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What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400064813
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400064816
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Richardson, executive dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, set out to write a single-volume, nonpartisan explanation of "terrorism in all its complexity." Her reach, however, exceeds her grasp in an evaluation that leans more on theory than practice and is unrelenting in its attack on current policy. In fact, she's certain that the war on terrorism cannot be won and advises that we limit ourselves to "containing the threat." Richardson (When Allies Differ) follows two converging threads: Part I seeks to demystify terrorism; Part II outlines a proper response to the terrorist threat. There is much valuable information, but Richardson is too quick to dismiss or oversimplify issues: "there is no single cause of terrorism"; "efforts to produce a terrorist profile have invariably failed"; and trying to isolate economic causes is "complicated." The author insists that "terrorists are human beings who think like we do," but then dismisses Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as "a deranged extremist." In Part II, Richardson dissects U.S. policy since 9/11 and judges it a disaster. The litany of failures is familiar if one-sided: the terrorist threat has been exaggerated, allies alienated, "liberal democratic values" abandoned. Still, Richardson's policy prescriptions, which mirror her criticisms of current policy, deserve a hearing. (Sept. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Richardson grew up immersed in the troubles of Northern Ireland, and her academic research in "terrorism studies" has been fueled in part by proximity to her research subjects and independence from governmental counterterrorism efforts. With this book, she joins the chorus of commentators criticizing the current administration's "war on terror." Eradicating each terrorist movement, she argues, cannot defeat terrorism; however, it can be contained by measures that appreciate the factors driving terrorists and aim to deprive them of what they want. What terrorists want, according to Richardson, is the "three Rs"--revenge (for perceived injustices), renown (the attention of the world), and reaction (disproportionate enough to perpetuate a sense of moral outrage). Although her policy prescriptions are essentially similar to those of many commentators critical of current efforts, her arguments for such methods are studded with historical examples, including many that may be new to readers new to the topic. This book may lead readers to The Roots of Terrorism, a forthcoming three-volume opus edited by Richardson. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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As Richardson shows, we cannot defeat terrorism just by trying to smash every terrorist movement.
William Podmore
This book should be on the reading list of every politician, law enforcement people and anyone interested in the future of this country.
H. D. Renshaw
Throughout, the writing style is clear, the examples effective, and the author's knowledge of the topic very comprehensive.
Gerard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on November 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Without passion, Louise Richardson presents a factual and in-depth study of what makes terrorists and terrorism exist. Unlike a great many pundits who think they know what terrorism is, this author speaks with authority.

First of all, she contends that you cannot have a war on terror. To her, it is a war on a tactic, a fear that is a war on an emotion. She insists that you cannot wage a war on either. As long as anyone can commit a terrorist act, it debunks any contention that such a war is being won.

The author declares that terrorists seek three essential elements to their acts: revenge, renown, and reaction. In the destruction of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA, they achieved all three. Richardson explains that all terrorists and their organizations seek revenge for a humiliation or defeats real, imagined, and unknown to us. By declaring a "War on Terrorism and al-Qaeda we provided them with renown. By pursuing a war in Afghanistan and Iraq and by giving them Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo we gave them a reaction beyond their wildest dreams. "by using the extreme language of conviction that bin Laden uses, by declaring war, even a crusade, against him in response to his war against us, we are mirroring his actions. We are playing into his hands...elevating his stature...permitting him to set the terms of our interactions."

For terrorism to succeed, terrorists require personal dissatisfaction, an enabling society and legitimizing ideology. Their personal dissatisfaction comes from our support of Israel beating them time and again with US built weapons, killing of their civilians, and occupation of their lands. According to Richardson, being the only superpower and having the most influence in the world, also incurs their enmity.
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62 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is without question one of a handful of books that must be read by anyone who is serious about neutralizing terrorism as a tactic, avoiding the incitement of more terrorism, and acting professionally and morally around the globe. Sadly, that does not include the neo-conservatives who substitute dogma for reality, and war profiteering for peacemaking.

Unlike Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism by Professor Robert Pape, which I highly recommend as a complement to this book, the author here has written a definitive history, a rational appreciation, and ends with six specific recommendations, each of which has been gleefully and ignorantly violated by the current Administration, which now declares Bin Laden to be "irrelevant" and continues to cover up the fact that Rumsfeld authorized the Pakistanis to fly 3000 Al Qaeda out of Tora Bora, and Rumsfeld refused to order a Ranger battalion in to capture Bin Laden during the four days that CIA has "eyes on" and tracked him to the border (see my reviews of Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander and First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan).
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William E. Fraser on January 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent book by someone who has studied terrorism since long before 9/11.

Starting with a deep understanding of how terrorist groups form and why people join them, she works her way to advice on crafting policy (For example, rather than determining whether a given policy is hard on terrorism or soft on terrorism, she recommends asking "Is it effective? And at what cost?") culminating with a list of six "rules for combatting terrorism".

A must read for anyone who wants to advocate for change!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By W. D. Slawson on January 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The author seems to know her subject very well and to have reached well-considered judgments on it, although the book is repititous and sometimes awkwardly written.
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By Robert on December 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
Excellent framing of issues surrounding the causes and sources of terrorism for further thought and discussion. It is also a very readable text. However, I'm not sure I buy the author's conclusions and I would have appreciated seeing more sources referenced.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Long before most of us were thinking about this subject, the author was thinking very deeply indeed about it. Slogans and chest-thumping are behaviors suitable for a gorilla who thinks his command of the high ground is threatened, political leaders ought to be in cognitive engagement with what might actually reduce the threat.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I remember debating back in 2001 how best to handle 9/11. I wish this book were around then...or that the Bush Administration had consulted with the author.

The book is a thoughtful and though-provoking book as to how we should be handling the threat of terrorism.
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