An expert on terrorism and an expert on counterterrorism answer the two questions everyone is asking about the rise of terrorism today: why is this happening, and when will it end?
Since the death of bin Laden in 2011, ISIS has risen, al-Qaeda has expanded its reach, and right-wing extremists have surged in the United States for the same simple reason: terrorism works. It’s not caused by psychosis or irrationality, as the media often suggests. Instead, it’s terrifyingly logical. Violent acts produce political results.
To show why, Walter Laqueur and Christopher Wall explore the history, rationales and precepts of terrorism, from the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, through the terror campaigns by Irish and Indian nationalists, and to the Nazis and Italian Fascists.
To explain why terror is on the rise again, they show how the American invasion of Iraq created the conditions for the emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, part of which metastasized into ISIS, while Russia’s increasing intervention in Syria allowed both of the organizations to evolve.
The Future of Terrorism brings reason to a topic usually ruled by fear. Laqueur and Wall show the structural features behind contemporary terrorism: how bad governance abets terror; the link between poverty and terrorism; why religious terrorism is more dangerous than secular; and the nature of supposed “lone wolf” terrorists. Fear alone provides no tools to combat the future of terrorism. This book does.
Historian Laqueur and Wall, a counterterrorism instructor for the Navy, adeptly connect terrorism's current Islamist incarnations with secular, socialist forebears that plagued Russia and Europe in centuries past. A brief, fast-paced historical overview leads to probing and provocative ruminations on the multifarious factors that draw young men toward violence in the service of an ideology: "all manifestations of terrorism," the authors opine, "are connected with the rise of democracy and nationalism." Though ISIS has surpassed al-Qaeda in recent years, the authors contend that the latter remains more dangerous in the long term, as it has consolidated its resources and broadened its networks while lulling the world into the false belief that it is obsolete. The authors also highlight how, in the U.S., where far-right violence is much more common than Islamist violence, terrorism retains the ability to spark vast overreactions and abandonment of liberal values less often seen in Europe; they point out, for example, that, following the Boston Marathon bombing, constitutional protections were suspended and the entire state of Massachusetts was put on lockdown, though the death toll was small compared to that of the attacks in Paris two years later, to which the response was much less extreme. The authors' nuanced perspective on a complex phenomenon will appeal to readers interested in what lies beyond the headlines.