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Unformatted text preview: Review Essay The Myth of Grass-Roots Terrorism Why Osama bin Laden Still Matters Bruce Hoffman Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-first Century. by marc sageman. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008, 208 pp. $24.95. Since Rudy Giuliani’s early exit from the Republican presidential primary, the issue of terrorism has barely been men- tioned by any of the candidates in either party. Given its absence from this year’s U.S. presidential campaign, it is easy to forget how prominent a role terrorism played in 2004. Many observers believe that Osama bin Laden’s dramatically choreographed videotaped appearance on October 29, 2004, may have tipped the vote in President George W. Bush’s favor by reminding Americans of the horrors of 9/11 and instilling a fear of future at- tacks. And although terrorism has largely been ignored as a campaign issue thus far, bin Laden and al Qaeda may deliber- ately raise its visibility once again. The publication of Leaderless Jihad is therefore timely. Its author, Marc Sage- man, brings unique credentials to the study of terrorism. European-born but American-educated, Sageman holds a doctorate in political sociology and is a practicing psychiatrist. He served in the U.S. Navy as a flight surgeon before join- ing the cia in 1984. During the late 1980s, Sageman was based in Islamabad and worked closely with the Afghan mu- jahideen forces who were fighting the Soviets. Sageman’s first book, Understanding Terror Networks , was an important work that received little public attention when it was published four years ago. It provocatively challenged the conven- Bruce Hoffman is a Professor at Georgetown University’s School of For- eign Service and a Senior Fellow at the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He is the author of Inside Terrorism . [ 160 ] foreign affairs . May / June 2008 [ 161 ] The Myth of Grass-Roots Terrorism tional wisdom that victory in the war on terrorism would be achieved by killing and capturing bin Laden, his main ideo- logue Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the rest of al Qaeda’s leadership. According to Sage- man, al Qaeda was not an organization to be systematically destroyed but a social network that had to be disrupted. The only eªective defense against Salafi ter- rorists, he claimed, was a thorough un- derstanding of the web of relationships that sustained them—something that was sorely lacking in both the govern- ment and academe at the time. Sageman continues this line of argu- ment in Leaderless Jihad . The gravest threat facing the United States and the West today, he maintains, is not a revived al Qaeda straddling the lawless border between Afghanistan and Pakistan....
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- Fall '06
- Al Qaeda, Al-Qaeda, September 11 attacks, Marc Sageman