James's Reviews > Understanding Terror Networks

Understanding Terror Networks by Marc Sageman
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This book is authoritative and well-organized, but the author gave it a misleading title. It should be "Understanding the Global Salafi Islamic Terror Network." Unfortunately, although Dr. Sageman mentions some other terrorist groups, such the the IRA, the Rote Army Faction, and the Italian Red Brigades, that's all he does - mention them. In the entire book he gives less than ten pages to groups other than the Salafists, mainly Al Qaeda. This is important and useful, but other groups are very different in their motivations, organizations, and methods, and when I bought the book I expected coverage of them too.
The most intriguing aspect of this book, for me, came near the end when the author was profiling the simplistic, black-and-white, us-and-them Manichean mindset prevalent among these fundamentalist terrorists, leading them to see everything as a titanic struggle of good versus evil (with themselves on the side of good, of course), blinding them to nuance and making it easy to rationalize any means to serve their ends. The striking thing was the degree to which they are precisely mirrored by the right-wing Christian and Zionist radicals often called Dominionists, one of whom was unmistakeably former president George W. Bush. Although the radicals don't speak for the majority in any of these three faiths, Islam, Christianity, or Judaism, they're a threat to civilization in all three cases due to the destructive power modern technology makes available to small groups of determined people.
I would like to see an author with Dr. Sageman's experience and qualifications write a book that applies this quality of analysis to the gamut of terrorist networks instead of one subtype.

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