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Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century [Hardcover]

by Marc Sageman
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 3, 2008 0812240650 978-0812240658 0

In the post-September 11 world, Al Qaeda is no longer the central organizing force that aids or authorizes terrorist attacks or recruits terrorists. It is now more a source of inspiration for terrorist acts carried out by independent local groups that have branded themselves with the Al Qaeda name. Building on his previous groundbreaking work on the Al Qaeda network, forensic psychiatrist Marc Sageman has greatly expanded his research to explain how Islamic terrorism emerges and operates in the twenty-first century.

In Leaderless Jihad, Sageman rejects the views that place responsibility for terrorism on society or a flawed, predisposed individual. Instead, he argues, the individual, outside influence, and group dynamics come together in a four-step process through which Muslim youth become radicalized. First, traumatic events either experienced personally or learned about indirectly spark moral outrage. Individuals interpret this outrage through a specific ideology, more felt and understood than based on doctrine. Usually in a chat room or other Internet-based venues, adherents share this moral outrage, which resonates with the personal experiences of others. The outrage is acted on by a group, either online or offline.

Leaderless Jihad offers a ray of hope. Drawing on historical analogies, Sageman argues that the zeal of jihadism is self-terminating; eventually its followers will turn away from violence as a means of expressing their discontent. The book concludes with Sageman's recommendations for the application of his research to counterterrorism law enforcement efforts.

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Editorial Reviews


"Politicians who talk about the terrorism threat . . . should be required to read this new book. . . . It stands what you think you know about terrorism on its head and helps you see the topic in a different light."—Washington Post

"It might be comforting to think that angry young Islamists are crazed psychopaths or sex-starved adolescents who have been brainwashed in malign madrassas. But Mr Sageman, a senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, explodes each of these myths, and others besides, in an unsettling account of how Al Qaeda has evolved from the organisation headed by Osama bin Laden into an amorphous movement—a 'leaderless jihad.'"—The Economist

"Leaderless Jihad discredits conventional wisdom about terrorists by eschewing anecdotes and conjecture in favor of hard data and statistics."—Aryn Baker, Time

"Sageman's incisive observations based on carefully examined evidence, astute insights, and scholarship make Leaderless Jihad the gold standard in Al Qaeda studies."—Washington Times

"[an] important, face-the-facts book . . . Sageman is deservedly one of the best-known academics working on terrorism."—Spectator

"What distinguishes his new book, Leadless Jihad is that it peels away the emotional, reflexive responses to terrorism that have grown up since Sept. 11, 20001, and looks instead at scientific data Sageman has collected on more than 500 Islamic terrorists —to understand who they are, why they attack, and how to stop them."—David Ignatius, Washington Post

"Leaderless Jihad provides new analysis and important insights. . . . Sageman's data-driven approach is all too rare in a field dominated by informed (when we're fortunate) opinion."—The American Interest

"Marc Sageman is an extraordinarly thoughtful and creative analyst of the complex patterns of Islamic radicalization taking place within our integrated global culture. His work challenges the way we think about terrorism and and offers important insights about what should be done to prevent or contain such violence."—Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

"This book belongs at the top of the list for anyone seeking to understand the nature of radical Islamic terrorism, its future, and the effective ways that Western countries can counter its destructive appeal."—Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

About the Author

Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist, is a government counterterrorism consultant. He is the author of the bestselling Understanding Terror Networks, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (January 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812240650
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812240658
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #372,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical for Understanding the Current Terrorist Threat February 16, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author once again provides an easily read and understood book about the current terrorist threat. He first provides us with a history of global terrorism and then explains how the current terrorist threat differs from terrorist threats that the world has seen in the past.

He then discusses the radicalization process that creates terrorists - this was incredibly interesting as was his explanation as to why there currently is a greater terrorist threat in Europe than the U.S. based on this radicalization process.

Further, he discusses how terrorists have been forced to use the internet as one of the primary ways to get around increased surveillance and border protection around the world. He then explains how this evolution in terrorist communication and interaction has created a "leaderless jihad" that we now face.

Finally, he concludes with well thought out recommendations concerning ways that the U.S. should consider moving forward to combat this evolving terrorist threat.

Overall - an outstanding book - a must read for anyone interested in the terrorist threat that the U.S and the world now faces.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fighting a Vacuum March 17, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Since the appalling events of 9/11, Forensic psychiatrist Marc Sageman has applied his social scientist skills to develop a largely accurate understanding of the terrorist phenomena associated with Osama bin Laden. This book is a logical follow-on to his earlier book, "Understanding Terror Networks" (2004, Sageman provides his readers with what can and should be called target knowledge of a very particular type of Islamic terrorism. In doing so he also ventures into the more ambiguous realm of terrorist motivations.

