I have been studying terrorists and terrorism for more than twenty years. Yet I am still always struck by how disturbingly 'normal' most terrorists seem when one actually sits down and talks to them. Rather than the wild-eyed fanatics or crazed killers that we have been conditioned to expect, many are in fact highly articulate and extremely thoughtful individuals for whom terrorism is (or was) an entirely rational choice, often reluctantly embraced and then only after considerable reflection and debate. It is precisely this paradox, whereby otherwise apparently 'normal' persons have nonetheless deliberately chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction, that has long intrigued me and indeed prompted me to write this book.
My aim, however, is not to offer some new theoretical treatise or conceptual reinterpretation of the subject. Instead, I have focused on what I believe to be the most salient and important trends in terrorism -- both past and present -- as a means to explain why terrorists 'do what they do' as well as to shed light on likely future patterns and potentialities. This somewhat selective -- and thus perhaps idiosyncratic -- approach deliberately emphasizes key historical themes over abstract theory and relies on empirical evidence rather than explanatory models to illustrate and support its main arguments. As such, this book is also intended to address a conspicuous gap in the literature by providing a work that is as accessible to students as it is relevant to scholars and which may therefore appeal equally to general as well as more specialized audiences.