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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent one volume introduction to the subject
Bruce Hoffman, long one of RAND's key terrorism-wallahs and an affiliate of St Andrews University has written an excellent book on a controversial topic.
There was a fair amount of literature on terrorism prior to September 11th and, my, but there's even more now. A lot of it was a load of old rubbish prior to September 11th and even more of it is now. Hoffman's book...
Published on April 24, 2003 by top_cat1980

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Nice inside look into roots of terrorism.
Good to read. and provoking literature.
Need some more in dept analysis. Good supporting materials.
Published 17 months ago by nikolay kotzev


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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent one volume introduction to the subject, April 24, 2003
By 
This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Paperback)
Bruce Hoffman, long one of RAND's key terrorism-wallahs and an affiliate of St Andrews University has written an excellent book on a controversial topic.
There was a fair amount of literature on terrorism prior to September 11th and, my, but there's even more now. A lot of it was a load of old rubbish prior to September 11th and even more of it is now. Hoffman's book is a work of substance which in itself puts it ahead of much of the pack.
"Inside Terrorism" covers a variety of areas. It opens with a discussion about the lengthy (and continuing) debate that surrounds the issue of defining terrorism - an issue which has stumped everyone from academics to the UN. What and who exactly IS a terrorist? Hoffman doesn't provide a clear cut, definitive answer but he does provide clear coverage of what is framing the argument, along with some of the possible answers which are being put forward. Whether you consider this level of debate to be self-indulgent and ivory tower or not (as I increasingly do, interesting thought it is) it is important to know that the debate does exist and what it's all about as it goes to the heart of some real-life anti-terrorism policy making, especially with regard to multilateral attempts to curb terror groups.
Hoffman moves on to cover Post-colonial ethnic or nationalist terror groups, international terrorism, Religion and terrorism, Terrorism, Media and public opinion, Terrorist methods and mindsets and the potential future of terrorism. All in all, it adds up to a fairly comprehensive introduction to the subject. Some of Hoffman's conclusions aren't to everybody's tastes, but terrorism is an inherently controversial and hotly debated issue, it's the nature of the beast.
Overall, this is an excellent overview and introduction to the subject of terrorism. Certainly better than the recent work of Walter Laqueur. The newcomer to the subject would also be well advised to check out Christopher Harmon's "Terrorism Today" as well, along with Paul Wilkinson's "Terrorism and Democracy". Ken Booth's "Worlds in Collision" is an excellent collection of essays by various authors that is ideal for somebody with an interest in the post-September 11th world.
Hoffman's writing style is not immediately engaging (I found the book far more digestible on a second reading), but this is still an excellent work for the beginner. In a field that is both crowded and shallow, Hoffman has produced a book of genuine substance and for that he deserves credit.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read the paper or watch the news, READ THIS BOOK!, October 19, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Hardcover)
I found Inside Terrorism extremely readable, yet with the obvious authority of high quality research. Hoffman draws in the reader with skill I rarely see in nonfiction writing. This extremely complex issue so often in the forefront of today's world is dealt with in a unique yet straightforward manner. This is a 'must read' for anyone that travel, reads the newspaper or watches the evening news.
The initial chapter on 'defining terrorism' helped me start to extract from the media over-usage of this term, the relevant issues that differentiate 'terrorism' from other forms of violence. The evolutionary nature of the term is profiled showing the historic development of what is now seen exclusively in a pejorative sense. Understanding the background, historic development and indeed, the elements that makeup the essentials of terrorism, will allow the reader to evaluate the news from an informed, rather than agenda driven position.
Having provided an understanding of what the real issues are, the author moves the reader through the various types of terrorism, explaining them in adequate but not suffocating detail. Like an NFl highlight film, the reader is taken through a historical framework that keeps the readers interest while exploring the salient points. The examples read like the Sunday paper as the vivid reality jumps out at you. There is a feeling of 'insider information' without the talk show hype. This provides at last, a basis for real understanding of the frequent news stories that become such a blur of tedious detail.
This book went much futher than a historic recount of terrorism. While dates and incidents are included, they serve as interesting and helpful examples of the issue and don't become a tedious history text. Particularly interesting to me was the description and explanation of the different ideological styles. Left and right wing, ethno-nationalist, millenarian, separatist and religious motivations are unraveled in a systematic and clear manner. Similarities and differences are made evident and the importance of these aspects become clear.
In Short, this book dealt with a complex and confusing issue in a way I could understand, remember and use when I read or listen to the news.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Terrorism, July 18, 2006
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This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Paperback)
In the wake of the 9/11 disaster a plethora of books has been published on the nature and structure of the terrorist threat. Some are quite good, but others are absolute nonsense. Interestingly, some of the best books on both terrorism and counter-terrorism predate 9/11 and were written before counter-terrorism became the cottage industry it is today.