In "Leaderless Jihad", Sageman argues that the bin Laden terrorist movement has operationally evolved from networked type of organization centered on the ideology of bin Laden and controlled by what he calls "al Qaeda Central". According to Sageman, bin Laden's leadership role been marginalized and al Qaeda has been transformed into a social movement. Essentially he maintains that what was always a very loosely wrapped organization has now become even more dispersed into virtually independent cells or nodes of socially connected individuals with only a vague adherence to bin Laden's ideology of Jihad against the "Far Enemy" in common. If this description is accurate, and it certainly appears to be, fighting the bin Laden phenomenon is much more of an ideological war than a shooting war.

Now Sageman argues that to win this kind of war it is vital to understand what the social and psychological factors are that are driving the participants in the terrorist movement. As his study makes clear they are not driven by poverty (except vicarious poverty) or by a longing for democracy as understood in the West.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read Book! April 5, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an analyst for DOD, I can not say strongly enough that this book is a must read for all Americans. Sageman diligently puts together a solid argument that considers context, scientific appreciation, individual and group psychology, and Middle East conditions. This book is extremely helpful in understanding the threat of Islamic terrorism and is vital for Americans to read if we are to appreciate, as a country united, the complexities of the terrorist threat. Bottom line: the threat of terrorism is real, but the greatest threat to America is how we choose to respond to it. Although we are succeeding in killing and disrupting the bad guys, as we must, we are possibly loosing the battle in regards to Muslim perspective towards the U.S.(hearts and minds). Policy implications in the book are spot in. Great book...must read!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somebody who gets it March 18, 2008
Marc Sageman gets it. He explains in detail how the third wave of terrorists are more apt to adopt their extremist views through social discourse and the need to fit in. Many people believe that this war is ideologically based i.e. people are driven out of religious doctrine. This may hold true for the al-Qaeda leadership, who wish to return to the 6 and 700s , but for the vast majority of new internet "terrorists", they just want to be cool; they essentially want to be fearless ninjas.
That being said, I would disagree slightly with Mr. Sageman about US policy. It is true that this war can't be continually fought with guns and tanks, but given the time-frame context of 9/11 something had to be done to wipe out training camps, safe havens, and the upper echelon leadership. Now that this has essentially (with the obvious and unfortunate exclusion of the two top tier guys) been done, it's time to engage the Middle East with evolving tactics. Opinion polls show that folks in the Muslim Ummah admired the West for its technology and freedoms, including the right to choose leaders, but they fear western domination. It is incumbent upon our leaders to show that while extremely difficult, in the end the US as a whole are friends with Iraq and Afghanistan and we are there now to help them and to rid them of terrorist strongholds for everybody's mutual benefit. Despite all the turmoil and destruction, roughly 50% of Iraqis feel that the US did the right thing. That is saying something considering the numbers are lower in the US and much lower in Europe; places where people have never had to really endure such hardship in the past 50 years, but are free nevertheless.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed
I had heard a lot of good things about this book and the author, but I found the book to be rambling, unstructured, and, ultimately, unconvincing. Read more
Published 2 months ago by rt
5.0 out of 5 stars analhytical discussion of Gobal Muslim Jihad
This book is copyrighted in 2008, before America left Iraq, before the death of Osama bin Laden, before the Afghan war went into full swing, and long before the Boston Bombers. Read more
Published 7 months ago by gt surber
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing the Global Enemy
Real tragedies or threats are not obvious or simple. Dr. Sageman has revealed the complexities behind global terrorism, beyond public soundbites about al Queda. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Henry Lee Allen
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile but not critical read
I read Sageman's previous book "Understanding Terror Networks" before this book and would suggest that others do the same. Read more
Published on April 3, 2010 by Anthony Sweet
5.0 out of 5 stars likely future
Provides good descriptions of current situation and likely future scenarios, and interesting proposals. Uses interviews with individuals to buttress arguments. Well done.
Published on November 26, 2009 by P. Gorman
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight to the future of Jihad
GREAT BOOK! Read this book in two days. It gives enough history about Al Qaeda to understand how the structure functions currently without boring with meaningless details. Read more
Published on October 5, 2009 by Angelika N. Dimopoulos
3.0 out of 5 stars A good perspective but overall, not too many breakthrough ideas
I wouldn't say this is "easy to read." It reads more like a textbook in some places than a book looking to inform people. Read more
Published on April 27, 2009 by C. Monk
3.0 out of 5 stars ZWEIN
The book is easily read and understood. The author provides finding and assessments about Al-Qaeda based upon his large sample of terrorists. Read more
Published on April 17, 2009 by ZANGURDET
1.0 out of 5 stars irresponsible and incorrect
What business does a forensic psychologist have writing an assessment on worldwide terrorism and insurgency? His conclusions make no sense. Don't waste your money.
Published on November 16, 2008 by MDB
5.0 out of 5 stars A different approach to understanding terrorism
This is an excellent book and provides numerous examples about looking at the root causes of terrorism. Read more
Published on May 21, 2008 by Otto J. Fafoglia
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