Academic journal article Military Review

Understanding Terror Networks

Academic journal article Military Review

Understanding Terror Networks

Article excerpt

UNDERSTANDING TERROR NETWORKS, Marc Sageman, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2004, 220 pages, $29.95.

The deluge of terrorism "experts" since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks makes it hard to know who is real and who is a poseur. Marc Sageman is real.

Sageman, a foreign service officer in Afghanistan from 1986 to 1989, lived among the Mujahideen and battled the Soviet Army. Returning from Afghanistan, he worked in America as a forensic psychiatrist applying theories of antisocial behavior to murder investigations and earned a doctorate in political sociology while focusing on terrorist-group dynamics.

Sageman brings his wealth of knowledge to bear from an empirical case study of nearly 200 captured or documented Mujahideen. His results form the foundation of Understanding Terror Networks. He refines the perspective from which so much knee-jerk terrorism analysis has been done since 11 September. By taking a measured look at the facts, he hopes to "go beyond the headlines and journalistic accounts [of jihadist terror] and stimulate a more sophisticated discourse on the topic."

Theoretical pitfalls to be avoided in terrorism analysis are a product of the intelligence analyst's professional culture. Intelligence analysts tend to base their research only on classified and, presumably, privileged intelligence reports. Sageman argues that more information is always better than less, and classified intelligence might not deserve its privileged place in intelligence research. …

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