***** Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Understanding the New Security Environment, Readings and Interpretations. By Russell D. Howard and Reid L. Sawyer; published by McGraw-Hill, www.mcgraw-hill.com (Web); 624 pages; $42.50.
Terrorism is much written and talked about, and everyone has their own view of how the fight should be waged. Regardless of how you view the West’s current approach to countering terrorism, you will be challenged by this text.
Careful, thought-provoking analysis runs throughout this series of essays, divided into two sections. The first deals with terrorism as a concept and, for the most part, wisely stays away from particular terrorist groups. The second section focuses almost exclusively on al Qaeda, including analysis of the U.S.-led “war on terror,” warts and all.
There is considerable discussion of the theoretical underpinnings of terrorism, such as globalization, politics, and religion. The collection gives much attention to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, but several essays discuss the overall concept of terrorism and do not focus on any one organization.
While only five of the essays are original to this edition, reprinting does not detract from the others, which originally appeared in such diverse publications as Columbia University Press, International Security, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Washington Quarterly. This eclectic approach is constructive, since critical thinking about terrorism requires that we view the issue from as many perspectives as possible.
On the downside, the book’s essays are written almost exclusively for a U.S. audience. For example, one contributor states that 3,000 to 4,000 people, “nearly all American citizens,” perished on 9-11. That is one way of looking at it. Another way is to consider that many victims came from dozens of other countries.
This is an outstanding work, with minor deficiencies that do not detract from the whole. It presents different points of view in a well-thought-out and meaningful dialogue, useful to any security professional concerned with the underpinnings of terrorism and the fight against it.
Reviewer: Glen Kitteringham, CPP, oversees security in several commercial high-rise properties in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. He is a member of the ASIS International Council on Commercial Real Estate and an assistant regional vice president for Canada.