Terrorism Bookshelf: Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Books

Books (Photo credit: vasta)

Vol 6, No 2 (2012)    Selected and reviewed by Joshua Sinai

Terrorist rebellions, in all their configurations, constitute first order national security threats facing the international community. This was especially the case following September 2001, when al Qaida demonstrated that it had world class ambitions to inflict catastrophic damages on its adversaries. Although substantially degraded militarily and geographically dispersed since then, al-Qaida, its affiliates and allies around the world continue to wage their insurgencies, whether localized or transnational. Of great concern is that not only have they succeeded in embedding themselves with terrorist networks that are spearheading internal conflicts in weak and failed states, such as in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, but as an ideological movement they have been able to radicalize new generations of adherents around the world using cyberspace, including social media.

In another development, terrorist targeting in other conflicts, such as the Palestinian-Israeli arena, is primarily localized against Israel, although as demonstrated by Hizballah‘s rocket guerrilla warfare against Israel in their summer 2006 war and Hamas’s firing of rockets against Israel’s southern towns since then, terrorist warfare continues to evolve, for instance, from suicide bombings to firing rockets over great distances. In other conflict zones, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorists are resorting to placing IEDs against their adversaries.

Even counterterrorism campaigns now span the spectrum of latest trends in warfare technology, from deploying specially equipped special operations forces to launching aerial drones that can remotely target terrorist operatives in far-away locations.

Moreover, the Internet has provided terrorist groups and their supporters a new virtual space to conduct activities that were previously restricted to “physical” space, such as radicalization, recruitment, fundraising, and even command and control of operations, thereby enabling them to bypass physical borders where national governments have vastly upgraded their defenses. As a result, the worldwide reach of groups such as al Qaida and its affiliates has led to what are termed “self-starter” home-grown cells in Western Europe, North America, and elsewhere, although foreign terrorist groups still retain some influence over their operations.

To gain an analytical understanding of the origins, magnitude, and evolution of the terrorist threats around the world and how to counteract them, the academic and public policy communities have produced a plethora of books on terrorism in general, the groups that engage in terrorist warfare, the extremist religious movements that drive individuals to join terrorist groups and employ terrorist tactics on their behalf, the conflict zones where such warfare is being waged, and the types of counteractions that governments are employing in response.

The books listed in this review essay are organized into seventeen sections, which are not intended to be mutually exclusive:

(i) encyclopedias and reference resources,

(ii) textbooks and general histories,

(iii) using the social, behavioral, and economic sciences to study terrorism,

(iv) journalistic case studies,

(v) case studies of terrorist groups,

(vi) root causes of terrorism,

(vii) radicalization and recruitment into terrorism,

(viii) funding terrorism,

(ix) suicide terrorism,

(x) international law and terrorism,

(xi) terrorism on the internet,

(xii) terrorism and WMD,

(xiii) counterterrorism,

(xiv) intelligence in counterterrorism,

and, under the general category of resolving terrorist rebellions,

(xv) de-radicalization and disengagement from terrorism,

(xvi) peace negotiations with terrorists, and

(xvii) how terrorist conflicts end.

Within each section, the nominated books are listed in order of their publication date.  Although the most recently published books obviously merit the most attention, the earlier published books still retain sufficient importance for inclusion in the listing. Every effort was made to list the most updated and revised editions of earlier published books.  Also, please note that the prices listed are the publishers’ official prices, with many of the books available for purchase at discounted rates at bookseller sites such as Amazon.com.

In the absence of consensus on the Romanization of Arabic names, the spelling of group names such as al Qaida have been left as published in their original title (e.g., “al Qaeda”), although the reviews spell it as “al Qaida.”

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