The recent bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma has highlighted the complexity of the phenomenon of political extremism. Until this occurred, inside the United States foreign terrorists were the focus of attention, particularly the so- called Islamic fundamentalists. Undue emphasis on the "foreign connection” can make it appear that only Middle Eastern terror is of consequence.
The Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) has long resisted this approach. We view terrorism as a universal phenomenon, one that can erupt anywhere. As part of our continuing investigation of this problem, SSI held a conference last November at Georgia Tech, at which a number of terrorist-related issues were considered. The emphasis was on international terror, but the threat of domestic extremism also was examined. Included in this volume are three papers presented at the conference—two are related to international terror, while one is concerned with the domestic variety—and a concluding chapter.
In the first chapter, Dr. Kenneth Katzman, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, uncovers important facts about Hizbollah, considered by many the most lethal of the Islamic fundamentalist groups. Based on his findings, Dr. Katzman ventures to predict what the group's likely future course of action will be.
Dr. Lew Ware's contribution in the second chapter is equally important. A professor of Mid-East studies at the Air Command and Staff College, he has painstakingly, and with impressive scholarship, detailed the differences between Sunni and Shia ideas of jihad, a concept crucial to understanding a range of Middle Eastern fundamentalist organizations. Analysts who are less serious than Dr. Ware profess to see no difference between the Shias and Sunnis on this point. However, as Dr. Ware shows, a world of difference exists on this and other matters relating to the fundamentalists' modus operandi.
In the third chapter, Dr. Stephen Sloan, Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma, has, with remarkable prescience, focused on the likelihood of domestic terror groups escalating their activities inside the United States, and he speculates about the various manifestations that could develop.
Finally, Dr. Steven Metz, Associate Research Professor at SSI, completes the volume with an essay on America's role in world affairs, and how this makes the nation a prey to acts of terror by international and domestic actors.