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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Attacking Terrorism: Elements of a Grand Strategy edited by Audrey Kurth Cronin, James M. Ludes (Georgetown University Press) The definition and understanding of "terrorism" is in a state of unprecedented evolution. No longer are acts of terrorism rare and far-flung. Following the horrendous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the more recent attack in Madrid, U.S. citizens have had their eyes opened to a new world where this nightmare stalks the daily news and is never far from consciousness.

ATTACKING TERRORISM brings together some of the world's finest experts, people who have made the study of this rising menace their life's work, to provide a comprehensive picture of the challenges and opportunities of the campaign against international terrorism. Part one, "The Nature of Terrorism," provides an overview and foundation for the current campaign, placing it within the political and historical context of previous threats and responses. Part two, "The Responses to Terrorism," looks at the range of policy instruments required in an effective strategy against terrorism.

The contributors to this volume bring finely honed analyses and nuanced perspectives to the terrorist realities of the twenty-first century--history, analyses, and perspectives that have been too often oversimplified or myopic. They bring a new depth of understanding and myriad new dimensions to the crisis of terrorism. And they reach into aspects of counterterrorism that broaden our grasp on such important tools as diplomacy, intelligence and counterintelligence, psycho-political means, international law, criminal law enforcement, military force, foreign aid, and homeland security, showing not only how these tools are currently being employed but how often they are being underutilized as well.

ATTACKING TERRORISM demonstrates that there are no easy answers--and that the road toward victory will be long and arduous, frightening and dangerous--but as Audrey Kurth Cronin states in her introduction, "As the campaign against international terrorism unfolds, a crucial forward-looking process of strategic reassessment is under way in the United States, and this book is intended to be a part of it."

Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy by Paul R. Pillar (The Brookings Institution) is about the phenomenom of terrorism, its different manifestations and the kinds of groups related to this activities. Mr. Pillar explains the methods for answering the terrorist threat and -contrary to what many may think- he relegates military actions to the last place of the list. This book was written before September 11, 2001, but certainly it helps explain why the attacks took place and sets the path to prevent such acts in the future. This book is also important for those interested on the legal aspects of terrorism, because it deals with different instruments adopted to combat this threat. For every person who would like to form his/her own opinion on how to fight terrorism, this text is a must read.

Paperback edition includes a new introductory essay on counterterrorism since 9/11.

The United States government-backed by the overwhelming support of the American public-takes a hard line against international terrorism. The tenets of official U.S. counterterrorist policy are: make no concessions or deals with terrorists; bring them to justice for their crimes; isolate and apply pressure on states that sponsor terrorism; and bolster the counterterrorist capabilities of countries willing to work with the United States. While these tenets are sound principles, their application, specifically overseas, raises difficult questions. Does the "no deal" policy actually deter terrorists acts? Are there cases where agreements might reduce terrorism, while advancing other U.S. interests? Do isolation and pressure really force offending states to alter their support for terrorists? What factors affect the willingness, not just the capability, of foreign governments to help the United States in counterterrorism?

In this critical study, a career CIA officer provides a guide to constructing and executing counterterrorist policy, urging that it be formulated as an integral part of broader U.S. foreign policy. In the first four chapters, Paul R. Pillar identifies the necessary elements of counterterrorist policy, he examines why the United States is a prime terrorist target, and he reveals why the counterterrorist policies that seem strongest are not always the most effective. Chapter 5 examines the widely varying nature of terrorist groups and the policy tools most appropriately applied to them. Chapter 6 focuses on states that sponsor terrorism (including Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Cuba), along with those that enable it to occur (particularly Greece and Pakistan). Pillar examines ways in which the American public’s perspective toward terrorism can actually constrain counterterrorist policy, and he concludes that terrorism cannot be "defeated" only reduced, attenuated, and to some degree, controlled. The final chapter summarizes his recommendations for amending U.S. policy.

Understanding Mass Violence : A Social Work Perspective edited by Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner, Norma Kolko Phillips (Pearson Allyn & Bacon) Understanding Mass Violence prepares social workers to intervene with people affected by human-caused violence, such as school shootings or terrorist acts.

  • Examines mass violence within the broader context of social policy and social justice, and addresses real-life issues of trauma, including its impact and specific interventions.

  • Discusses understanding and helping traumatized individuals and families, children, and the elderly; schools, workplaces, and communities that experience mass violence.

  • Coverage of retraumatization; the role of religion and spirituality in healing; and secondary trauma that may be experienced by helping professionals.

You can order this text packaged with a Free Research Navigator (for The Helping Professions guide, which features a free password for access to an array of online sources. This new Pearson Learning product helps students and instructors find credible and reliable material for research assignments and papers.  

