Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

On Terrorism and Its (Re)sources: A Review Essay

Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

On Terrorism and Its (Re)sources: A Review Essay

Article excerpt

Pamela L. Griset and Sue Mahan (Eds.) (2003). Terrorism in Perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA and London: Sage. xvi + 391 pp. ISBN 0761924043.

Harvey W. Kushner (2003). Encyclopaedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks, CA and London: Sage, xxvii + 253 pp. (hardback) ISBN 0761924086.

Terrorism is a contentious issue that transcends definitional, disciplinary, institutional and national boundaries. Neither academics nor policy-makers agree on how to define terrorism (Schmid, 1993). Alex P. Schmid "elicited the aid of more than 50 scholars" and compiled a definition of terrorism that "is the product of 109 definitions ... [that] incorporates 16 of 22 identifiable characteristics" (Badey 1998, p. 91). (1) The United States Government, for instance, presently employs several separate definitions, each reflecting bureaucratic or operational specialisation (Whittaker 2001, p. 3). There is, however, general consensus that terrorism involves using, or threatening to use, violence against innocent people or noncombatants in order to effect political change and achieve political goals. Hence, most terrorist activities, broadly defined, are illegal under both domestic and international legal regimes.

Therefore, terrorism shares many similarities with crime. Its tactics include murders, kidnappings, shootings, and bombings. Criminal activities, such as robberies, drug trafficking, and prostitution, finance individual terrorists and terrorist organisations. On the other hand, criminals have employed what are normally considered terrorist tactics. During the 1990s members of the Sicilian mafia assassinated several judges trying leading capi. There have been several occasions when terrorists and criminals have collaborated in operations or had business transactions (Laqueur, 1999/2001, pp. 41, 210-25; Dishman, 2001/2003). Terrorists and terrorist organisations benefit from the globalisation of economics, transportation and technologies. Their personnel and finances quickly transcend state boundaries. They use information and communication technologies as mobilisational and operational tools, and often organise in fairly similar network patterns (Arquilla & Ronfeldt, 2001). Nevertheless, criminals' violence for personal gain and terrorists' atrocities in the name of political causes may impede their future cooperation (Dishman, 2001/2003).

Terrorism, like crime, cannot be comprehensively defeated and eliminated, but it can be effectively managed (Pillar 2001, pp. 217-20). Politicians developing counterterrorist policies and practices must incorporate law enforcement strategies, tactics and operations into their planning. Police forces have transformed, developing paramilitary organisations and adopting paramilitary tactics to confront domestic terrorist organisations and threats. Finally, police forces are often among the "first responders" to terrorist incidents: all acts which states eventually declare as "terrorist" activities are treated initially as criminal matters (Wright, 1999, p. 59; White, 2003, pp. 267-291; White 2004).

This article critically examines recent books within the field of terrorism and Islamic studies, surveying recently published textbooks, readers and reference works. Terrorism's diversity--its perpetrators, ideologies, causes, global inter-connectivity, tactics and operations--requires critical scholarship, textbooks and reference works that expose counterterrorist scholars, analysts, practitioners, and students to interdisciplinary perspectives and methodologies. Additionally, contemporary terrorism's global reach necessitates studies that can fuse "global" trends and relate them to "local" conditions. As terrorism is fundamentally a political crime, political scientists and criminologists need to develop mutual understanding and dialogue in order to interpret more precisely terrorism's origins and impact, educate their students, and assist policy-makers and counterterrorism practitioners. …

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