Origin of terrorism

Inside Terrorism


Bruce Hoffman in writing his book on terrorism divides his book into nine chapters. He uses the first chapter to introduce and explain the term terrorism. The later chapters explain on the origin of terrorism, tactics used by terrorists, among other aspects of terrorism.[1]

Basically Bruce Hoffman in this text clearly brings out some basic and fundamental knowledge that will help one to understand the terrorism world. It unfolds comprehensive details about terrorists' organizations and their history. The book gives a clear picture of extreme violence by radical groups. This paper will briefly review each chapter in this book and then make a conclusion at the end.

Chapter I

Defining Terrorism

The author in defining terrorism argues that even the dictionary meaning is not sufficient (p.2) but aligns himself to the definition which brings in the element of politics. He argues that the fundamental characteristics in the definition of terrorism should entail the views of using coercive intimidation to achieve a goal. He then goes further to explain why terrorism has become difficult to define. He answers this by explaining the changing the meaning of terrorism in the past two centuries. He claims that the French used terrorism to bring down uprising which were considered by all as unwanted (p. 3). He gives a long history of various regimes which used terrorism to rule especially in the Western and Eastern Europe. With time this acts are being used by radical groups to make demands.[2]

In chapter two the author looks at the end of empire and origins of contemporary. Here the author discusses how the growth of ethno-nationalist terrorists groups resulted from the unrest of the decaying of Ottoman and Habsburg. The author argues that the forces of terrorism clearly started emerging out after the World War II. The author explains how the western world together with the U.S. was trying to impose their authority over states which they considered to have a terrorist kind of governments. With time, however, the western world was overcome and could no longer impose their power on these regimes. The author also discusses the how the struggles between colonial masters and the local guerrilla armies helped in forming the current terrorists. On page 49 through 51 he talks about Irguan's strategy to use daring and dramatic acts of violence to show the weakness of the British Empire in Palestine.[3]

Under chapter three the author brings in the struggle of Palestine against the oppression of Israel to show the different views different views of the international community. In such a situation it becomes hard to define terrorism as its usage and meaning is being altered to take in different political context of each era. In the fourth chapter the author discusses in detail the distinctions between the motivations that are behind the ethno-nationalist terrorism and religious terrorism. During the cold war terrorism was driven by Maoist, Marxist and Leninist ideologies. There existed traditional terrorist groups such as the Japanese Red Army, Red Army Faction and the Italy Red Brigade. These groups avoided causing deliberate mass casualties so as to obtain civilian support (p. 197).[4]

The author argues that the end of the cold war and fall of communism some of the terrorist groups lost favor from the general population. In the place of these groups, small groups have emerged with unclear ideologies and religious motivations. These groups are inspired by hate against the authorities or the general population. The author depicts these groups having less concern for public image and thus in most cases they end up inflicting damage upon the public. Examples of such include the release of sarin nerve gas in a subway station in Tokyo in 1995. The author strongly argues that the religion fanaticism which leads to terrorism is not only seen in the cases of Islamic extremists.[5]

Talking about terrorism in the future the author sees it being bloodier because factors such as religion will be triggered by increased access to knowledge which helps carrying out of the terrorism with high degrees of accuracy (p. 205). This is possible because of the wide range of weaponry which is readily available to civilians in countries which do not have stable government. However, it should be noted that Hoffman does not limit his coverage to religion but also covers motivations and operation techniques used by the terrorists groups. He quotes the Hezbollah group as one of those dangerous state sponsored terrorist groups.[6]

On the use of media by the terrorists, the author argues that terrorists are more willing to use weapons of mass destruction and as such unlike in the past when they needed less casualties but more media attention at present more casualties will be attracting media attention. The author talks about the ability of the terrorist groups to attack targets even at their homeland.

The book weakness

Reading through the book one realizes some few weaknesses of the book. The first which is quite conspicuous is the evasive nature in which the author looks at the reason why the US is being attacked mostly. The author for instance associates the 1979 attack of the U.S embassy by Islamic militants with religion. He fails to mention the American foreign which seems to vex and actually arouse the hatred of the terrorists.

The author does not use a straight forward approach towards the issue of terrorism. For instance in the definition of terrorism he uses a whole chapter to define what it is. He gives very long history of terrorism which might not help at the current time has it as changed so much and then techniques being used are evolved thus making it inappropriate for a quick read.


This book generally is a good read for all who wish to obtain knowledge on the terrorism origin. The background given is quite rich and helps one to form a good picture of how terrorism has evolved. The history coverage is not biased and covers all the areas that ever experienced terrorism whether for good or bad cause. I also recommend it for experts involved in designing foreign policies as most of these policies evoke at times reactions from terrorists. For instance countries which tend to align themselves with targeted countries of terrorists also tend to be targeted.


Hoffman Bruce. Inside terrorism. U.S.A: Columbia University Press, 2006.

[1] Hoffman Bruce, Inside terrorism, 2006, U.S.A. Columbia University Press.

[2] Hoffman Bruce, Inside terrorism, 2006, U.S.A. Columbia University Press.

[3]Hoffman Bruce, Inside terrorism, 2006, U.S.A. Columbia University Press.

[4] Hoffman Bruce, Inside terrorism, 2006, U.S.A. Columbia University Press.

[5] Hoffman Bruce, Inside terrorism, 2006, U.S.A. Columbia University Press.

[6] Hoffman Bruce, Inside terrorism, 2006, U.S.A. Columbia University Press.

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