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Terrorism, Instability, and Democracy in Asia and Africa

Terrorism, Instability, and Democracy in Asia and Africa by Dan G. Cox, John Falconer, and Brian Stackhouse. Northeastern University Press, 2009, 244 pp.

Today, when terrorism seems to strike almost daily and when terrorist acts occur in formerly untouched countries, we must ask ourselves how we can prevent such acts, what causes people to commit them, and what their purpose is. Terrorism, Instability, and Democracy in Asia and Africa seeks to answer those critical questions.

The authors designed this analytical work primarily for individuals who study politics and terrorism as well as for policy makers who desire a greater understanding of the nature and ends of terrorism. Although the book may seem weighted more toward political use, it has significant value to readers in any field of study or to those curious about the rise of terrorism.

With regard to how and why terrorism occurs, Cox, Falconer, and Stackhouse first address the definition of the term. The lack of a concise delineation, however, creates difficulty in apprehending the concept (i.e., insurgency in one country is terrorism in another; freedom fighters in one country are terrorists in another) and in establishing international laws to fight it. Is terrorism an illegal act? Are the instigators addressing a perceived wrong or trying to bring down a regime to establish their own? Are the targets military or political establishments or areas where people going about their business might be killed or injured? Do terrorists wish to right a wrong or pressure the government into changing a policy? If the international community has no formal understanding of terrorism, how can we combat it?

According to the authors, we may look for the origins of terrorism in a number of areas, including democracy, the history of a civilization, poverty, and a country’s political, cultural, economic, or historical instability. This milieu determines whether or not terrorism arises, its ability to bring about change in established institutions, sources for recruiting terrorists (e.g., from the middle class, lower middle class, etc.), its economic effects, and whether or not a country’s history of stability ultimately helps or hampers the development of terrorism.

In addition to examining these factors in detail, Cox, Falconer, and Stackhouse offer a number of case studies to illustrate the influence of such variables on areas like the Middle East, Africa, the Near East, and the Far East. Each of these regions has dealt with terrorism for years, even decades. The text examines how their governments have chosen to deal with it (by means of violence, a carrot-and-stick approach, compromise, etc.) and explores whether those actions have lessened, neutralized, or possibly increased terrorist activity.

In a work of this type, the credibility of the authors and the data assumes considerable importance. Cox, Falconer, and Stackhouse concisely present information, citing sources that both support and oppose their positions. The only flaws worthy of mention entail the frequent use of relatively unfamiliar abbreviations and the inclusion of an unnecessary chapter devoted to investigative methods applied to terrorism. Admirably, the authors assume a neutral, balanced stance with regard to their data and the use of case studies, thereby enhancing the credibility of the text.

Readers will find Terrorism, Instability, and Democracy in Asia and Africa easy to read and understand. The case studies, which are fairly short and to the point, effectively depict how and why terrorism arises and suggest ways of dealing with it. I recommend that all military personnel read and study this book carefully.

Mel Staffeld

Council Bluffs, Iowa

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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