TERRORISM by Walter Laqueur


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Like its predecessor, Guerrilla (1976), this study presents a series of brief historical summaries centering around the 1800s plus a rather equivocal appraisal of the subject. Laqueur underscores the terrorist phenomenon as something neither new (a sect of the original Old Testament Zealots sabotaged Jerusalem's water supply) nor essentially political, but rather a chronic resort of the frustrated to ""action."" Most terrorists are young, often students or declasses, at least 25 percent women; before WW I they tended to be nationalists like the Russian Narodnaya Volya or anarchists like Laqueur's favorite, Johann Most, an exemplar of ""propaganda by the deed"" who developed his explosives expertise in mid-19th-century America. Laqueur derides the notion that terrorists are simply responding to injustice, then invokes it to soften his judgment of Herr Most's ""absurd and self-defeating hyper-radicalism."" A further inconsistency comes when Laqueur fails to contend with allegations that 19th-century terrorists were agents of the police or established political factions, yet presents latter-day terrorists as largely financed by the Soviets, Cubans, or Arabs. When it relies on a ""frustration"" theory of terrorism, the book suggests, as do the historical vignettes, that terrorism is correlated with autocracy and oppression. Laqueur concludes nonetheless that democracies engender the greatest terrorism because liberties can be exploited. Terrorism is not growing at present, however, despite press magnification. In future, left-wing terror may be matched from the right and restrictions on freedom will have to be imposed. This volume has greater chronological scope than Yonah Alexander's International Terrorism (1976) anthology or J. Bowyer Bell's fuller Transnational Terrorism (1975) case studies, and gives less sociological weight and credence to the incendiaries than did Edward Hyams' Terrorists and Terror (1975). An encyclopedic-entry roundup combined with dubious generalizations.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Little, Brown