cover image The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism

The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism

Matthew Carr, . . New Press, $26.95 (410pp) ISBN 978-1-59558-179-2

British author and journalist Carr (My Father's House ) bookends his engrossing, unsettling history—including accounts of murderous organizations like the 19th-century anarchists, the IRA, Mau Mau, Red Brigades, Basque separatists, FLN, PLO and Hezbollah and the onset of international terrorism 30 years ago—with a scathing critique of the Bush administration's "authoritarian responses" to the attacks of 9/11. Amid an avalanche of information, Carr argues that most terrorist groups—those with a distinct political goal and popular support within their country—are essentially uncrushable, but negotiating with them (Britain and the IRA, for example) has worked. Carr relates scores of terrorist outrages and devotes equal space to brutal government counterterrorism that, he demonstrates, is not only ineffectual, but also nourishes terrorism. Instead of today's war on terror, Carr calls for addressing the wider causes: "the present eruption of Islamist violence is perhaps a symptom of an imbalance of power and the consequence of decades of manipulation, deceit and hypocrisy in Western foreign policy towards the Arab world." Though his analysis of Middle East politics is open to debate, Carr presents an impressive compendium of terrorist violence and government response. (Apr.)