The "New" Terrorism: Myths and Reality
by Thomas Mockaitis
Westport: Praeger Security International, 2007. 158 pp. $39.95.
Reviewed by Patrick Clawson
Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Middle East Quarterly
With a flood of books about terrorism, each author strives to stand out by developing a unique theme. All too often, that results in significant exaggeration of a useful point to the detriment of the analysis. An excellent example is The "New" Terrorism. It is, in many ways, a good overview, which packs much information and analysis into a mercifully short volume. But the account is badly marred by the insistence that it is puncturing myths when, in fact, it is largely confirming the conventional wisdom.
Mockaitis, a professor of history at DePaul University, describes in detail how Al-Qaeda seeks to restore the caliphate, "invok[ing] a vision of early Islam during which Muslims lived in a theocratic state," but then goes on to argue, "contrary to popular belief, this movement does not simply reject modernity in favor of a utopian vision of a lost golden age." He severely criticizes the Bush administration's "National Strategy for Combating Terrorism" for "plac[ing] too much emphasis on conventional military responses and [for] provid[ing] cover for a host of unrelated political activities." But then he recommends "the counterinsurgency model"—an inherently military approach—that emphasizes "winning the hearts and minds of disaffected people" by addressing the root causes of terrorism, such as the conflicts in the Middle East and the region's repressive governments—precisely the "unrelated political activities" that the Bush administration is targeting.
Mockaitis's insistence that he is puncturing myths when he is actually well in the mainstream distracts from those places where he does actually depart from the usual view, in particular, his well-reasoned and persuasive argument that the West's goal should be to reduce terrorism to a tolerable level rather than to eliminate terrorism entirely. Achieving the latter objective would be too expensive with especially heavy costs on civil liberties. On the whole, despite the breathless tone of myth-puncturing, The "New" Terrorism is a good short summary of the terrorism issue, covering terrorism's history, current terrorism patterns, Al-Qaeda's role, terrorists' objectives, the extent of the threat, and responses to terrorism.
Related Topics: Terrorism | Patrick Clawson | Fall 2007 MEQ
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