cover image The New Threat: The Past, Present, and Future of Islamic Militancy

The New Threat: The Past, Present, and Future of Islamic Militancy

Jason Burke. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-62097-135-2

Burke (The 9/11 Wars) draws on two decades of reporting on conflicts throughout the Middle East and South Asia for the Guardian and the Observer to deliver a comprehensive, lucid study of Islamic militancy. Wide-ranging and thought-provoking, Burke’s work identifies various factors in the rise of modern-day Muslim extremist groups: a renewed sense of religious identity in the 1970s, oil-rich Saudi Arabia’s promotion of conservative Wahhabism, nostalgia for bygone Islamic empires, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and, most recently, disillusionment with the Arab Spring. He covers the two main global organizations, al-Qaeda and ISIS, and their bitter rivalry, as well as the affiliates (Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab). Assessing the current threat, Burke finds that al-Qaeda’s ability to launch spectacular attacks is much diminished, and ISIS is focused on the “near enemy,” expending most of its resources in Iraq and Syria. He sees more danger posed to Western nations by the “leaderless jihad”—low-tech attacks by apparently self-motivated individuals such as the Boston Marathon bombers and the Charlie Hebdo attackers. Even in the case of so-called lone wolves, however, Burke shows that terrorism is essentially a social activity, rooted in a shared vision of the world. This timely and well-informed study deserves a wide audience.[em] Agent: Toby Eady, Toby Eady Associates (U.K.) (Nov.) [/em]