“Another war. History and nature of terrorism ”: tackling terrorism in all its forms

Delivered. On a subject as vast and complex as terrorism, there will never be a definitive book. But some, rare, approach it. This is the case ofAnother war. History and nature of terrorism, by John A. Lynn II. The author, one of the greatest historians of war, has been working on the subject since 2003 and explains, from the introduction of his great work, that it is “Born from the shock of the events of September 11, 2001”.

In France, where the subject is older – due to the wave of Palestinian, Iranian and leftist terrorism of the 1980s, followed, a decade later, in 1994-1996, by the first jihadist attacks in the West, linked to the civil war Algerian – but the more recent trauma – after the attacks of 2015 and the years that followed – terrorism has become synonymous with jihadism.

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Discussed in the media and on the political scene, the subject is often mistreated, as if its ability to strike as many people as possible allowed it to say anything and everything. Starting with a former prime minister who was able to estimate that “To understand is to justify”. How to fight something that we do not understand, that we even refuse to understand?

Pyramid of violence

Where confusion reigns, the work of John A. Lynn II lays a theoretical foundation after having exposed the various points of view, including those which he does not share, gives historical examples, argues, supports. He demonstrates pedagogy and weighting where it is important to keep a cool head and presents himself as a “Civic education exercise, and, in a sense, self-defense”.

The book escapes the trap of defining terrorism in favor of a description that offers more analytical flexibility. He thus proposes six characteristics: making use of violence or threats of violence; attack people and property; strike defenseless victims assimilated to non-combatants; seek to instill fear or provoke outrage among the general public; make use of violence and its psychological impact to promote political, social or cultural objectives.

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Where many specialists explain that terrorism is not an ideology, but a method, John A. Lynn II adopts a more nuanced position: certainly, terrorism is a process intended to obtain maximum effect with few means, but it is also a belief in this method. This mystique – what made terrorism an “ism” like anarchism, communism, fascism or nationalism – goes back, according to him, to the failure of the revolutions of 1848 in Europe.

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