Bad Required Readings, Good Times: Terrorism – A History

Posted on November 28, 2012 by


Note: We’re going to take Thursday and Friday off this week because sometimes we have to admit that we really should be prioritizing on college and stuff. We’ll be back on Monday!

A few friends of mine this semester are taking a class in the Political Science department on Terrorism, for which the main text is a book very appropriately titled Terrorism: A History.

Yep, today on Bad Books, Good Times, we’re getting educational! Yay learning!

We take our studies very seriously.

While my friend insists that it is most certainly not a “bad book”, some of the writing is quite blunt. This results in a handful of passages that end very abruptly with a statement that feels either unintentionally hilarious or, somewhat more often the case, worryingly understated. For example:

5. Counter-Terrorism in the English Empire

Thus, relatively speaking, anti-colonial movements in the far-flung corners of Britain’s still enormous empire were pin pricks and received piecemeal attention and resources. Management of these crises primarily fell to local leadership. In Malaya, civil and military leaders developed effective counterinsurgent strategies, whereas in Cyprus, local civil and military commanders never appreciated the nature of the insurgent threat […] Neither Kenya nor Cyprus figured prominently in the grand calculus of the age.

Which is a really fancy way of ending a section with “also these two places didn’t matter, but mattered enough to mention they didn’t matter, unlike the other places that didn’t matter that don’t matter enough to mention they didn’t matter”.

4. Russia’s Revolutions

The Bolsheviks, therefore wasted no time in setting up a police organization – the Extraordinary Commission, known by its Russian acronym, the Cheka – that could defend the Revolution by force. It was given sweeping authority to investigate, detain, try, and execute enemies of the new socialist state. […] The Bolsheviks also called from the creation of spontaneous “revolutionary tribunals” modeled after their namesakes in the French Revolution that could mete out justice on the spot. The violence was widespread and brutal, but hardly systematic.

Spontaneity is hardly systematic. Not quite the strongest finish.

3. French Terrorism and the Secret Army Organization

Coarsened by violence, riven with factions, weaned on extremism, antagonistic toward the concepts of tolerance, compromise, and the rule of law – this was the profile of Algeria’s new government. The use of terrorism is indeed poor preparation for effective, democratic governance.


2. The Battle of Algiers

The FLN’s [National Liberation Front’s] leaders needed a new strategy to attract the international attention that had so far alluded them. Their response was to create a self-contained terrorist organization in Algeria’s capital starting in the summer of 1956. […] Toward this end, FLN fighters targeted white settlers and Muslim loyalists, sometimes killing their victims by axe or machete and then mutilating the corpses to exact ritual vengeance. Women were sometimes raped.

That… could maybe be written not as an afterthought?

1. Kenya and Great Britain

In the beginning, leaders of this incipient Kikuyu insurgency mostly encouraged violence against black Africans who collaborated with or tolerated British rule, but in 1952, gangs began to carry out uncoordinated attacks against white settlers. […] The British answered by dispersing their few troops around the colony and hastily organizing from among native loyalists a Kikuyu Home Guard to defend villages. White settlers joined the Kenya Police Reserve, an auxiliary body later responsible for the worst atrocities against Africans.

The problem isn’t how this sentence is written, but rather that nothing is written after it. Want to know, I don’t know, what the worst atrocities against Africans were? Apparently the worst atrocities? Like, of all time? Nope. The section ends on that note.

So, um, hopefully you learned something? Come back next week when we’ll read some more smut.

Posted in: Bonus Posts