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.)
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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 FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved