by Paul Ashley
Philadelphia: Casemate, 2012. Pp. 396.
Appends., index. $16.95 paper. ISBN: 1612001181
Former British military special operations expert Ashley gives us a comprehensive overview of contemporary terrorist organizations.
Ashley opens with a brief introduction, laying out his criteria for classifying organizations as “terrorists.” There then follows a dictionary format look at some hundreds of such organizations from all corners of the globe. The summaries discussions of these organizations vary from brief outlines to rather detailed essays running several pages, depending upon the visibility and activity of the group. By putting all these groups into one summary volume, Ashley allows us to see some interesting patterns. While most groups tend to fall into a handful of categories – rightist, nationalist, leftist, anarchist, religious, etc. – some are not so easily classifiable, and many have overlapping objectives. Pretty much every country in the world has some folks so unhappy they want to or actually do resort to violent action. Moreover, it’s sometimes hard to trace the “genealogy” of terrorist groups, as they often morph from one guise to another, occasionally changing radically, such as from “rightist” to “leftist.” An additional interesting pattern is that while terrorist groups in most western democracies tend to be Marxist or anarchist, in the U.S. they tend to be racist, although they often espouse vague economic, political, or “patriotic” goals.
Ashley might have enhanced the value of his work by including some maps, as many of the groups listed operate in rather obscure corners of the world.
Nevertheless, this is a useful book for anyone interested in national security.