Terrorism is one of the most significant security threats that we face in the twenty-first century. Not surprisingly, there is now a plethora of books on the subject, offering definitions of what terrorism is and proffering advice on what causes it and how states should react to it.
But one of the most important questions about terrorism has, until now, been left remarkably under-scrutinized: does it work? Richard English now brings thirty years of professional expertise studying terrorism to the task of answering this complex--and controversial--question.
Focussing principally on four of the most significant terrorist organizations of the last fifty years (al-Qaida, the Provisional IRA, Hamas, and ETA), and using a wealth of interview material with former terrorists as well as those involved in counter-terrorism, he argues that we need a far more honest understanding of the degree to which terrorism actually works--as well as a more nuanced insight into the precise ways in which it does so.
Only then can we begin to grapple more effectively with what has become one of the most challenging and eye-catching issues of our time.
[An] absorbing attempt to answer a difficult question: does terrorism work? The author admits some people might struggle with daring even to ask whether terror works. He carefully sets out his criteria [...] insisting there can be no simple answer given the overwhelming complexities involved. Yet that does not make his work less valid. * Ian Birrell, Observer *
... his disinterested approach allows the author to avoid the polemicism that clouds many accounts of this question. Indeed, his clear-eyed treatment of a fraught subject is one of the book's principal strengths. * Wall Street Journal *
A thought-provoking, scholarly study. * Brian Maye, Irish Times *
A valuable resource for scholars ... as English suggests, we need to ask for whom terrorism works, and why. * John Gray, New Statesman *
A very interesting book. He devotes a chapter each to al-Qaida, the Provisional IRA, Hamas and the Basque separatist group ETA. For each of the four groups, English patiently creates an itemised report card of success, partial success or failure with respect to the groups overall objectives and also its subsidiary instrumental aims. The detailed information is both interesting and valuable, but some broader themes emerge from the details. * Thomas Nagel, London Review of Books *
English is a brilliant political historian, with a reputation for measured yet hard-hitting analyses. He possesses a formidable range and depth of knowledge about modern terrorism. Unlike many commentators, his prose is calm; his conclusions sensible. * Joanna Bourke, Prospect *
[An] elegant academic disquisition ... English's most significant point is that the military over-reaction to a terrorist strike invariably generates more terrorist attacks. * Evening Standard *
Does Terrorism Work? represents English's belief that terrorists merit "calmly empathetic analysis". Coming from someone who has lived and taught in Northern Ireland during some of worst years of the Troubles this view deserves respect. * Henry Patterson, Dublin Review of Books *
An impressively detailed analysis of a perpetual problem. Richard English draws on more than thirty years of experience in the field to dissect this timely, if uncomfortable, question. Using four case studies from recent history ... he sets out a rigorous framework to assess how effective each groups activities have been. This comprehensive title doesn't claim to have the answers, but it certainly makes an interesting contribution to the debate. * Soldier Magazine *
Essential reading for everyone wishing to make sense of terrorism ... a reflective, insightful and well-informed historian's response to the vital question, "Does Terrorism Work?" * Army Rumour Service *
Important. * The Commonwealth Lawyer *
Brilliantly argued and developed ... [a] work of great perspicacity and originality ... the analytical vigour and the depth and breadth of the scholarship are not the only features that render the thesis outstanding. What makes the thesis [...] one that should be widely read and engaged with is the humanity, humanism and humility of the author. * Wajahat Qazi, Kashmir Reader *
This book offers a reflective, astute, and deeply knowledgeable historian's answer to the critical question of "does terrorism work". As it brilliantly demonstrates the complexity and contingency of historical processes, the necessity of understanding different contexts, and the varieties of ways in which terrorism can be effective, it adds immense value to the debate. * Martha Crenshaw, Stanford University *
A crucial and perceptive guide to understanding modern terrorism and how it affects our lives. * Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to Tony Blair, and chief negotiator on Northern Ireland *