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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
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The terror effect

If a violent group has no clear aims, is negotiation possible?

Does Terrorism Work? A History

by Richard English (Oxford University Press, £25)

Fear is creeping into the public sphere in unprecedented ways. The heightened presence of armed police as well as armoured cars on our streets, in our sports stadiums and outside government buildings is just one sign of a growing alarm about a multiplicity of terrorist threats.

On the evening of 14th July, crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice discovered that terror does not always involve elaborate equipment. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the Nice attacker, did not have to learn to pilot a plane; he did not need to purchase explosives; he certainly was not expected to know anything about the latest pathogens and toxins. His actions probably didn’t even require the sustained support of a large community of like-minded jihadists (though the French prosecutor has alleged that he had accomplices.) All that he required was a driver’s licence and a 19-tonne white lorry. When the Tunisian-born Bouhlel ploughed into the crowds on the Promenade des Anglais, killing 84 people and injuring more than 300, the resulting carnage was representative of 21st-century terrorism. Just like the subsequent killing of a priest on 26th July in Normandy, it is the kind of event that is going to be diiffcult to prevent.

Nine months earlier, on the evening of 13th November, France experienced the single most deadly terrorist strike in its history. Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Stade de France in Saint-Denis (France’s national stadium), the Bataclan theatre and several bars and restaurants, including Le Comptoir Voltaire café on Boulevard Voltaire in the 11th arrondissement. One hundred and thirty people were killed and 368 injured. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, saying they had acted in retaliation for French air strikes on Syria and Iraq.

In the period between these two attacks, there had been serious terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Belgium, Cameroon, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen and the United States, to name just a few. Is it any wonder that so many of us are anxious that the world is descending into another dark, frenzied and violent period of history?

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s September issue: Paul Johnson argues that there is no getting away from the fact our economic prospects have got worse post-Brexit. Paul Wallace attempts to outline how the government will try and deal with that situation, while Nicolas Véron suggests that The City of London will decline outside the European Union. On a brighter note, Clive James explores what we can learn from the television show Mad Men. Also in this issue: Patience Wheatcroft, the Conservative peer, suggests that Brexit might not be a done deal with a rebellion in the Lords possible. Thomas Chatterton Williams explores the work and Beyoncé and argues that black artists are failing to say anything profound and James Dyson outlines how he would rule the world.