In this original and provocative book, Nahed Artoul Zehr explores the theological underpinnings of al-Qaeda and related Islamic movements such as ISIS. She demonstrates how this marginal narrative transformed al-Qaeda from a relatively hierarchical and regional organization to a globalized, decentralized, and diffuse system of networks. She draws connections between religious ideas and strategy in her translation and analysis of leading theoretical and tactical jihad text, The Global Islamic Resistance Call, by Mustafa abu Mus’ ab al-Suri.
Just as importantly, she questions al-Qaeda’s understanding of the Islamic tradition on the use of force, arguing that it reflects a weak understanding of this tradition. More specifically, it is al-Qaeda’s (and related groups’) break with this tradition that is key to an al-Qaeda defeat.
Simultaneously, Zehr critiques the US military and policy establishment as it attempts to offer counter-narratives to the al-Qaeda phenomenon that emphasizes “good Muslims” versus “bad Muslims” in order to embrace a “moderate” form of Islam. According to Zehr, this approach is misguided: it is beyond the US government’s purview and expertise to make such theological claims about Islam. Better, she argues, to note the counter-narratives that are coming from within the Muslim community and other nongovernment institutions interested in moving this work forward.
By refocusing our attention on al-Qaeda’s narrative and the various ways thatit is being contested, the book provides an alternate lens from which to viewal-Qaeda and the al-Qaeda phenomenon for Islamic and US foreign policy scholars and students.
Why do some individuals engage in political violence in Yemen, while others do not? We examine the role that social, political, and economic factors play on individual behavior toward violence in the midst of Yemen’s bloody and multiyear civil war. We use a unique national survey conducted in Yemen in 2016 to better understand why Yemenis may reject political violence despite persistent conflict and civil unrest across the country.
Who Owns the Dead?
Jay D. Aronson Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress RA1055.A76 2015 | Dewey Decimal 614.17
After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch proclaimed that his staff would do more than confirm the victims’ identity. They would attempt to return to families every human body part larger than a thumbnail. As Jay D. Aronson shows, delivering on that promise proved to be a monumentally difficult task.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government adopted a series of counterterrorism policies that radically altered the prevailing balance between civil liberties and security. These changes allowed for warrantless domestic surveillance, military commissions at Guantanamo Bay and even extralegal assassinations. Now, more than a decade after 9/11, these sharply contested measures appear poised to become lasting features of American government. What do Americans think about these policies? Where do they draw the line on what the government is allowed to do in the name of fighting terrorism? Drawing from a wealth of survey and experimental data, Whose Rights? explores the underlying sources of public attitudes toward the war on terror in a more detailed and comprehensive manner than has ever been attempted. In an analysis that deftly deploys the tools of political science and psychology, Whose Rights? addresses a vexing puzzle: Why does the counterterrorism agenda persist even as 9/11 recedes in time and the threat from Al Qaeda wanes? Authors Clem Brooks and Jeff Manza provocatively argue that American opinion, despite traditionally showing strong support for civil liberties, exhibits a “dark side” that tolerates illiberal policies in the face of a threat. Surveillance of American citizens, heightened airport security, the Patriot Act and targeted assassinations enjoy broad support among Americans, and these preferences have remained largely stable over the past decade. There are, however, important variations: Waterboarding and torture receive notably low levels of support, and counterterrorism activities sanctioned by formal legislation, as opposed to covert operations, tend to draw more favor. To better evaluate these trends, Whose Rights? examines the concept of “threat-priming” and finds that getting people to think about the specter of terrorism bolsters anew their willingness to support coercive measures. A series of experimental surveys also yields fascinating insight into the impact of national identity cues. When respondents are primed to think that American citizens would be targeted by harsh counterterrorism policies, support declines significantly. On the other hand, groups such as Muslims, foreigners, and people of Middle Eastern background elicit particularly negative attitudes and increase support for counterterrorism measures. Under the right conditions, Brooks and Manza show, American support for counterterrorism activities can be propelled upward by simple reminders of past terrorism plots and communication about disliked external groups. Whose Rights? convincingly argues that mass opinion plays a central role in the politics of contemporary counterterrorism policy. With their clarity and compelling evidence, Brooks and Manza offer much-needed insight into the policy responses to the defining conflict of our age and the psychological impact of terrorism.
Besides being cruel and inhumane, torture does not work the way torturers assume it does. As Shane O’Mara’s account of the neuroscience of suffering reveals, extreme stress creates profound problems for memory, mood, and thinking, and sufferers predictably produce information that is deeply unreliable, or even counterproductive and dangerous.
Al Qaeda detonates a nuclear weapon in Times Square during rush hour, wiping out half of Manhattan and killing 500,000 people. A virulent strain of bird flu jumps to humans in Thailand, sweeps across Asia, and claims more than fifty million lives. A single freight car of chlorine derails on the outskirts of Los Angeles, spilling its contents and killing seven million. An asteroid ten kilometers wide slams into the Atlantic Ocean, unleashing a tsunami that renders life on the planet as we know it extinct.
We consider the few who live in fear of such scenarios to be alarmist or even paranoid. But Worst Cases shows that such individuals—like Cassandra foreseeing the fall of Troy—are more reasonable and prescient than you might think. In this book, Lee Clarke surveys the full range of possible catastrophes that animate and dominate the popular imagination, from toxic spills and terrorism to plane crashes and pandemics. Along the way, he explores how the ubiquity of worst cases in everyday life has rendered them ordinary and mundane: very real threats like a killer flu or an American Hiroshima have become so common that they have lost their ability to shock us. Fear and dread, Clarke argues, have actually become too rare: only when the public has more substantial information and more credible warnings will it take worst cases as seriously as it should.
A timely and necessary look into how we think about the unthinkable, Worst Cases will be must reading for anyone attuned to our current climate of threat and fear.
Cass R Sunstein Harvard University Press, 2007 Library of Congress HM1101.S864 2007 | Dewey Decimal 320.60973
Nuclear bombs in suitcases, anthrax bacilli in ventilators, tsunamis and meteors, avian flu, scorchingly hot temperatures: nightmares that were once the plot of Hollywood movies are now frighteningly real possibilities. Sunstein explores these and other worst-case scenarios and how we might best prevent them in this vivid, illuminating, and highly original analysis.
Written in Blood offers a fundamentally new interpretation of the emergence of modern terrorism, arguing that it formed in the Russian literary imagination well before any shot was fired or bomb exploded. In March 1881, Russia stunned the world when a small band of revolutionaries calling themselves "terrorists" assassinated the Tsar-Liberator, Alexander II. Horrified Russians blamed the influence of European political and social ideas, while shocked Europeans perceived something new and distinctly Russian in a strategy of political violence that became known the world over as "terrorism" or "the Russian method."
Lynn Ellen Patyk contends that the prototype for the terrorist was the Russian writer, whose seditious word was interpreted as an audacious deed—and a violent assault on autocratic authority. The interplay and interchangeability of word and deed, Patyk argues, laid the semiotic groundwork for the symbolic act of violence at the center of revolutionary terrorism. While demonstrating how literary culture fostered the ethos, pathos, and image of the revolutionary terrorist and terrorism, she spotlights Fyodor Dostoevsky and his "terrorism trilogy"—Crime and Punishment (1866), Demons (1870–73), and The Brothers Karamazov (1878–80)—as novels that uniquely illuminate terrorism's methods and trajectory. Deftly combining riveting historical narrative with penetrating literary analysis of major and minor works, Patyk's groundbreaking book reveals the power of the word to spawn deeds and the power of literature to usher new realities into the world.