This book by Bruce Hoffman in cooperation with the Rand Corporation was published in 1998 and remains one of the best books available on the nature of terrorism. Hoffman provides a useful and on the whole an accurate explanation of the differences between secular, religious, transnational, and state sponsored terrorism providing useful examples of each. He also provides a good deal of probably accurate information on terrorist motivations and operational procedures. Finally he was prescient enough to recognize that the phenomenon represented by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda represent an ideological movement rather than a structured organization. After four years of the so-called, `Global War on Terrorism' this fact is slowly sinking into U.S. Government circles. Hoffman only lightly touches on the related issue of the al Qaeda financial structures, but notes the relatively small amounts of money actually required for most terrorist operations.

As indicated Hoffman does not limit this book to Islamic religious terrorism but also delves into motivations and operations techniques of secular terrorism as well. Perhaps most importantly given the July 2006 Near-East crisis, he uses Hezbollah as an example of the dangerous nature of state sponsored terrorism. All in all a sound book that contains markedly better information on terrorism than many more recent books and reflects the fruits of sound scholarship.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable Perspectives Within an Historical Context, October 25, 2001
This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Hardcover)
For the general reader, Hoffman provides probably the best introduction to terrorism from an historical perspective. It is instructive to view the tragic events of September 11th from that perspective. Terrorists' motives as well as their strategic objectives and tactical means have differed (sometimes significantly) over the centuries. Hoffman does a brilliant job of reviewing and explaining a wide variety of separate acts of terrorism. All terrorists (religious or secular) are extremists. Frankly, I continue to have problems with the term "fundamentalists" because so many historical figures now revered acted upon the most fundamental of principles for which they were prepared to die...and many did. Like heroism, terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. Case in point: those involved with the Resistance in occupied France during World War Two. To his credit, Hoffman presents the material with great precision but without bias. It remains for each reader to formulate value judgments. Especially now, this is a "must read" for those of us who struggle to understand events on a recent Tuesday.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and enlightening look at trends in modern terrorism, July 9, 2000
By 
David Q. Ziegler "Texasdave" (Springfield, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Paperback)
Bruce Hoffman offers a fascinating and enlightening examination of the confusing nature of modern terrorism. I especially enjoyed the opening chapter on the toils of anyone trying to lay down a definition of the word "terrorism" itself. Overall, it is a must read for anyone trying to make heads or tails of today's "new-generation" terrorism. I strongly recommend it!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book For An Interested Mind, February 6, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Paperback)
I found "Inside Terrorism" being a highly comprehensive as well as a very informative book. Since this book was my first contact with the topic "terrorism" I was quite surprised how easy but nevertheless detailed Hoffman introduces the readder to this complex subject. Although one might think that is a boring book, it is everything but boring... believe me, I'm a student and I know a LOT about boring books
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good textbook on terrorism, July 14, 2006
By 
Jill Malter (jillmalter@aol.com) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Paperback)
Just for the record, I'm reviewing the 2006 edition of this book, so it is no longer as out of date as the previous edition. And it is a very interesting book. We learn definitions of terrorism, we see what terrorism is, how terrorists recruit, how many of them think, what some of them say, how they get publicity, how they take advantage of media opportunities ("Don't shoot, Abdul! We're not on prime time!"), and so on.

We also read about circumstances in which terrorists may decide that mass murder (involving huge numbers of deaths as opposed to spectacular but less deadly acts of terror) makes sense.

Can terrorist groups be defeated? Of course they can. Most of them do not last long. A few such groups do last for a while, especially if they get some support from one or more nations. But even these can be defeated.

Bruce Hoffman makes the point that while media coverage is essential for terrorists, the net effect of such coverage is mixed: audiences are eager to follow the exploits of terrorists, but much of the media coverage of terrorism is negative, and most of the audience is opposed to terrorism.

The author recommends patience and determination in the fight against terrorism. And I think that human civilization always has a chance against any terrorist foe. If not, the terrorists will, of course, destroy themselves along with the rest of us.

Terrorists often claim that their victory is inevitable. But it rarely is. After all, most terrorist goals are incredibly arbitrary. Without the use of violence, terrorists would rarely have any chance of even temporary success, and in the long run, they usually have no chance. Almost all terrorist groups are therefore at a big long-term disadvantage.

Still, I think we may be overlooking something here: what about those cases in which terrorism is not the first option of some greedy extremists? What about those rare cases in which it is a minor option of reasonable people?

For example, suppose some of us decided to try to accomplish some possibly dubious but possibly reasonable goal, such as the expansion of the Church of Latter Day Saints to 30 million members, or autonomy for Poles, Kurds or Tibetans. Would terrorism be our first choice? No. We would realize that our goals were not so arbitrary as to be impossible without violence. We'd be patient and slowly move towards success.

