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What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  182 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews

“This is at the top of my list for best books on terrorism.”–Jessica Stern, author of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill

How can the most powerful country in the world feel so threatened by an enemy infinitely weaker than we are? How can loving parents and otherwise responsible citizens join terrorist movements? How can anyone possibly believe that the

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Random House (first published January 1st 2006)
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May 28, 2016 Caillean rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
I really wanted to like this book as it's difficult to find a more measured, social science approach to the study of terrorism that is not from a law enforcement "evil doers!" perspective. There were several things I appreciated about the book by Louise Richardson, a Harvard professor born in Ireland with a personal background influenced by the IRA--the way it rather directly answers questions the general audience has "where have terrorists come from" "what is terrorism" "Why do terrorists kill ...more
Jul 06, 2008 Latharia rated it it was amazing
I was actually highly impressed with this book, and that's strong praise considering it's one that typically I would not seek out. I would have to say my understanding of terrorism has expanded by a factor of 5, thanks to this book, both from a psychological and a political perspective. I found it a thoughtful read, and noticed, in the wake of reading it, that much of the world's news makes even more sense to me. I wish I had better words to describe my reaction, but this type of book is so far ...more
Aries Poon
Jul 19, 2015 Aries Poon rated it it was amazing
This is why an informed view of extremism, especially among ordinary citizens like you and me, is key to make this world a safer and better place for us and our future generations.

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 attend
Jan 30, 2015 Janp rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
It took me a while to get through this book, mainly because of the high information density. Just over 300 pages but highly compact and very informative. Filled with numerous examples of terrorism in the past, this book appealed to me when the Charlie Hebdo incident occured in Paris. On the same day the twelve people got killed by terrorist, there probably died more people in car accidents in Paris alone... And yet these deaths cause so much more anger, fear and revolt.

Richardson describes clea
Jerry Vanvactor, DHA
Exceptional book! I was impressed by the academic approach to a very volatile topic of which few people are truly informed. This book provides a historical perspective tied to the "why" of our contemporary experiences. Richardson provides a rare approach to this subject by asking the reader to consider terrorism through an array of lenses. By asking readers to place themselves in the shoes of those we are so often told are "pure evil" allows one a chance to see that "they" are humans too and are ...more
Nov 10, 2015 Conor rated it it was amazing
This book is a wonderfully clear-headed, sensible account of what motivates terrorists, how they operate, and what does and does not work in combating them. Richardson is an academic but this book is not difficult to read. In fact, her academic background makes her the perfect person to address this subject - she seemingly has no interest in American partisan politics and doesn't waste pages criticizing the political left or right. She gets straight to the heart of the matter and stays there.

Sep 01, 2010 Kelly rated it really liked it
"What Terrorists Want" provides a valuable academic perspective on the history and anatomy of terrorism as a social, political and military phenomenon. Relatively free of ideological posturing, Louise Richardson's analysis cites examples of terrorists movements from the middle ages through the Iraq War, across a variety of religious (and secular) traditions, and draws thereby a host of salient conclusions about the prominent motivations behind terrorist action. Along the way, she handily refutes ...more
Jan 25, 2013 Ivo rated it really liked it
A very comprehensive book, which shows terrorism in all its basic forms. It's a really good primer for everyone who wants to know more about terrorism than the media and government officials offer. The author was born in Northern Ireland, a background which she uses strikingly and convincingly to approach terrorists as being more human than the 'madman' image that is usually drawn. On the other hand, she has the courage to consider groups that usually have drawn sympathy from the Western world, ...more
Aug 07, 2016 Klahteine rated it it was amazing
Fantastic, succinct and thoroughly engaging.
Dec 13, 2013 Jenn rated it liked it
Shelves: terrorism
I felt that although this topic was new for me to study it opened my eyes into what Terrorists are thinking, how they operate, and what the country needs to do in their counter-terrorism policies. There were many groups I had never before heard of but grew accustomed to through the readings.

I would recommend this text to someone studying similar course material. Richardson makes strong points and backs her theories up with examples from past experiences.
Jan 31, 2008 Nick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: international
This amazingly brief compendium of what we know about terrorists and terrorism ends with a to my mind very accurate critique of U.S. policies and actions to address terrorism since September 2001 and then a set of six rules and suggestions to more effectively handle terrorism. Dr. Richardson writes in a fluent style, has been researching and analyzing terrorism for a long time, and is clear about her biases. Highly recommended.
Jun 09, 2009 Nocheevo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
A very well crafted discussion on the root causes of terrorism (well the causes that makes an organisation choose the tactic of terrorism). Part I covers the causes using a variety of historical examples and Part II is, as the subtitle says, how to contain the threat. This second part may prove unpalatable to those raised on Die Hard films.

Now to get key individuals in politics and the military to read this.
Apr 17, 2011 Heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I thought it would do any good, I would say that every member of U.S. defense personnel, every policymaker, and every voter should read this book. It's extremely well-researched and organized, and represents a healthy dose of common sense into this arena. If you care about our country's policies on international relations, terrorism, and security, then read this and take heart.
Rebecca Radnor
Small readable paperback that does a really good job of explaining what terrorism is, its historical development, and who terrorists actually tend to be (and its not who you think most of the time). Was assigned it by a professor who who was in the Israeli Army and currently works for the department of Homeland defense when he's not teaching.
Sibella Giorello
Mar 19, 2010 Sibella Giorello rated it really liked it
Terrific compendium view of the enemy freedom faces -- by a writer who grew up praying to the martyrs of Ireland's Easter uprising. Richardson catches all the duality and multifaceted aspects of modern war on terror. And she is a lovely writer.
Jim Talbott
This is a fantastic summary of how other societies have effectively managed their terrorist threats based on a realistic understanding terrorist motivations, methods, and support systems. Needless to say, we've been a disaster to date.
Oct 04, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it
Excellent framing of issues for further thought and discussion. It is also very readable. I'm not sure I buy the author's conclusions and I would have appreciated seeing more sources.
Dec 17, 2007 Jody rated it it was ok
I would recommend the last three chapters of this book. The rest was a bit dry and difficult to read.
Jun 07, 2007 Kyle rated it liked it
Still early on, but a lucid investigation thus far. Not for the Giuliani crowd.
Apr 17, 2011 Brandy rated it really liked it
A must read for anyone interested in studying terrorism.
Jul 13, 2009 Jennifer marked it as to-read
Just started. So far it's well written and accessible.
Jul 16, 2010 Charles rated it liked it
Enjoyed exploring the topic, if a bit dry.
Mar 07, 2010 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, compelling, and fascinating.
Christian Krüger
Sehr gut.
Gene Taylor
Gene Taylor marked it as to-read
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Sep 12, 2016
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