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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Al Qaeda: From Organization to System, 27 Jun 2008
This review is from: Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-first Century (Hardcover)
Sageman made his name with his 2004 book Understanding Terror Networks. Using the biographical information on identified Al Qaeda operatives he was able to build up a picture of the dynamics of the evolving network. This book carries the story forward. The crux of his argument is that Al Qaeda has been critically weakened as a formal organization, the original networks of "Afghan-Arabs" eliminated or disrupted. What we see now is a process of autonomous radicalization by small groups independent of any central organization. While these groups are dangerous they have relatively little capability - bomb making instructions found on the internet are no substitute for hands on training. Sageman points to the falling age of terrorist suspects and argues that what we are seeing is a form of youth protest in part motivated by "jihadi cool". The correct response is to descalate military responses, calm the war on terror rhetoric and use the police to deal with potentially violent groups. This kind of decentralized movement is inherently unstable and will dissipate in time.

This analysis has split the counter-terrorism community. The assault on Sageman being led by Bruce Hoffman who argues for a continued and growing threat from "Al-Qaeda Central". However, looking around the blogosphere it is clear that there are voices within the intelligence community who are closer to Sageman than Hoffman.

Taken on its own terms the book feels flimsier than Understanding Terror Networks and you get the impression that a few scores are being settled.

It's interesting to read this in conjunction with Brynjar Lia's book on Abu Mus'ab Al-Suri, Architect of Global Jihad. Al-Suri advocated the kind of leaderless jihad that Sageman sees as a strategy in the face of the post 9/11 security clampdown as he put it "nizam la tanzim" - system not organization.
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Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-first Century
Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-first Century by Marc Sageman (Hardcover - 3 Jan 2008)
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