Violence, Inequality, and Human Freedom, Revised Edition by Peter Iadicola, Anson D. Shupe (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) (paperback) Since writing the first edition of this book, the levels of violence in wars, ter­rorist attacks, and the general deprivation of peoples throughout the Southern Hemisphere of the world has increased. On September 11, 2001, we all watched in horror as a commercial aircraft commandeered by terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center, killing thousands of people. After the initial shock, for a brief moment there began a discussion as to why this hap­pened. How could people be willing to kill themselves to kill others? This was the first attack on the United States since World War II and it was from an en­emy of whose identity we were uncertain. Unfortunately, questions of why were soon dismissed and replaced with a sense of righteous indignation and calls for revenge. Those who began to ask questions about why this happened were viewed with suspicion and were often targeted for public attack. The American public never was able to have a conversation as to how people could be so desperate to attack us that they would intentionally kill them­selves in the process. In Israel, similar events are occurring on a weekly basis. A young Palestinian girl blows herself up in a marketplace in the hope of killing Israeli citizens. We learn of slaughters of hundreds of thousands of peo­ple in Rwanda and East Timor and there is little discussion as to why this could have occurred. And the remedy that we choose to stem this violence is more violence, which leads to an escalation of violence around the world. Every day in our newspapers, on our evening news broadcasts on radio and televi­sion, that story of violence is told. But the story is incomplete. We only hear of the violence occurring, but we are offered little analysis as to why. Instead, we hear simplistic explanations that only a child would appreciate. The president of the United States talks of evil people and evil in the world. We are told to pray to God for his help in defeating this evil and our chosen weapon is more violence. Now, more than any other time in our history, we need to ask the question why, and we need to go beyond the simplistic childish responses of bad people and evil in the world. We need to look at how we have structured human existence throughout the world and how this has resulted in such hor­ror as killing the most innocent among us, our children.

In our studies of violence in the past, it has become compartmentalized and fragmented. The vast majority of research focuses on the interpersonal vio­lence of criminals. In general, only a small category of violence is studied. However, what we learned in our own study of violence is that violence is pervasive in human existence. The scope of the phenomenon goes way be­yond the criminal violence that the mass media and public officials have fo­cused on. It exists in virtually every institutional setting and has been a feature of all societies throughout human existence. The first goal that we had as au­thors was to tell a more complete story of violence, to educate the reader to the many different forms of violence that lead to the death or injury of millions of people in a given year.

This book tells the story of the violence that harms people throughout the world. It tells the story of the violence that most people think of when they hear the words murder and rape. But it also tells the story of the forms of violence that most people do not think of when they hear the word violence. In these categories of violence, we discuss the violence that is the product of institutional actions (family, economy, state, and religious organizations) and violence that is the product of the very organization of societies (structural violence). Most writings about violence focus on interpersonal violence. This book is unique because the focus is principally on those other more devastating forms of vio­lence. This book examines a greater range of violence from the interpersonal to institutional to structural forms.

Another story that this book tells is how the forms of violence are linked to­gether. We have learned in the course of our study that there is an important linkage between the many different forms of violence that occur throughout a society and the world. Although we can think of a form of violence in isola­tion, in reality the forms of violence that exist in the society and the world are linked together. We discuss the idea of a chain of violence that links the inter­personal forms of violence with the institutional and structural violence. The more we understand the nature of this linkage, the greater our ability becomes to address the problem of violence.

The book also tells the story of how violence is related to inequality. At the most fundamental level, what allows us to violate another is our ability to de­fine those others as separate and less than ourselves. The structures that we have created and act to maintain and extend create this ability and teach it to the next generation. The story of violence is a story of inequality. We have learned that inequality is both a cause and an outcome of violence. How we respond to the structures of inequality in the society and world will determine the nature of violence within these systems.

Last, this book tells the story of how violence is related to freedom-a value that we in the United States celebrate and in our public messages to the world promote. However, freedom is linked to violence. We discuss how violence is fundamentally about control and the control over freedom of action. Violence is ultimately a form of power that at the same time extends and denies free­dom to the actors involved. The more violence that occurs in the world, the less freedom exists for us all.

We view this book as an introduction to the subject of violence. It is not in­tended to be a theoretical treatise on the topic. Instead, our goals are more modest. It is to provide the reader with a new way of looking at the phenom­enon and to gain an appreciation for the scope and complexity of the topic. The book is written to begin a conversation about why violence in its many forms occurs, a conversation beyond the psychology or presumed evil of those who commit such acts. This book is rooted in the sociological disciplinary per­spective. For those who are not familiar with this perspective, we hope that the introductory chapter will provide the reader with the necessary disciplinary lens to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of violence.

Several people have provided us with resources and insight into the subject of violence and have contributed their labor for the completion of this project.

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