Encyclopedia of World Terrorism: 1996-2002.Edited by Frank G. Shanty, Raymond Picquet, and John Lalla; published by M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 800/541-6563 (phone), www.mesharpe.com (Web); two volumes totaling 1,200 pages; $249.
This two-volume Encyclopedia of World Terrorism follows a 1996 effort by the same publisher. Appropriately enough, the work begins with an in-depth review of the 9-11 attacks, including studies of the victims, hijackers, first responders, and media. Two following chapters examine the tragedy's impact on the United States and the world, as well as the U.S. response and the impact on airport security, homeland security, the U.S. economy, and the intelligence community.
The remainder of the first volume covers the worldwide range of terrorists, issues such as ecoterrorism, rogue states, asymmetric warfare, media coverage, and chem-bio agents. Volume two contains an invaluable collection of primary documents, including United Nations resolutions and country-specific terrorism legislation.
Chapters are sensibly organized, and the books include supplements and additions to make the reading smooth and the information digestible. Main points are outlined at the beginning of each chapter. Aiding researchers are appendices and indexes, including a chronology of terrorist events, a dictionary of terrorist groups, and a bibliography.
Unlike many other encyclopedias, this one identifies the author of each chapter and reveals the affiliations of contributors--approximately 70 of them--in the first pages. The listing reveals that while contributors seem to be genuine authorities, nearly all of them are from universities or research institutes. While that isn't a bad thing, it is limiting.
Largely missing from this work, for example, is the perspective of the U.S. government. Consequently, the treatment of U.S. goals and values that led the country to its war on terrorism is lifeless and generally inadequate. At this stage in the war on terrorism, U.S. government players can no longer be considered casual observers; they are insiders whose viewpoints merit equal time with those of the terrorists. Instead, the book offers up colorless accounts of U.S. actions post-9-11, and the result appears to be a one-sided accounts of faults and flaws. A chapter by Condoleezza Rice or another qualified policymaker would have endowed this effort with a more balanced set of perspectives than it now has.
Some authors seem to use their chapters as political polemics. One chapter cites five books that are highly politicized, such as Michael Moore's Stupid White Men...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation. While the author has every right to cite such books, in the absence of countervailing opinion, they undermine the authority of a so-called terrorism encyclopedia.
Worse, as a teller of the terrorism story, this work misses the true gravity of the historic conflict now taking place between liberal democracy and Islamic extremism and the true breadth and depth of the role played by the United States. There is much of value in this exhaustive work, but it is a tale only a little more than half told, and it is just that much poorer because of it.
Reviewer: James T. Dunne is chief of the Research and Information Support Center in the Overseas Security Advisory Council of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. He is a member of ASIS International. The views expressed are his own and should not be interpreted as reflecting those of the U.S. Department of State or any other part of the U.S. government.