Book Reviews

24 junho, 2006

62) Os cinco melhores livros sobre o terrorismo (do ponto de vista do The Wall Street Journal)

Todo sábado, o The Wall Street Journal, seguramente um dos melhores jornais do mundo -- tem quem não concorde, em vista das posições assumidamente capitalistas do jornal, o que não deve ser confundido com uma posição conservadora, longe disso, pois o jornal não é necessariamente pela defesa do status quo, apenas pelo respeito à mudança dentro da ordem -- mas, todo sábado, eu dizia antes de ser interrompido por mim mesmo, esse jornal capitalista publica uma pequena lista dos "cinco melhores livros sobre..."
Claro, trata-se de uma lista subjetiva, feita pelo comentarista convidado para fazer a sua seleção, mas sempre se aprende algo nessa listagem dos "Five Best Books on..."
Pode ser culinária, pode ser literatura policial, auto-ajuda, administração para homens de negócios (o que costuma ser quase igual ao anterior), enfim, pode ser qualquer coisa, mas geralmente é um tópico de interesse público.
Pois bem, eu que recebo todos os dias o boletim eletrônico do WSJ (e sempre dou uma olhada muito rapida, pois esse jornal capitalista libera poucas matérias de graça, cobrando -- claro, como bom capitalista -- pelas mais relevantes), no sábado costumo acordar cedo só para ver a lista de livros -- vocês já repararam que eu sou viciado em livros, não é mesmo? -- e neste sábado a lista é sobre livros acerca do terrorismo.
Claro, sempre do ponto de vista americano - daí a obsessão com Osama Bin Laden e a Al Quaeda, mas ainda assim relevante.
Recomendo, particularmente, o último livro: um liberal de esquerda -- o que nos EUA quer dizer algo -- que se posicionou resolutamente pela luta sem tréguas contra o terrorismo e a favor do desmantelamento de estados fundamentalistas no Oriente Médio.
Vejamos a lista (não conheço o autor da seleção, mas deve ser um jornalista do WSJ tendo trabalhado como correspondente estrangeiro na França):

Terror Tomes
Top books on unconventional warfare.

The Wall Street Journal, Saturday, June 24, 2006

1. No End to War
Walter Laqueur (Continuum, 2003).
Rich and poor, strong and weak, Right and Left, people of some religion or of none: All have gone in for terrorism. In "No End to War," his informative survey of terrorism and its implications for the 21st century, Walter Laqueur admirably documents a mass of historical and political material that resists easy generalization. Where once terrorists tried to assassinate kings and presidents in the belief that they could change society, he says, since the 20th century "the propaganda of the deed" has taken over. Laqueur displays the imagination and skill required to enter the terrorist mindset -- especially when discussing the Muslims who aim to destroy the U.S., indeed the whole West, in a war that looks set to endure for decades.

2. The War Against The Terror Masters
Michael A. Ledeen (St. Martin's, 2002).
Michael Ledeen's was the first book to point out that terrorism begins at the top in both Iran and Saudi Arabia, where those responsible for taking decisions to attack us hide behind subcontractors and proxies. Islamic terror, then, has its rationale as a weapon used by hostile states against their enemies, whether open or undeclared. We aren't dealing with crazies or criminals, or even the oppressed, but with cold calculators, some of whom, in Saudi Arabia notably, pass themselves off as our allies. The inability to analyze realistically what we are up against landed us in self-deception and muddle. Those whom the terror masters claim to represent are in fact their victims, and that's what Ledeen, better than anyone else, has gotten across.

3. Inside Al Qaeda
Rohan Gunaratna (Columbia, 2002).
This is an authoritative study of Osama bin Laden and the organization he built. Al Qaeda is being steadily ground down, with the result that successive editions of this book have a hard time keeping up, but nonetheless "Inside Al Qaeda" is a useful map of the group and its ramifications. (It is also an Islamist who's who, where information about the latest terrorist in the news can be found.) In terms of raising finance and recruiting throughout the Muslim world, the al Qaeda feat is impressive. Communism and its system of subversion by means of local parties and cells seems to be the only precedent for conspiracy on this international scale. And as Gunaratna says, those living in an al Qaeda Bloc would be just as miserable as were the victims of Soviet domination.

4. Terror in the Name of God
Jessica Stern (Ecco, 2003).
Jessica Stern's study illuminates the state of mind of those who kill in the belief that they are obeying a religious imperative. She found Christian cultists in the U.S., Jewish zealots in Israel, and Islamists in the Palestinian Authority, Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere. Part of the interest here is in the way Stern, a Harvard lecturer, undertakes intrepid journeys to seek out her subjects. These terrorists are by no means simple, she finds; they are often in the grip of complex designs, usually at odds with reality. The secret is to be persuaded that one is doing good by doing evil. Humiliation after some perceived injustice seems a prerequisite. Frustrated nationalism is another frequent motivation. A moral, though: It remains easier to kill people than conscience.

5. Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman (Norton, 2003).
"Terror and Liberalism" is several fine things: an evaluation of what is wrong in the Muslim world, a defense of humanist values, a message of hope and, not least, a scintillating contribution to political literature. Berman takes the European totalitarian model and shows how it came to be incorporated in the Islamosphere via secular leaders like Saddam Hussein and religious thinkers like Sayyid Qutb. The Baath Party in Iraq and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt may look like indigenous movements, but they are essentially Western derivatives. If it was right to liberate people from Nazism and Communism, Berman argues, then it follows that it is also right to liberate people from their Islamic off-shoots. Any other view, he says, is not so much selfish as inhuman.

Mr. Pryce-Jones's "Betrayal: France, the Arabs and the Jews" will be published in the fall by Encounter Books.


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