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Breaking al-Qaeda: Psychological and Operational Techniques Paperback – August 2, 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Review

... there is a need for a very hands-on, up-close, and personal engagement to dislodge the radical Islamist ideology once it takes root. Dr. Mastors' work fills this gap between the psychological and tactical approaches to defeat Al-Qaeda. Her experiences, as an intelligence operator and conducting field research to interview those who were compelled to turn away from political terrorism, well position her to offer insight and practical guidance to defeat the radical ideology. This book serves to educate those on the front line, as well as strategic planners and thinkers on the subject of Breaking Al-Qaeda.-Colonel Jennifer L. Hesterman, United States Air Force (retired) and author of The Terrorist-Criminal Nexus: An Alliance of International Drug Cartels, Organized Crime, and Terror Groups

About the Author

Elena Mastors is currently the Program Director for Intelligence and National Security Studies at APUS. Previous to this she was an Associate Professor of National Security at the Naval War College. She also held various senior intelligence and policy positions in the Defense Department. She received her Ph.D. in political science from Washington State University. Her research interests are focused on understanding leaders and group dynamics as it pertains to armed groups. She is the author of the Lesser Jihad: Recruits and the al-Qaida Network and Introduction to Political Psychology.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451530994
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451530995
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,551,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most poorly put together books that I have ever read. It is about 90 percent direct quotations from other sources with 10 percent shallow insight filling in the gaps. It appears to be self-edited and self-published which makes the book hard to look at. This is the product of wanting to publish a book without the knowledge to back it up.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm pretty scared after reading this book. Why? I read a book by an author well noted as a thought leader on the subject of breaking Al-Qaeda, and I come away thinking I didn't learn much of ANYTHING, and that MY thoughts weren't even led on the subject- that's pretty scary. At the end she implores that Americans need to wake up from our post-911 slumber. OK, sure, but let me tell you, this book won't do it. If you can't convince me - of anything - in this book- well, that's kinda scary.

I am just an interested lay person on the subject, but mostly this book only convinced me of the short-comings of America's actions in fighting the war on terror. The torture, the psychological studies that HURT people- anyone that's ever given a passing NOD to conspiracy forums will already be familiar with all these things. Oh, the book documents the history of Al-Qaeda well enough, even if the author is selective and leaves a lot out. It meanders from the history of radical terrorist groups right into the threat of everyday people joining the terrorists (homegrown terrorism).

I found it interesting that she talks about how no one particular group really is likely to join the extremists. Ok, she says, they do all tend to be MEN. What about their psychological traits? Huh? While she lays out nice charts full of potential motivations and goals, she largely ignores behavioral traits like superstitiousness, gullibility, and sexism. How meritocratic are these networks? What gives merit? Oops, not touched. Oh, I could probably write a book in rebuttal, and I don't have ten thousand degrees in national security and intelligence.
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A required text for one of my classes, this particular book is poorly written, lacking in both content and technical competency. The ideas on how to "break" al-Qaeda are often incoherent, unimaginative at best, and counterproductive at worst. I would cite specific passages, but I got rid of this as soon as I could. Even the essay I had to write on the book was critical of it. Originally, I had mistakenly ordered "How To Break A Terrorist" by Matthew Alexander, which is a far better, far more interesting book than this. Even if you can't avoid it, I don't recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Breaking-Al-Qaeda is a $60.00 text book published by CRC Press which publishes scientific, technical and medical books for professionals and students. Author, Elena Mastors is Dean of the School of Security and Global Studies at American Military University, an online University.

This extensively researched academic text will not appeal to the casual reader who may find it dry and dull. The book suffers from lack of editorial discipline and is bogged down by an excess of words. The author uses whole paragraphs when a sentence or two would suffice. Concepts take a plethora of complicated and convoluted chapters to develop and main points are diluted by too much information.

Dr. Mastors editorializes from the start. The book begins with a judgmental and arrogant posture in which she criticizes Americans for not facing reality and who, "...do not take interest in anything outside their little slice of life." She says many Americans watch television news to keep up, and if it is not a "quick blip," it will not hold their attention.

This made me initially wonder for whom this book was written.

The author states the damage done by Edward Snowden to the National Security Agency is irreparable yet she does not address the damage done to Americans' privacy BY the NSA.

There's a discussion about whether or not terrorists are sociopaths who are attracted to violence. The author cites the ideas of Sigmund Freud, Albert Bandura, Fathali Moghaddam, Simon Cottee and Keith Hayward and others who have different ideas about the development and motivation of the terrorist mentality. There's an interesting chart which gives personal, social, economic, and political motivations which may impact the creation of a terrorist.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I requested this book to gain some insight into the endless war the United States has been engaged in for the entire 21st and a good piece of the 20th centuries. It failed to give me anything significant but it may do better for you.

The book's strong point is history of individuals and groups. While the book did offer quite a bit of detail on some AL-Queda officers' lives and also the source of some of their hatred of the US (family deaths), that doesn't help me as a citizen make anything out of what we're dealing with here. At one point, during the discussion of Usama bin Laden, I thought we were on to something. The author goes into some detail about bin Laden as a US ally during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. I was aware of this but wanted to hear some information on how he went from an ally to a sworn enemy. The author devotes one single sentence to this conversion saying something like, "Unfortunately he then turned against the US." (that's a paraphrase). One sentence to how an ally of the US went on to become the engineer of 9/11.

Really? That's all to be said for it?

I had high hopes for another chapter dealing with the psychology of a terrorist. What would cause a healthy man in his 20's to fly a suicide mission? Here the chapter is even more muddled than usual. We start off with some Freudian this or that including an episode where a famous terrorist's mommy once failed to drive him to take a major school test and a few other anecdotes such as French children teasing young Arabs about eating pork. I learned utterly nothing about the mind of a suicide bomber or terrorist.

The author skips around it but I'll state my view. A person will suicide under three conditions. First, he is convinced doing so will grant him eternal heaven.
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