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on 9 May 2013
This is an easy to read, well written analysis of all aspects of terrorism. Although wordy in parts - this book would not pass the plain English test - the fluidity and pace of the narrative and the diversity of topics covered mean this this book still provide a clear and comprehensive overview of terrorism. I have found it to be indispensable in further study of this area as it is reference by a number of other leading scholars in the field.
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on 16 January 2012
Hoffman's book, along with the works of Walter Laqueur and Marc Sageman, is the standard text issued to students in the field and to national security officials. It adopts the traditional view prevalent in western academic and military circles: that terrorism is a violent technique employed by non-state actors (mostly Muslims) to achieve political ends. However, even if you agree with such a stance, this work will not help you further your understanding of the subject. In essence, it's a discussion of political theory supported by outdated examples and generalizations; and it fails to provide any practical detailed investigation into the mechanisms of terrorism. Nevertheless, it does possess one important redeeming feature in its authoritative discussion of how terrorists manipulate the media.

The book's first chapter constitutes a poor attempt at defining terrorism. Hoffman does not give his own opinions, but refers instead to definitions published by the Oxford dictionary and several US governmental agencies. He rapidly dismisses the contention that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" by arguing that terrorists are not regular combatants because their actions violate the Geneva Convention. More importantly, the book completely fails to address why people might engage in terrorist activities (a subject much better covered by Robert A. Pape's "Dying to Win").

After this introduction, Hoffman presents a brief (and incongruous) historical survey of his subject. In his opinion, terrorism is directly linked to the struggles of post-WWII de-colonization. Like communism, it is an "international conspiracy". This often leads him into the troubled waters of double-standards. For example, he describes Menahem Begin and the Irgun as terrorists during their struggle against the British in Mandate Palestine (e.g. King David Hotel bombing), but does not discuss how this could have influenced Begin's later policies as PM of Israel (the 1982 invasion of Lebanon in particular). Arafat and his PLO are put forward to illustrate the "internationalization" of terrorism (4 pages on the Munich attacks). Yet the reader will search in vain for an assessment of the evidence condemning Israel's war crimes. Treatment of the IP conflict is generally very one-sided. Furthermore, Hoffman's depiction of the Algerian FLN as a terrorist group is far too simplistic. Alistar Horne does a much better job exploring this topic in his masterpiece: "A Savage War of Peace". Overall, one is left with the impression that the author not only picks and chooses his examples, but also fails to properly evaluate them.

There are other fundamental problems underlying Hoffman's analysis. Most of his discussion devoted to the importance of religion in suicide terrorism has been convincingly refuted by Robert A. Pape's research. He tends to ignore the logistical and operational aspects of terrorist groups, and has been overtaken in this field by Marc Sageman (the theory of "sleeper cell" networks). Hoffman's examination of North Africa is obsolete, and there is little or no mention of groups like the GIA, GSPC or AQIM. Informed readers will probably feel that this book is out of date and that current debates surrounding terrorism have moved on.

Despite these numerous drawbacks, Hoffman's introduction to terrorism does produce a very enlightening study of the relationship between terrorists and the media. He is particularly good at using case studies to emphasize how terrorists manipulate television to popularize their cause and recruit new members. This analysis is still pertinent today.

In conclusion, I would say this book is not a good introduction to terrorism. It's superficial, partisan in its approach, and fast becoming obsolete. However, if you are studying the subject, then it's worth acquiring for two reasons. First, because Hoffman is one of the principal academics who represents the traditional, western view in the field. He's a symbol of orthodoxy, and therefore a good source to understand how people think. You'd be daft, however, to let him influence your own conclusions. The other reason is because his work contains important passages on the media's manipulation by terrorist groups. In other words, he's a painful necessity.
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on 3 December 2008
The author's profile is impressive: Prof Bruce Hoffman has been studying terrorism and insurgency for over thirty years. He is a professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, Washington, DC and has previously held the Corporate Chair in Counter-terrorism and Counter-insurgency at the RAND Corporation as well as having been the Acting Director of RAND's Centre for Middle East Public Policy.

Perhaps the most important contribution this unquestionably scholarly work makes to society in general is that it alerts us to the fragile balance under which most societies operate and the fine line betwixt an apparently 'normal' mindset and distinctly radical, extremist one. As a previous reviewer has pointed out, Hoffman, depicts terrorists as, largely, in many respects, being like 'the person in the street'. This is as worrying for many as it is unquestionably true for all.

The process of radicalisation is an altogether absorbing science in itself. Fortunately, it is something that has been around quite literally for millenia now and - for every dark cloud (and, let's face it, the clouds of terror are starker than most) has a silver lining - after each attack or terror act, we are able to improve our databases, enhance our understanding and, thus, our opportunities to profile more accurately and prevent the next attempted act.

This book is specialised but not too much so and this reviewer believes that it will be an interesting read for most. The precise causes underpinning a propensity or tendency towards radicalisation lie deep within the human psyche and its profound well of insecurities et al. This book will help to throw light on this and other related topics for many.

Michael Calum Jacques (author of 1st Century Radical: the shadowy origins of the man who became known as Jesus Christ)
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on 4 November 2000
This is an interesting and overdue introduction to the studt of terrorism that should grace the shelves of anyone with an interest of the subject. While not being the most comprehensive of tomes, Dr. Hoffman does make this book an excellent first text on the subject.
I personally found a few contradictions within this book, not to mention a number of points and arguments I strongly disagree with, but this does not diminish the fact that it is what I would consider to be the best first text on this subject. If you are interested in studying this phenomenon or just have a passing interest this is the book that I do recommend. Buy it, think about it and hopefully look into the area of terrorism more deeply.
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on 26 October 2014
Very complete book with very good and complete information
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on 21 April 2001
I found this book very interesting, as, unlike most books on terrorism it looks beyond the hype and the headlines and the propaganda and looks at terrorism from a neutral academic perspective, thus revealing details on this phenomenon which are rarely touched upon. Throughout the book you can tell that Bruce Hoffman is a professional who knows what he's talking about, who understands terrorism like very few people do and wants to share this with you. The very fact that he describes terrorists as "normal people rather than the crazed wild-eyed individuals we're conditioned to expect" shows that this is a book that really should be read by anyone who wants to know whats really behind the terror. Excellent.
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on 2 May 2015
delivered as advertised
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on 28 March 2015
Great service
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on 29 December 2014
For research
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on 8 June 2010
I purchased this book last year when I was doing a university unit on terrorism studies, and was unable to put it down. It is an excellent and factual read. It was so good that I got marked down for over citing it throughout my paper!
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