THE LESSONS OF TERROR: A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again

Caleb Carr, Author . Random $19.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-375-50843-1

Novelist and military historian Carr (The Alienist, etc.) penned this brief history of terrorism as a corrective to the widespread perception—spread by ill-informed journalists and politicians—that the September 11 attacks were unique and unprecedented. Carr argues from the start that terrorism must be viewed in terms of "military history, rather than political science or sociology," and that the refusal to label terrorists as soldiers, rather than criminals, is a mistake. Underlying Carr's argument is the view that a repugnant bloodthirstiness arises when one civilization, no matter how advanced, encounters another. Accordingly, as Western civilization spread throughout the 17th and 18th centuries via imperialism, and Europe's seemingly more disciplined armies encountered strange peoples—such as the Aztecs, Native Americans and south Asian Indians—the wholesale slaughter of noncombatants became commonplace. No liberal, Carr zooms in on the history of the U.S. and looks at how terror tactics are fundamental to U.S. military efforts. Such tactics, he shows, were first established in the Civil War, culminated with the firebombing of Germany and Japan during WWII, and reappeared later during the Vietnam War. He traces the manner in which politicians and intellectuals have sought to justify and then curtail attacks on civilians throughout history. Only occasionally dry or repetitive, this often fascinating, accessible tome skillfully contends that the terrorizing of civilians has a long and controversial history but, as an inferior method, is prone to failure; it is rooted as much in human nature as it is in the need for military expediency. (On-sale: Jan. 29)

Correction: Due to a publisher's error, the ISBN for Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (DK) was incorrect (Nov. 12). The correct ISBN is 0-7894-7829-3.

Reviewed on: 01/14/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7435-2468-1
Compact Disc - 978-0-7435-2469-8
Open Ebook - 115 pages - 978-1-58836-205-6
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