Illuminating the Dark Arts of War: Terrorism, Sabotage and Subversion in Homeland Security and the New Conflict
Greener, Beth, New Zealand International Review
ILLUMINATING THE DARK ARTS OF WAR: Terrorism, Sabotage and Subversion in Homeland Security and the New Conflict
Author: David Tucker
Published by: Continuum Press, New York, 2013, 271pp, US$32.95.
The first paragraph of Tucker's book provokes interest. He asks what should we think about a secretive religious minority living in the United States that is radicalised and willing to use violence? In the final sentence he points out that he was discussing Catholics in the 19th century, prompting embarrassment in those, like me, who leapt to the assumption that he was discussing radicalised Islamic sects in contemporary times. The paragraph also, however, prompts some uncertainty about the book and the solidity of some of these claims, as Tucker states that he will explore this case further but fails to do so.
The rest of the book continues on in a similarly slightly disconcerting but intriguing way. Tucker's text is a discussion of different aspects of violence: terrorism, sabotage and subversion. These are for the most part nicely defined, and, again for the most part, he seems to be putting forward a balanced view. For example, in discussing the possible threat of a weapons of mass destruction attack on the United States by a terrorist group, he downplays the hype. He notes that such groups would need to: be willing to attack the United States in an indiscriminate way; be willing to use weapons of mass destruction; and be able to do so. This is an important recognition of the difficulties such groups would meet, given the scaremongering that exists around this particular topic. He also suggests that evangelical Christianity might be just as much of a threat to the United States as radical Islam given how he defines threats to secular statehood--a controversial if interesting claim.
However, at times the balance of the view being brought across flays a little. For example Tucker relays a Cold War argument that 'Nazism and Communism were in principle the same. Nazism denied equality on the basis of race; Marxism on the basis of class'. This is not referenced, and a follow up sentence two pages later sees Tucker himself assert that there was a real threat of subversion from communists within the United States. The weakness here is that there is no real outlining as to why communism was subversive, no tackling of issues such as capitalism and different forms of democratic process. Given the helpful definitions provided elsewhere--for example, he does outline why radical Islamism is seen as subversive as it requires a doing away of the separation of politics and religion--this is an important oversight. This case also highlights another weakness of the book--additional referencing would provide weight of evidence for the claims made. Some literature also seems lacking. For example, Tucker discusses the idea of the 'new terrorism' but does not mention Walter Laqueur, nor is Laqueur in the bibliography--and Laqueur wrote The New Terrorism.
These issues aside, this is still a very interesting book, not in the least because it demonstrates that political violence has long been a feature of American life. …