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The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism Hardcover – April 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 410 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595581790
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595581792
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,490,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British author and journalist Carr (My Father's House) bookends his engrossing, unsettling history—including accounts of murderous organizations like the 19th-century anarchists, the IRA, Mau Mau, Red Brigades, Basque separatists, FLN, PLO and Hezbollah and the onset of international terrorism 30 years ago—with a scathing critique of the Bush administration's "authoritarian responses" to the attacks of 9/11. Amid an avalanche of information, Carr argues that most terrorist groups—those with a distinct political goal and popular support within their country—are essentially uncrushable, but negotiating with them (Britain and the IRA, for example) has worked. Carr relates scores of terrorist outrages and devotes equal space to brutal government counterterrorism that, he demonstrates, is not only ineffectual, but also nourishes terrorism. Instead of today's war on terror, Carr calls for addressing the wider causes: "the present eruption of Islamist violence is perhaps a symptom of an imbalance of power and the consequence of decades of manipulation, deceit and hypocrisy in Western foreign policy towards the Arab world." Though his analysis of Middle East politics is open to debate, Carr presents an impressive compendium of terrorist violence and government response. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It would be useful to understand the origins of terrorism as a tactic, as well as placing that tactic in its proper historical perspective. Carr, a broadcaster and journalist, certainly has an ambitious goal: tracing the history of modern terrorism from late-nineteenth-century Russia to our present duel with Islamic jihadists. Along the way, he provides often-fascinating accounts of various movements, including the People's Will in Russia, the Mau Mau in Kenya, and the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany. Carr offers some credible explanations for the resort to violence by these groups; most of them seemed outraged by a sense of powerlessness, while motivated by a frightening confidence in their own moral superiority. Unfortunately, in his desire to see common threads linking the past to the present, Carr ignores fundamental differences between various groups. Also, he frequently falls into the trap of "moral equivalency," equating government actions to resist terrorism with terrorism itself. Although Carr has given us some valuable information here, this is hardly the sober, disinterested examination of modern terrorism that our age requires. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Unfortunately too many people would rather lash out in the dark in anger, hate, and ignorance rather than read a book like this.
J Kragt
Descriptions, explanations, and histories of terrorism have been "one-eyed" - lacking depth perception and without perspective to find their way.
L. F Sherman
Destroying the values that make a civilization in order to save it makes for a perverse logic that actually does the terrorists work for them.
azphil

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By L. F Sherman on May 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Descriptions, explanations, and histories of terrorism have been "one-eyed" - lacking depth perception and without perspective to find their way. History has been written by the establishment and terror defined to exclude "state terrorism". Worse still, accounts have covered up actions that have been government provocation and extreme measures that inspired escalation of conflict. Anger, fear, labeling undermine any hope of truth and understanding. Strong simplistic answers meet emotional needs and belief is inversely proportional to facts and analysis.

The very language of reporting misleads and corrupts implying responsibility and guilt. One would not sense that Israel used every method of terror before the Palestinians did excepting suicide bombing, or that civilian deaths of Palestinians have generally been at least six times as high as Israelis. Israel was founded on successful terror and several Prime Ministers were active with the Stern Gang, Irgun, and other elements. The School for the Americas (renamed but not discontinued) has trained thousands of state terrorists in Latin America. The Contras are terrorists too. Carr at least mentions such things, albeit not greatly emphasizing them. That in itself is a great improvement over "politically correct" writing that is more common.

Terrorism is a strategy of the weak, politically driven, identity based, associated with nationalism and sometimes justified by religion. Violent suppression may reinforce a sense of moral justification. Often terrorism eventually works, discredits governments, and conflict is resolved - counter intuitively - by negotiation and compromise.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. J. Kwashnak VINE VOICE on January 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Many of the books to come out in the aftermath of 9/11 tried to look at the new (to Americans) phenomenon of terror attacks in the context of that attack - meaning in terms of a religious only context. Now that some time has passed, Carr brings us the movement of terrorism as a political tool. He does an excellent job providing an overview of the development of terrorism as a continuum from the late19th century Russian movement to try to violently assassinate Alexander II thus bringing down the stardom. He acknowledges that one man's terrorist can be another man's freedom fighter, especially as he wades into more populist terror activities such as in Northern Ireland, and Lebanon. In the work Carr shows the common threads that bind together all the terror movements, be they radical Marxist, Algerian or Argentinean opponents of government or the more modern religious based terrorism of Al-Qaeda or suicide bombings in Israel.

This terrorism is not examined out of context, and Carr spends a lot of time contrasting the terrorists with the responses of established governments in efforts to root out the terrorists, even to the point of adopting terrorist tactics in order to sway public opinion against the terrorists. Some readers may not agree with Carr's dim view of terrorism vs. state military action - how blowing up a civilian building by an individual is terrorist while the strategic bombing of civilian buildings by the military is acceptable. This view may rankle some but to Carr's credit he consistently applies it across the board. Some of the terrorist movements he writes about may to some point be "understandable" to the author, he does not romanticize them. In a world where even a body like the U.N.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By azphil on April 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Carr in this book details that citizens of a nation should have more to fear from the counter terrorism measures their governments take than the terrorism they seek to eradicate. In most of the cases mentioned in the book the military counter measures have killed a hundred, if not a thousand, times more people than the terrorist acts that created the emergency. It is a salutary lesson for us that those who would save our civilization are not only more capable of violent actions, but given their control of the military they are more lethal than the terrorists.

No one espouses that states should not confront violent elements within their realm, however in many cases the cure has been more lethal to the average citizen than the desease.

Destroying the values that make a civilization in order to save it makes for a perverse logic that actually does the terrorists work for them.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Phil on March 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
The "Infernal Machine" is a survey of terrorist activity from anti-Tsarist Russian groups in the latter part of the nineteenth century to the war with Al-Qaeda as of 2006, when the book was published. It provides an informative look at the lesser known terrorists incidents and reactions to them of a hundred years ago, as well as reminding us of the turmoil of the early Arab-Israeli conflicts and the Algerian war, continuing with the brutal guerrilla wars in Latin America, Europe, and to a lesser extent in the United States in the 1960's-70's. The last part of the book concentrates on Palestinian and Islamist terrorist groups from the 1980's to the present day.
Mr. Carr draws several conclusions from the study of all of these groups that may seem startling or unusual to many readers: 1) Whether it is the Russian Tsar in the 1870's or the American President in 2001, the countries suffering terrorist attacks generally present the danger they pose as being a threat to civilization in general. 2) Since the terrorists are seeking to destroy civilization itself, they must be no less than bloodthirsty maniacs, sadistic murderers, or brainwashed individuals completely committed to a totalitarian ideology or an extremist view of religion. 3). Naturally if terrorists are portrayed as being little better than mad dogs, then it follows that nations are justified in using their military forces to track down and kill the killers, or as the saying goes, to "terrorize the terrorists" by using any and all means necessary. .
4) But these characterizations and responses by nations reacting to terrorist attacks are very one-dimensional at best, and may be downright cynical and self-serving at worst.
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