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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Two Sides of a Coin

Book Review

Terrorism versus Democracy: The Liberal State Response, second edition, by Paul Wilkinson, Routledge.

Imperialism and Resistance, by John Rees, Routledge.

Dr John Coulter • 18 March 2007

Why has terrorism gone global and how can it be combated by liberal democracies? It can be falsely assumed the answers to these twin problems can be found in a knee-jerk military response. This is certainly not the case with Wilkinson's work, Terrorism versus Democracy.

It is a clear, rational analysis of how liberal democracies should respond positively to the challenges which the modern Al Qaeda movement poses to the international community.

In spite of 9/11 and subsequent atrocities, there is an underlying theme of stubborn optimism that liberal democracies will not crumble under any Al Qaeda onslaught across the globe.

Wilkinson presents a convincing and compelling argument that the state response is “morally sound” and he is equally emphatic liberal democracies “have an underlying resilience against terrorist attempts to undermine them”.

A central pillar of his work is his staunch belief “that democratic countries working closely together with the wider international community can succeed in unravelling the Al Qaeda network of cells and affiliates without sacrificing the rule of law and the protection of basic human rights in the process”.

However, his work equally contains a harsh warning for democracies which do not take a firm stand against international terrorism.

One of his most poignant observations is:

“... if liberal democracies failed to act firmly and courageously against terrorists who are explicitly committed to the mass killing of civilians they would be guilty of failing to uphold the most basic human right of all, the right to life itself.”

Wilkinson's second edition is not just an eloquently written and challenging read – it is also a comprehensive resource on global terrorism with a tremendously detailed further reading section and up-to-date glossary of terrorist groups.

This professionally compiled package should not be surprising as the author is Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews.

A radically different interpretation on global terrorism is gained from another similarly compelling Routledge title, Imperialism and Resistance, by John Rees, a founding member of the Stop the War Coalition in Britain.

This work is crucial to fully capturing the seriousness of democracies' reaction to the global terror threat as it represents some of the most potent anti-war arguments ever penned since 9/11.

The overwhelming secret of the success of Rees' work is that he avoids the pitfall of being intellectually engulfed by his fervent anti-war ideology. His writing style is fluid; his message clear and concise, and his grammatical presentation makes his arguments and themes easy to understand.

Overall, the admirable quality of Rees is his slick ability to bring his readers with him. One specific paragraph emphasises this skill.

Outlining what Rees portrays as the three titans of the modern world, he writes:

“There are three great powers in the modern world. The power of nation-states, of the international economy and the power of working people on whom all states, armies and corporations, ultimately must depend. Many of the most important events in the modern world take place at the intersection where these forces collide.”

The unambiguous concepts of his writing are re-inforced by the historical depth and ideological explanations which he uses to bolster his clear anti-war analysis. As a package, like Wilkinson, Rees supports his themes with figures and tables.

Naturally, in any work opposing globalisation and the drive to war, the United States of America does not emerge from Rees' work untarnished. But even the most objective reader would conclude Rees does not descend into an endless tirade of anti-American rhetoric when outlining his case.

























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Index: Current Articles

18 March 2007

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Father Sean Mc Manus, President, Irish National Caucus

Green Party Declines White House Invitation
Green Party Press Release

Assembly Needs an Opposition
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Belfast Hot Air
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Citizen Tom
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A History of Nationalism in Ireland
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Review of Challenging the New Orientalism
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Two Sides of a Coin
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Anthony McIntyre

Sinn Fein Batmen
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The National Irish Freedom Committee on Gerry McGeough
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