The word "terrorism" first became popular during the French Revolution, when the régime de la terreur
was initially viewed as a positive
political system that used fear to remind citizens of the necessity of virtue. The use of violence to "educate" people about ideological issues has continued, but it has taken on decidedly negative connotations--and has become predominantly, though not exclusively, a tactic deployed by those who do not have the powers of state at their disposal.
Bruce Hoffman, the director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, has written a clear summary of some of the major historical trends in international terrorism. He makes careful distinctions between the motivations that drive political (or ethno-nationalist) terrorism and religious terrorism, and he also shows why the rise of religious terrorism, coupled with the increased availability of weapons of mass destruction, may foretell an era of even greater violence. In the past, Hoffman argues, the main goal of the terrorist was not to kill, but to attract media attention to his cause in the hope of initiating reform. "For the religious terrorist," however, "violence is first and foremost a sacramental act or divine duty executed in direct response to some theological demand or imperative ... religious terrorists see themselves not as components of a system worth preserving but as 'outsiders,' seeking fundamental changes in the existing order." Hoffman does not "choose sides" in this framework, pointing to the bombings of the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City and to the sarin nerve gas attacks in Tokyo in order to demonstrate that fundamentalists of any religious denomination are capable of extreme acts of terrorism.
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For its historical and political examination of terrorism, Inside Terrorism is a valuable work.... It falls into the category of 'must read' at least for anyone who wants to understand how we can respond to international acts of terror.
(Raymond Bonner New York Times Book Review
A revised and expanded edition of the RAND scholar's classic work.
Hoffman's more rigorous appraisal, ought to be required reading as the rhetoric mounts this campaign season.
(Aziz Huq American Prospect
A must read to all academics or practitioners who are dealing with the issue of terrorism.
Brilliant... The best one-volume introduction to the phenomenon.
(The Washington Post
Any collection strong in terrorist literature and military history will find Hoffman's analysis of ongoing importance.
One of the best primers on the subject.
The most widely read book on terrorism
[Its] comprehensiveness will greatly benefit its readers.
(Joshua Sinai The Washington Times
One of the Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International's 25 Top Books for Today's Bookshelf on Terrorism.
(Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International