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Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge Paperback – 24 Oct 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (24 Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300101538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300101539
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 514,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"could not be more timely... an outstanding study that dares to think the unthinkable and to move beyond the conventional wisdom that has thus far failed Western societies in their battle against terrorism." Efraim Karsh, The Sunday Telegraph "highly readable overview of some of the moral and practical questions relating to America's 'War on Terror'" Dan Lerner, Financial Times "Perhaps America's most brilliant public intellectual, Alan Dershowitz attacks the central challenge of our times - terrorism - with ruthless honesty and striking originality, delivered in a narrative so compelling that the pages seem to turn themselves." Richard North Patterson, author of Protect and Defend "Critical reading for anyone interested in the legacy terrorism has left us, how our previous weak responses have encouraged more of it, and how we can end it." William J. Bennett, author of Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism "Dershowitz has a great deal to say - and to teach us - about the balance we are now struggling to achieve between domestic security and civil liberty." Barry Gewen, New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Alan M. Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard Law School and America's most renowned criminal defence and civil liberties attorney, is the best-selling author of Supreme Injustice, Chutzpah, Reversal of Fortune, Reasonable Doubts, and many other books.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The greatest danger facing the world today comes from religiously inspired terrorist groups—often state sponsored—that are seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction for use against civilian targets. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Caped Crusader on 25 April 2011
Format: Paperback
In this book, Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard uni, focuses his attention on the moral-legal arguments facing the West as we now find ourselves combating terrorism. Not merely terrorists with reasonable demands, but terrorists with apocalyptic motivations (as Dershowitz explains, the hardest type of terrorist to combat). Further to this, they are state-sponsored terrorists with seemingly unlimited resources.

Focusing on state sponsored terrorism means that Dershowitz ignores individuals such as the Unabomber, and groups such as the Klu Klux Klan. As a background to state sponsored terrorism, Dershowitz goes back to the Cold War and looks at the Soviet funded Palestinian terrorists (now you know the real reason leftists have rated this book so poorly!) since this provides several parallels between yesterday's and today's situations.

The book's central thesis is that terrorism works because of the way we (or rather our governments) respond to it. In proving his case, Dershowitz looks at the way PLO terrorists were treated after committing their crimes, and how this merely encouraged 9/11 later on (and seeing as this was written before 7/7 2005, that too). But here Dershowitz highlights France, Germany and Italy's woeful approach to PLO hijackings; and later explains the possible reasons why they adopted the positions they did.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on 5 Jun. 2008
Format: Library Binding
The American civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz is a liberal who is also a defender of the US and Israeli states. This tension between rights and force puts him into contradictory postures.

So, as a defender of the US and Israeli states, he writes of terrorism, "We must commit ourselves never to try to understand or eliminate its alleged root causes." This is to assume that `our' cause and governments are perfectly just. But whether US and Israeli policies have helped to cause terrorism is a question of fact, and the evidence is that US policy towards the Middle East has helped to cause terrorism.

It has also been unjust, which of course does not excuse the terrorists. To identify a policy as unjust does not entail support for righting the injustice through terrorism. So we can agree with him that "no cause - no end - justifies resort to the unacceptable means of terrorism."

He discusses torture mainly in his chapter 4, what we should do in the ticking bomb scenario, not in chapter 3, on what he imagines an amoral state would do, in which he gives just one page to discussing torture. Throughout chapter 4 he puts the case for allowing torture. He has a 7-page section on the case for, but no section on the case against. He writes of `numerous instances in which torture has produced self-proving, truthful information that was necessary to prevent harm to civilians'. What on earth does `self-proving' mean? But when he tries to prove this crucial point of his argument, he cites just one case where, he writes, torture elicited `information that may have foiled plots ...' So his best, his supposedly clinching, case rests on a mere `may have' - hardly conclusive proof. In the real world, there have been no examples of the `ticking bomb' scenario.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. D Roberts VINE VOICE on 15 Nov. 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This excellent study on modern day terrorism perhaps appropriately bears the smiling portraits of Yasser Arafat and Osama bin Laden on it's cover. How appropriate the reader must decide for themselves as they assess the information presented in this analysis of how terrorism actually "works".
Amongst the chilling conclusions illustrated in this extremely interesting research is that perhaps the gravest danger facing the world today emanates from state sponsored, religiously inspired terrorist groups, in possession of weapons of mass destruction.
This declaration by the author might seem rather obvious to those who are only too aware of today's political climate, recent atrocities and the 'war against terror'.
However, the author takes a rather unique approach in that he considers that such organised global terrorism is largely of our own making. This seemingly ludicrous statement takes on a chilling relevance as one listens to the writer's arguments as he proceeds to scrutinize recent acts of terrorism, our reactions to them and the relative consequences/reactions by the terrorists themselves to our attitude of apparent appeasement.
The author maintains that merely trying to 'understand' terrorism, instead of overtly facing it head-on, presents a victory to the terrorists in itself.
The book attaches considerable blame to the UN and the international community in politicising the phrase "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" and selectively applying it to causes which serve the purpose of the day.
Also demonstrated is how the international community has served as midwife to the birth of international terrorism since the late 1960's, through appeasement and a declared 'recognition' of the so-called 'root causes' of many terrorist struggles.
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