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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"Gripping -- and alarming." -- The Economist
"[An] impressive reconnaissance over the battlefields of the world.... A fascinating survey of the recent history of international terrorism and all its well-documented horrors." -- Times Literary Supplement
"Hoffman's strength lies in the building up of case-studies in an historical context to illustrate the dimensions of this amorphous phenomenon." -- International Affairs
"For its historical and political examination of terrorism, Inside Terrorism is a valuable work.... 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
"The author has succeeded brilliantly. His predictions for the future are hardly comforting, but they should be heeded by all governments with an interest in world peace." -- The Sunday Telegraph
"If you have time to read only one book, this should be the one." -- Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Writing with a wonderful clarity, Hoffman... identifies the characteristics that make terrorism the distinct phenomenon of political violence that it is." -- London Financial Times
"Bruce Hoffman's book is the best work to summarize in a generally understandable and concise form all the significant facts about terrorism in the last decade. It is especially interesting regarding the strange relationship between terrorism and the media, and can be warmly recommended as an absolutely reliable guide." -- Walter Laqueur
"Bruce Hoffman's Inside Terrorism is still probably the best general treatment of terrorism." -- Washington Post
"A must read to all academics or practitioners who are dealing with the issue of terrorism."