But now suppose that, with the Church of Latter Day Saints increasing in numbers, some nations, including the United States, decided on a controversial policy of genocide to get rid of all Mormons! Oops! Now what? Well, in that case, terrorism might well be one of several options for those trying to change such a strange and catastrophic policy. And in that case, with the goal of terrorism simply being to stop the genocide, the terrorist aims would be anything but arbitrary and dubious. I think it is always important to notice the difference between the wild actions of extremists and those of people who are merely trying to defend themselves. And I feel that many people, including some experts on terrorism, fail to emphasize this sufficiently. Even in this book, we see the author point out that in some cases (such as in South Africa), terrorism can help achieve goals. Hoffman does explain that in this case, the terrorist goals were very coherent and relatively reasonable, but he fails to emphasize the fact that without violence on either side, those goals were likely to be achieved! I think we also see a little confusion about the false similarities some people see in Jewish terrorism versus Arab terrorism. Much of the Jewish terror in the 1940s was indeed arbitrary, but at least it was in support of a goal (Jews getting human rights in the Levant) that was going to be achieved if neither side used any violence. Much of the Arab terror was also arbitrary, but it was in support of a very different goal, namely the permanent obliteration of human rights for Jews in the region. That goal had no chance of being achieved without violence. I think the author should have been clearer about such differences. After all, the former kind of terrorism has goals that are indeed likely to be achieved in the long run, and moreover, mere achievement of such goals is not much of a threat to society. The goals of the latter form of terrrorism have little chance of being achieved in the long run and constitute a great threat to everyone.

In spite of these minor complaints, I like this book very much. It is comprehensive and useful, and I recommend it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, February 24, 2013
This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Kindle Edition)
Nice inside look into roots of terrorism.
Good to read. and provoking literature.
Need some more in dept analysis. Good supporting materials.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Superficial and outdated, April 22, 2012
By 
This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Paperback)
Hoffman's book, along with the works of Walter Laqueur and Marc Sageman, is the standard text issued to students in the field and to national security officials. It adopts the traditional view prevalent in western academic and military circles: that terrorism is a violent technique employed by non-state actors (mostly Muslims) to achieve political ends. However, even if you agree with such a stance, this work will not help you further your understanding of the subject. In essence, it's a discussion of political theory supported by outdated examples and generalizations; and it fails to provide any practical detailed investigation into the mechanisms of terrorism. Nevertheless, it does possess one important redeeming feature in its authoritative discussion of how terrorists manipulate the media.

The book's first chapter constitutes a poor attempt at defining terrorism. Hoffman does not give his own opinions, but refers instead to definitions published by the Oxford dictionary and several US governmental agencies. He rapidly dismisses the contention that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" by arguing that terrorists are not regular combatants because their actions violate the Geneva Convention. More importantly, the book completely fails to address why people might engage in terrorist activities (a subject much better covered by Robert A. Pape's "Dying to Win").

After this introduction, Hoffman presents a brief (and incongruous) historical survey of his subject. In his opinion, terrorism is directly linked to the struggles of post-WWII de-colonization. Like communism, it is an "international conspiracy". This often leads him into the troubled waters of double-standards. For example, he describes Menahem Begin and the Irgun as terrorists during their struggle against the British in Mandate Palestine (e.g. King David Hotel bombing), but does not discuss how this could have influenced Begin's later policies as PM of Israel (the 1982 invasion of Lebanon in particular). Arafat and his PLO are put forward to illustrate the "internationalization" of terrorism (4 pages on the Munich attacks). Yet the reader will search in vain for an assessment of the evidence condemning Israel's war crimes. Treatment of the IP conflict is generally very one-sided. Furthermore, Hoffman's depiction of the Algerian FLN as a terrorist group is far too simplistic. Alistar Horne does a much better job exploring this topic in his masterpiece: "A Savage War of Peace". Overall, one is left with the impression that the author not only picks and chooses his examples, but also fails to properly evaluate them.

There are other fundamental problems underlying Hoffman's analysis. Most of his discussion devoted to the importance of religion in suicide terrorism has been convincingly refuted by Robert A. Pape's research. He tends to ignore the logistical and operational aspects of terrorist groups, and has been overtaken in this field by Marc Sageman (the theory of "sleeper cell" networks). Hoffman's examination of North Africa is obsolete, and there is little or no mention of groups like the GIA, GSPC or AQIM. Informed readers will probably feel that this book is out of date and that current debates surrounding terrorism have moved on.

Despite these numerous drawbacks, Hoffman's introduction to terrorism does produce a very enlightening study of the relationship between terrorists and the media. He is particularly good at using case studies to emphasize how terrorists manipulate television to popularize their cause and recruit new members. This analysis is still pertinent today.

In conclusion, I would say this book is not a good introduction to terrorism. It's superficial, partisan in its approach, and fast becoming obsolete. However, if you are studying the subject, then it's worth acquiring for two reasons. First, because Hoffman is one of the principal academics who represents the traditional, western view in the field. He's a symbol of orthodoxy, and therefore a good source to understand how people think. You'd be daft, however, to let him influence your own conclusions. The other reason is because his work contains important passages on the media's manipulation by terrorist groups. In other words, he's a painful necessity.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent primer on all subjects of terrorism, March 28, 2013
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This review is from: Inside Terrorism (Paperback)
This is a very thoughtful, organized, and well-written book on all general topics of terrorism. It is an excellent textbook replacement for Wardlaw's (now dated) "Political Terrorism". The book is excellently sourced and researched. It is not a micro-analysis of any specific incidents or counter-terrorism techniques, but provides detail where needed to let the reader understand the dynamics of a group's motivations and goals. This is probably the first book people need to reach for when seeking to understand the background of any particular sitation.
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Inside Terrorism
Inside Terrorism by Bruce Hoffman (Paperback - June 6, 2006)
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