Terrorism is an imprecise concept, and, therefore, an imprecise word. One person’s “terrorism” might be another person’s “freedom fighting.” As a result, readers will welcome a primer on terrorism.
In this book, author Vahab Aghai is entirely non-judgmental, offering definitions and explanations, rather than advocacy. He opens the slim book by relying on multiple sources to answer the questions, “What is terrorism?” and “What are the historic roots of terrorism?” After that, Aghai wrestles with questions such as, “What are the tactics of terrorism?” and “Is terrorism inevitable?” Along the way, he provides basic information about various groups labeled as terrorist, such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda, plus some of their most visible proponents, including Osama bin Laden.
Because Aghai appears to be seeking to offer a reference guide more than a polemic, his answers to the questions posed are often varied, allowing readers to light on the answer most pleasing to their own specific world views. (While he tells readers in the preface that, “Some of the answers will surprise you,” no real surprises ever actually ensue.)
Aghai writes clearly, which means his primer is not only useful, but also a pleasure to read in general, although he could have improved his prose in two ways: First, the brief references to Aghai’s primary and secondary sources within the text are intrusive–and unnecessary, given the copious endnotes. (If mined by readers, the endnotes will provide some excellent, in-depth sources about terrorism in general, and specific organizations in particular.) Second, the nine parts of the primer are ordered seemingly without logic. Aghai moves from the general to the specific, then back to the general and back to the specific without any apparent design.
If readers approach the book as a reference work rather than a narrative, these flaws will be less significant, as Aghai’s book resembles something much closer to an encyclopedia entry than a page turner.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.