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ISIS: The State of Terror Hardcover – March 12, 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger’s new book, “ISIS,” should be required reading for every politician and policymaker…Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations….Stern and Berger offer a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group.” (Washington Post)

“By far the most important contribution yet to our understanding of an organization that remains cloaked in mystery and misunderstanding . . . A brisk, readable, and eye-opening account of ISIS’s past, present, and future. This is a book every American should read.” (Reza Aslan, author of No God but god and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth)

“A timely and urgent book that is essential reading for analysts and policy makers alike. In what is already a cornerstone contribution, Stern and Berger offer the kind of cold-blood analysis so desperately needed on the poorly understood phenomenon that is the so-called Islamic state.” (John Horgan, author of The Psychology of Terrorism)

“The first serious book to analyze the rise of ISIS . . . Stern and Berger write clearly and persuasively and marshal impressive primary research from ISIS’s prodigious propaganda to help explain how ISIS became the dominant jihadi group today. It’s a terrific and important read.” (Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad)

“Stern and Berger pull back the curtain to expose facts and myths about the violent Salafi apocalyptic cult calling itself the Islamic State. A must-read.” (Mike Walker, former undersecretary and acting secretary of the United States Army)

“ISIS emerged in territory occupied by American soldiers, governed by dictatorial regimes, and fought over by sectarian extremists. Stern and Berger provide context for understanding ISIS’s past and considering how its media model may affect future extremist movements.” (Kecia Ali, associate professor religion, Boston University)

“A penetrating analysis . . . The book provides important context for an evolving organization and proto-state that is attempting to rewrite the jihadi playbook.” (Aaron Zelin, Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

ISIS: The State of Terror is a timely and important history of a movement that now defines the 21st century.” (Sam Kiley, Evening Standard (London))

“This book should be required reading for every politician and policymaker.” (Washington Post)

From the Back Cover

In ISIS: The State of Terror, two of America’s leading experts on terrorism dissect the new model for violent extremism that the Islamic State, known as ISIS, has leveraged into an empire of death in Iraq and Syria, and an international network that is rapidly expanding. Stern and Berger offer a much-needed perspective on how world leaders should prioritize and respond to ISIS’s deliberate and insidious provocations in this compelling, essential account.

ISIS should be required reading for every politician and policy maker....[Stern and Berger’s] smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations....A nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group.”—Washington Post

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (March 12, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062395548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062395542
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Among my frequent, and just as oft dismissed, complaints to my wife has been the lack of a scholarly work on the Islamic State. Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger have filled a significant void in the literature with their impressive and comprehensive offering, ISIS: The State of Terror (I loathe the poor translation this acronym represents, but the authors justify their use of it). Though a bit uneven in the middle, the book begins and ends powerfully and leaves the reader fully informed on the roots and history of the Islamic State (IS). Additionally, they offer a series of suggestions on countering the messaging of the self-styled Caliphate. The book is an impressive collection of sources that will enrich any reader who wants to understand and overcome the phenomenon represented by Al-Qaeda (AQ) and the IS.

The authors begin with the beheading of James Foley and subsequent shattering of the “jayvee” reputation of the IS and conclude the introduction with their explanation on the use of ISIS as the acronym throughout the book. Chapter One focuses on Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The authors detail the humble and surprising beginnings of Zarqawi through his rise to power and pseudo-alliance with Al-Qaeda Central (AQC) in Afghanistan. The authors outline the ideology behind the group and its takfiri (declaring others apostates) ideology. AQI died with its creator and the IS rose from the ashes. Chapter Two chronicles the rise of the so-called state to include theological influences and the role of the Syrian conflict in solidifying the fledgling insurgency with dreams of claiming the mantle of Caliphate.

Chapter Three winds the clock back and details the rise of AQC after the end of the Russian efforts in Afghanistan.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"ISIS: the State of Terror" is a good book about the hideous mutation of al-Qa'ida in Iraq that the so-called "Islamic State" happens to be. This said, I have to disagree with the sentiment of at least one other review-here here that it is an "authoritative" work about this murderous group. Rather, it is a book that is authoritative on certain aspects of ISIS:

-the ideology of the group is thoroughly detailed
-the millenarian aspects of the group as discussed in the book are very helpful and informative
-the social network "marketing strategy" of ISIS is exhaustively covered (almost too much)
-there is a very well-written appendix that will provide readers who do not know much about Islam and its relationship to this particular terrorist group with a good grounding about that topic.

One thing in particular I thought was thought provoking was the proposition that unlike al-Qa'ida, ISIS does not market itself as the avenger of the weak Islamic community (the "ummah"). Rather, ISIS presents itself and its "caliphate" in war-torn Syria and Iraq as an expression of Muslim strength and victory.

But like other reviewers have noted, the book lacks depth on a number of areas:

-There is little discussion of events on the battlefield...in particular, the stunning successes the group enjoyed in 2014.
-The book lacks substantive discussion of key personalities and leaders in ISIS apart from its self-proclaimed "caliph.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book will be informative for those seeking to come up to speed on ISIS. The authors are challenged in citing source material for the book because all the phenomena mentioned occur in social media. That being said, the authors do occasionally refer to experts in the field of terrorism to explain some aspects of ISIS. The book is heavily footnoted, indexed, and referenced; this consumes almost half the text. Due to the requirements of publishing, the book stops about December of 2014. The book spends little time on the human geography of the area or explanations of the forces interacting in the area. More time is spent explaining and focusing on the group, its movements, and effects.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Terrific treatment of a vital, breaking topic by two experts. It presents an excellent backgrounder of the rise of the group, how it differs from al Qaeda and other Islamist terror organizations, and offers plausible steps that the United States and its allies and partners could take to roll back the Islamic State. As with any book on a relatively new, ongoing phenomenon, parts of it will quickly be overtaken by events. But it's well worth the $20 for national security professionals hoping to get up to speed on arguably the most important emergent threat.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is on target until it stats discussing the Muslim Brotherhood. Sadly, the authors Brookings Institute connections kept them from uncovering much that should have been said on this issue. Brookings receives a lot of funds from Qatar which backs Hamas a Muslim Brotherhood chapter.
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