In this passionately argued mograph, Rik Coolsaet begins by observing that terrorism is as old as mankind itself. It is part of all ages, continents and persuasions. But today we experience angst, a deep-seated fear of a hydraheaded monster, constantly changing and adapting, always catching its opponents off guard. Do we have today's monster's name right? Is al- Qaeda our invisible enemy? Today's al-Qaeda, Coolsaet says, longer represents the global disciplined and centralized terrorist organization it once was. It is a unifying flag, a loosely connected body of home-grown terror groups and even freelance jihadists. Today's international terrorism is born of neither religion r poverty. Al-Qaeda today is merely a cloak of patchy discontent. Coolsaet explains how terrorism is bred by marginalization - as was so often the case in the past. It is a symptom of a society gone awry. When a world changes too rapidly in too many dimensions at once, it causes - rightly or wrongly - large groups of people, nations or countries to feel excluded. And it is precisely this which constitutes the breeding ground for extremist splinter groups searching for a way to justify their acts of terror. To win the war against terrorism, Coolsaet argues, two goals must be pursued at the same time: a common struggle against the terrorists and a political effort that focuses on the discontent and feelings of exclusion harbored by a vast and populous section of the world. In past waves of international terrorism, when hope was offered, terrorism died out.
RIK COOLSAET is Professor of International Relations and a chair of the Department of Political Science at Ghent University, Belgium. He is a member of European Network of Experts on Radicalisation and Senior Associate Fellow at Egmont Institute (Royal Institute of International Relations), Brussels.