Monday, November 27, 2006

Review of Charles Townshend: Terrorism

Terrorism is a notoriously unclear subject. It is full of linguistic, moral, social, and legal ambiguities. One wants an introduction that sorts it all about and makes things a little clearer. Charles Townshend's Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction does not do that. These very short introductions are hit or miss, and this one is definitely a miss.

The book basically starts out with some definitional questions and attempts to disambiguate terrorism from other things. moves on to some history, and then to revolutionary terrorism, national terrorism, and religious terrorism. Finally the book has a little to say about counterterrorism and democracy.

This is a superficial book. When reading this, one gets the impression that the author is a specialist is some related field, but clearly not this one. There is detail without background in many cases, and and judgements without context in others. The author makes no attempt to not be snide or hide sympathies for some group or other. The writing at times is not careful, and frankly, I thought the pictures were poorly chosen.

I would go in to detail, but that would make me go back and look at the book to remember what I didn't like about it. This is an exercise I find too painful to be worth it.

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