Anybody who thinks Eric Robert Rudolph has nothing in common with Osama bin Laden needs to spend time with Terror in the Name of God.
Stern, a former terrorism specialist at the National Security Council and the Council on Foreign Relations, now teaches a course on terrorism at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. But it’s her willingness to present herself in the tent—or, more often, the cell—of some of the world’s most feared and reviled killers that confers authenticity. The author spent five years interviewing Christian, Jewish, and Muslim extremists in sites ranging from a Texas trailer park to Pakistani prisons reserved for those who have achieved Hannibal Lecter status. And when a Jewish woman asks a Hamas leader face to face why he does it, the result is definitely a Silence of the Lambs moment, only more chilling. Are they deranged? Most, says Stern, are probably not, but they have been conditioned, even transformed, into people whose “dual killer self” carries the holy conviction that the world can be made better, and God’s will be done, through terror and murder. Root cause? Not one, the author asserts, but a typical complex of repression, poverty, and alienation, often acting in concert with a desire to simplify one’s life in a hopelessly complicated world. In the case of the Palestinians, she notes, “It is not just the violence; it is the pernicious effect of repeated humiliations that add up to a feeling of nearly unbearable despair.” Stern’s supporting details have their own fascination: for instance, Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers are probably the world’s best organized modern terrorist group, having killed more people by thousands (including two heads of state) than any other. She also correlates the rise of terrorism in Indonesia, culminating in the recent Bali bombing, directly with its 1997 financial crisis.
Emphatic case for understanding terrorists in order to defeat them.