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

Princeton University Press, 2013

by Paul Knight on November 27, 2014

Jacob N. Shapiro

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[Cross-posted from New Books in National SecurityJacob 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 tradeoffs which permeate familiar government and corporate entities. The style of the book is direct and concise, clearly setting out its assumptions, hypotheses and conclusions throughout. The Terrorist’s Dilemma is also rich in historical analysis of a variety of secular and religious militant groups, including diverse examples from Irish, Russian, Palestinian, and Iraqi history.

By weaving together a narrative from terrorist memoirs, game theory, and seized militant documents, The Terrorist’s Dilemma offers a uniquely valuable perspective on the mundane reality that extremist leaders and foot soldiers operate within. Moreover, Shapiro derives an extensive set of policy recommendations as a result of his research, which will make The Terrorist’s Dilemma a welcome addition to policymakers’ and intelligence practitioners’ bookshelves. This monograph continues the promising trend, as demonstrated in other New Books in National Security features such as Fountainhead of Jihad and The Al-Qaeda Doctrine, of scholars dissecting large volumes of primary source material at both the micro and macro levels, adding a new dimension of rigour to this field of study.”

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