“The Lessons of Terror is so earnest, so well informed and so outrageous...that almost any reader will find something to love and something that will make you want to throw the book across the room. It is, in short, pure Carr.”—Newsweek
“After the deadly attacks against the United States, many Americans now may view Carr’s earlier arguments as prescient and his approach as the only one that has a chance of working. The Lessons of Terror is fascinating to read and provocative in the best sense of the word.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“A provocative history of warfare against civilians from Roman times to the present.”—Time
“It crosses political boundaries. It offends and provokes, refreshes and energizes.”—Chicago Sun-Times
Military historian and bestselling author Caleb Carr weighs in on the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, claiming that terrorism should be seen as "a form of warfare" rather than as a crime, as was the common attitude. Carr, who wrote a controversial 1996 article on terrorism in the World Policy Journal espousing this viewpoint, now elaborates on his position in this "history of warfare against civilians." Carr's view is that the United States should be prepared to move forward unilaterally if necessary, rather than trying to assemble an international military coalition. By presenting historical evidence that war against civilians "has always failed," he brings his unique insights to bear on this most pressing of modern-day issues.
In this slim, provocative volume by novelist and military historian Carr, the author argues that terrorism nearly always boomerangs back at the aggressor, often in unpredictable ways. "The most significant thing that the terrorists of today share with those who practiced warfare against civilians in earlier times," he writes, "is an abiding inability to see that the strategy is a spectacularly failed one." Carr cites a range of examples from history to illustrate his point, including the Roman Empire's brutal campaigns in Germania that eventually undermined the empire; the firebombing of Dresden, which hardened German resolve against the Allies; and the September 11 attacks, which created a massive surge in American patriotic fervor. War will always be with us; the question seems to be whether we can direct how it is waged in the future.
Novelist and military historian Carr (The Alienist, etc.) penned this brief history of terrorism as a corrective to the widespread perception spread by ill-informed journalists and politicians that the September 11 attacks were unique and unprecedented. Carr argues from the start that terrorism must be viewed in terms of "military history, rather than political science or sociology," and that the refusal to label terrorists as soldiers, rather than criminals, is a mistake. Underlying Carr's argument is the view that a repugnant bloodthirstiness arises when one civilization, no matter how advanced, encounters another. Accordingly, as Western civilization spread throughout the 17th and 18th centuries via imperialism, and Europe's seemingly more disciplined armies encountered strange peoples such as the Aztecs, Native Americans and south Asian Indians the wholesale slaughter of noncombatants became commonplace. No liberal, Carr zooms in on the history of the U.S. and looks at how terror tactics are fundamental to U.S. military efforts. Such tactics, he shows, were first established in the Civil War, culminated with the firebombing of Germany and Japan during WWII, and reappeared later during the Vietnam War. He traces the manner in which politicians and intellectuals have sought to justify and then curtail attacks on civilians throughout history. Only occasionally dry or repetitive, this often fascinating, accessible tome skillfully contends that the terrorizing of civilians has a long and controversial history but, as an inferior method, is prone to failure; it is rooted as much in human nature as it is in the need for military expediency. (On-sale: Jan. 29) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Novelist (Killing Time, 2000, etc.) and military historian (The Devil Soldier, 1991, etc.) Carr evaluates terror as a tactic, with an eye toward the US response to Osama bin Laden. The lesson of terror, the author posits, is straightforward: it doesn't work. Although terrorism seemed shockingly new on September 11, Carr argues that it's but a variation on an old theme. Americans were quick to proclaim the attacks "acts of war," and it is through this lens that Carr views terrorism. It is, he suggests, simply another way that warring parties have targeted noncombatants-a practice as old as war itself. More important, terrorism is a practice based on a misconception. Rather than intimidating an enemy into submission, it builds resentment that can last for generations. Carr offers many examples: Roman massacres of Germanic tribes under Augustus led to the raids by those same tribes nearly 500 later; William Tecumseh Sherman's willingness to let northern troops plunder southern houses made reconciliation more difficult; and Israeli paramilitary groups inspired Palestinian terrorist organizations. The analysis is focused and evenhanded-each example demonstrates that terror leads to more of the same. Nor does Carr exempt the US from his critique. American policy, he claims, has often advocated civilian death in pursuit of its goals, and he cites the use of atomic weapons on Japan, napalm in Vietnam, and airstrikes in Kosovo. Carr, of course, is not the first to critique such methods of war, and he is as concerned with intellectual responses to what the Romans termed "destructive war" as he is with examples of its use. The problem is that he fails to consider the essence of what it was thattroubled thinkers like Augustine and Hobbes. To both, wartime atrocities pointed to something more than a flaw in military strategy; terror was and remains a tactic that pushes the boundaries of reason: it is the point at which military objectives blend with bloodlust. A narrow but useful look at terror.