possible.

But in summary, we agree that this edition should be on the book lists for all serious courses in terrorism studies. Especially today, when institutes and research centres are newly established to specialize in terrorism research, we should not neglect the knowledge that has already been elaborated and accumulated on this phenomenon. As we know, the view is better from the shoulders of giants (R. K. Merton).



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




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