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Ted A. SmithWeird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics

Stanford University Press, 2014

by Franklin Rausch on June 23, 2015

Ted A. Smith

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People living in the modern west generally have no problem criticizing religiously-justified violence. It's therefore always interesting when I discuss John Brown, a man who legitimized anti-slavery violence Biblically. My most recent batch of students sought to resolve this tension by declaring John Brown to be "crazy but right." In his new book Weird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics (Stanford University Press, 2014), Ted A. Smith unravels the tensions that led to my students' ambiguous conclusion. By providing a profound ethical meditation on Brown and his fellow raiders to challenge how people, particularly Americans, think about morality; the relationship between religion, the state, and violence; and to the possibilities of judgment and redemption, Smith illustrates how an ethical and philosophical reading of history can help us to better understand the world we live in, what we should do, and of the importance of going beyond just what we ought to do.

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Ervin StaubOvercoming Evil: Genocide, Violent Conflict and Terrorism

March 14, 2015

After "Schindler's List," it became customary for my students, and I, to repeat the slogan "Never Again."  We did so seriously, with solemn expressions on our faces and intensity in our voices. But, if I'm being honest, I also uttered this slogan with some trepidation.  For, while I believed absolutely in the necessity of such […]

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Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix KuehnAn Enemy We Created: The Myth of the Taliban/Al Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan, 1970-2010

March 5, 2015

[Cross-posted in New Books in National Security] Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn's An Enemy We Created: The Myth of the Taliban/Al Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan, 1970-2010 (Oxford University Press, reprint edition 2014) offers what is in many ways is an untold, insider's account of the birth of the Taliban and Al Qaeda during the anti-Soviet jihad, and […]

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Charles MirandaDeception: The True Story of the International Drug Plot that Brought Down Australia’s Top Law Enforcer Mark Standen

February 13, 2015

Mark Standen was a hero to drug enforcement police. Not only was he a great guy but he was an extremely effective police officer. Unfortunately, he also became a partner in the illicit drug industry. Deception is a book that tells the story of how Standen turned to the dark side and how the Australian […]

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Jacob N. ShapiroThe Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations

November 27, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in National Security] Jacob N. Shapiro's The Terrorist's Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations (Princeton University Press, 2013) is a welcome addition to a field that sometimes depicts terrorist activity as an unfamiliar, idiosyncratic phenomenon. Shapiro convincingly argues that, far from being alien to our everyday experience, many terrorist organizations must necessarily deal with the bureaucracy, infighting, and […]

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Vahid Brown and Don RasslerFountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012

November 14, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in National Security] Vahid Brown and Don Rassler's Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012 (Oxford University Press, 2013) is a meticulously researched and remarkably detailed exposition of the Haqqani network's growth and ongoing importance among Pakistani militant organizations. Beginning with an expansive history of the Haqqani family's background, and subsequent emergence as a critical lynchpin in […]

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James MartinDrugs on the Dark Net: How Cryptomarkets are Transforming the Global Trade in Illicit Drugs

October 9, 2014

I am old enough to realise that we have entered a science fiction world in which the old systems of the market place are being sidestepped by new technology. We who follow the tried and true methods are missing out of the brave new world. The changes are particularly true for the middle men whose […]

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Donald HolbrookThe Al-Qaeda Doctrine: The Framing and Evolution of the Leadership’s Public Discourse

October 3, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in National Security] Donald Holbrook's The Al-Qaeda Doctrine: The Framing and Evolution of the Leadership's Public Discourse (Bloomsbury, 2014) represents a significant scholarly contribution to the study of Al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorism more broadly. Through a remarkably exhaustive, longitudinal study of over 260 public statements from Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, Dr. Holbrook exposes Al-Qaeda's […]

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Robert LombardoOrganized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia

September 8, 2014

Chicago would be one of the first places that people think of when the topic of organized crime is raised. Al Capone made the city famous during prohibition. I have done the Gangster bus tour in Chicago which focuses entirely on that period in history. In Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia (University of […]

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Mark MazzettiThe Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth

August 8, 2014

There are many movies about evil CIA agents assassinating supposed enemies of the US. Those who saw the latest Captain America movie will have witnessed the plan by Hydra (a fascist faction within a secret agency presumably within the CIA) build floating gunships that can identify and eliminate those who pose a threat to national […]

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