Sunday, June 10, 2018

The New Terrorism: Myths and Reality (Praeger Security International) by Thomas R. Mockaitis (Praeger)

Praise: This is an excellent book for those who want to understand most of the arguments surrounding the United States' "Global War on Terror". As the historian of counterinsurgency warfare writes, his goal in the text is to "put contemporary terrorism in historical and global perspective, to look for patterns and trends within the phenomenon, to assess vulnerabilities and risks, and to examine the U.S. response to the threat" (127). Considering that the book is only 129 pages long, Professor Mockaitis does a surprising job of accomplishing his broad goals. Readers will hear a balanced account of the arguments made in favor of a robust military response to terrorism as well as his intelligent responses. Any lay reader should be able to pick up this book without fear of social science jargon or undefined technical terms.

Criticism: Readers will find this edition of the book sadly contains more than the average amount of typos and thus I recommend waiting for the Stanford edition to purchase this book. Additionally, I found that Mockaitis periodically resorts to some odd tactics to ensure his audience of his objectivity. Specifically, he criticizes the view that US foreign policy has unintended consequences. In order to do this he goes to the weakest source possible, Ward Churchill's response to 9/11 as a case of the "chickens coming home to roost." This appears, on the face of it, to be a rather weak argument, especially since Mockaitis concludes with a more sophisticated and less offensive version of the same argument: "Al-Qaeda targeted the United States only when the organization became convinced that it could not achieve its goals without forcing the United States out of the Middle East. We have been attacked not because we are the enemy but because we are in the way" (128). Given this author's otherwise unvarnished account of US policy and the "Global War on Terror", I can only conclude that such machinations are more symptomatic of the political climate of the United States where academics must "prove" their objectivity by first bashing an already largely discredited source on the political left.

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