Understanding Terror Networks / Edition 1

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Overview

For decades, a new type of terrorism has been quietly gathering ranks in the world. America's ability to remain oblivious to these new movements ended on September 11, 2001. The Islamist fanatics in the global Salafi jihad (the violent, revivalist social movement of which al Qaeda is a part) target the West, but their operations mercilessly slaughter thousands of people of all races and religions throughout the world. Marc Sageman challenges conventional wisdom about terrorism, observing that the key to mounting an effective defense against future attacks is a thorough understanding of the networks that allow these new terrorists to proliferate.

Based on intensive study of biographical data on 172 participants in the jihad, Understanding Terror Networks gives us the first social explanation of the global wave of activity. Sageman traces its roots in Egypt, gestation in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war, exile in the Sudan, and growth of branches worldwide, including detailed accounts of life within the Hamburg and Montreal cells that planned attacks on the United States.

U.S. government strategies to combat the jihad are based on the traditional reasons an individual was thought to turn to terrorism: poverty, trauma, madness, and ignorance. Sageman refutes all these notions, showing that, for the vast majority of the mujahedin, social bonds predated ideological commitment, and it was these social networks that inspired alienated young Muslims to join the jihad. These men, isolated from the rest of society, were transformed into fanatics yearning for martyrdom and eager to kill. The tight bonds of family and friendship, paradoxically enhanced by the tenuous links between the cell groups (making it difficult for authorities to trace connections), contributed to the jihad movement's flexibility and longevity. And although Sageman's systematic analysis highlights the crucial role the networks played in the terrorists' success, he states unequivocally that the level of commitment and choice to embrace violence were entirely their own.

Understanding Terror Networks combines Sageman's scrutiny of sources, personal acquaintance with Islamic fundamentalists, deep appreciation of history, and effective application of network theory, modeling, and forensic psychology. Sageman's unique research allows him to go beyond available academic studies, which are light on facts, and journalistic narratives, which are devoid of theory. The result is a profound contribution to our understanding of the perpetrators of 9/11 that has practical implications for the war on terror.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sageman, a University of Pennsylvania professor of psychiatry and ethnopolitical conflict, applies his varied experience and skills to build an empirical argument for the socio-psychological reasons why someone would join an organization such as al-Qaeda. As an officer in the Foreign Service in the late '80s, Sageman worked closely with Islamic fundamentalists during the Afghan-Soviet war and gained an intimate understanding of the development, form and function of their networks. Sageman wrote this book in order to dispel incorrect assertions about terrorist networks made by so-called experts. Using public documents, Sageman tells us that the motivation to join a militant organization does not necessarily stem from extreme poverty or extreme religious devotion but mostly from the need to escape a sense of alienation. He also disproves conventional wisdom that terrorist groups employ a "top-down" approach to recruiting, showing instead that many cells evolve from friendships and kinships and that the seeds of sedition grow as certain members of a cell influence the thinking of the others. Unfortunately, Sageman's academic and dry prose will lose readers who would be interested in his insightful argument. The growing field of counterterrorism includes many more readers than just academics, and a book like this one could have easily covered a greater portion of this market if more care had been taken to enhance the writing. (May 19) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Understanding Terror Networks is a new and different view of a new and different form of terrorism. The insights and conclusions of Sageman befit his name and will benefit seasoned observers of terrorism, practitioners, and newcomers to the field."—Security Management

"Terrorism analysts should read the book to correct some of their procession's assumptions. The concerned citizen will gain a sobering sense of the pervasiveness and stealth of potential jihadist networks around the globe."—Military Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812238082
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 750,339
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Marc Sageman, M.D., Ph.D., is a former foreign service officer who was based in Islamabad from 1987 to 1989, where he worked closely with Afghanistan's mujahedin. He has advised various branches of the U.S. government in the war on terror and is a forensic psychiatrist in private practice in Washington, D.C. His second book, Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, is also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1. The Origins of the Jihad
2. The Evolution of the Jihad
3. The Mujahedin
4. Joining the Jihad
5. Social Networks and the Jihad
Conclusion

Appendix: Names of Terrorists
Glossary of Foreign-Language Terms
Bibliography
Index

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