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What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat Paperback – November 13, 2007
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Louise Richardson, now an expert in terrorism, grew up in rural Ireland in the 1960s “with a passionate hatred of England”.
In “What Terrorists Want”, a primer on the subject, Dr. Richardson started the discussion with a reminiscence about her adolescence when many of her friends joined the IRA. She herself also attended meetings and discussions, but didn’t join the terrorist group at the end, as she “had concluded that killing people was not the right way to advance the cause of reuniting Ireland.”
“Those who did join were like me in almost every respect. They were young idealists wanting to do their part for their country as their forebears had (or as they thought their forebears had). They were motivated by a desire to right wrongs and to do their best for a noble cause. They knew that they were likely to suffer personally from their decisions. They justified the use of force on the grounds that it was the only way to make progress toward the legitimate goals they sought,” she wrote.
Throughout years of research at Trinity College and Harvard, she dug out documents and other evidence about terrorist groups and their activities. She also interviewed people who were and ARE from those groups.
Dr. Richardson’s background and painstaking research render this book a very compelling read. She said our “complicit society”, where economic and political inequality is pervasive, could be a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists. That was when I felt this book is a must-read for all of us. Also, interaction with a subject is the first step toward dispelling the fear of it.
The book is a thoughtful and though-provoking book as to how we should be handling the threat of terrorism.