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The Age Of Terror [Hardcover]

Strobe Talbott , Nyan Chanda
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 3 2002
Momentous events have a way of connecting individuals both to history and to one another. So it was on September 11. Even before more than 4000 people died in less than two hours, there were farewell messages from the sky. In their last minutes, doomed passengers used cell phones to reach loved ones. A short time later, office workers trapped high in the burning towers called spouses, children, parents. Never had so many had the means to say good-bye. During the hours afterward, the survivors scrambled to make contact with family and friends. "Are you all right?" they asked. As the enormity of it all began to sink in, the question hanging in the air was, Were we all right? Since September 11, many have noted a humbling irony: the more time we'd spent in the old world and the better we thought we understood its organizing principles, the less ready we were for the new one. Suddenly, familiar terms and concepts were inadequate, starting with the word terrorism itself. The dictionary defines it as violence, particularly against civilians, carried out for a political purpose. September 11 certainly qualified. But American's earlier encounters with terrorism neither anticipated nor encopmassed this new manifestation. Commentators instantly evoked Pearl Harbor, that other bolt-from-the-blue raid, sixty years before, as the closest thing to a precedent. But there really was none. This was something new under the sun.

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From Publishers Weekly

This latest entry into the post-September 11 publishing frenzy (edited by former Time contributor and deputy secretary of state Talbott and Chanda, his colleague at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization) relies on top-notch academics to probe behind the headlines. While all of the essays taken together provide a primer on some of the most pressing issues that have emerged in the past few months, the strongest pieces provocatively explore new ground. Scientist Maxine Singer underscores the necessity to extend ties and funding between government and researchers, in part to support "off-the-wall" ideas that might help in U.S. domestic defense. Oxford historian Niall Ferguson explores the non-Muslim antecedents of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon; individual elements of the attacks were not new, he argues, only their combination was. Yale professor Paul Kennedy compares the situation currently faced by the United States with Britain's in the 19th century, concluding that the United States is in a more difficult predicament mainly because of the openness of today's world. These essays often explore ground already covered by journalists: the difficulties of maintaining good relations with a Muslim world, in which the United States is unpopular; the diffuseness of the enemy; the need to protect civil liberties while simultaneously protecting American security. But even where the scholars go over familiar turf, they do so in a comprehensive and thoughtful way that is sure to feed some readers' newly whetted appetites for information on the post-post-Cold War world.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The events of September 11 have raised many new and disturbing questions for everyone. These eight essays, written in the first six weeks (up to November 1) after the events, deal with the perceived failure of America's post-Cold War foreign policy, radical Islam, maintaining this country's place in the new hybrid strategic landscape, Arab terrorism, the behavior of earlier empires that faced threats, maintaining the values of America's legal system, new national security questions, and the relationship between science and defense. The contributors, who include former Deputy Secretary of State Talbot, are all academicians (six at Yale) with collectively many years of thought and writing on their respective topics. They have succeeded in expressing that collective wisdom in an accessible style. No reader should expect definitive answers from such an instant book, but this one earns its keep by suggesting possibly relevant comparisons from the past and by contributing to the definition of the right question. For public and academic libraries. Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent collection of essays but a little dated. April 28 2004
Format:Paperback
This is basically a bunch of essays by academics (mostly from Yale) that consists of describing certain elements as related to terrorism and US policy. The academics who composed these essays range from professors of history, law, political science, and there's one molecular biologist. I found most of these essays relevant and interesting from the point of view of examining globalism and also the political roots of fundamentalist Islam. Some of these commentators take the viewpoint that America needs to protect its dominant position and assume an imperalist attitude to do so. I found a little fault with that. I believe cooperation and tolerance is the key. Other commentators illustrate the point that we must be aggressive in combating terrorism and also learn productive measures to combat a potential bioterrorist attack. Most of this is common sense but each writer puts their own spin on it relating to the field they teach about. A little bit of the book was rough because it seemed to be put together rather hastily without proper editing. Also, there were two essays that got pretty dry and read more like reading some kind of intelligence memo. I found myself having to fight boredom a couple of times. Lastly, there were many comparisons drawn in the book between 9-11 and Pearl Harbor or even Britain's position as the dominant power 100 yrs earlier. This was somewhat tedious because we've heard these comparisons over and over. They are true to an extent but there has never been anything quite like 9-11 happen before. I don't know that we'll find any fool-proof answers to the problems of terror that we all face in a changing world in this book. However, it's good that books like this one open up the discussion so that we may dare to think about such matters before we are caught off guard. If you want something to pass the time that concerns political matters and is relatively accessible you should read this book. It's not spectacular but it's okay.
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Format:Hardcover
The Age Of Terror should be a disaster. Eight academicians and career bureaucrats, thrown together in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, ruminate on issues related to that momentous event. Against all odds, though, this hurried collaboration produced some solid work.
Some topics are inspired (how to foster cooperation between the private sector and the military establishment) and others are predictable (foreign policy, civil liberties, and radical Islam). For the most part the authors showed great prescience in their outline of the issues that would confront the United States. The weakest chapter, ironically, covers the most obvious problem: the tension between national security and civil liberties. Conversely, the best essay is the most complex: how to harness American ingenuity to devise new technologies to confront terrorists. Proximity to the attacks did not really effect the quality of the work; those essays that are good would have been so regardless of when written, and the few that fall short would not have improved with time for reflection. The authors all are experts in their respective fields, and if anything this book shows that America's elites were not as caught off guard as it seemed in the first days after the Pentagon and World Trade Center were attacked.
This book is a good overview of terror-related policy issues and at times provides a surprising degree of depth. That it worked at all, let alone holds up, is a pleasant surprise and a tribute to the editors and contributors.
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By L. Feld
Format:Hardcover
This collection of essays--written, compiled, and published within just a few weeks of 9/11-- easily could have fallen into the trap of being just another slap-dash, knee-jerk, sloppily-put-together "instant book." And, as with any collection of essays by different authors, The Age of Terror: America and the World After September 11 could have ended up being wildly uneven in terms of quality, theme, and style. Fortunately, none of this happened. Instead, the book's two editors - former Clinton Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Nayan Chanda-have assembled a fine collection of essays by leading experts in various fields (history, law, political science, molecular biology, diplomacy) into a top-notch, thought provoking, fascinating look at the world after 9/11. As explained on the book's jacket, the premise here is that "the unforgivable is not necessarily incomprehensible or inexplicable." After reading this book, the events of 9/11 should be both more comprehensible and more explicable to just about any reader.
Among the more provocative essays in The Age of Terror" is the one by Charles Hill, a former aide to Secretaries of State Kissinger, Haig, and Shultz. Hill's chapter, entitled "A Herculean Task: The Myth and Reality of Arab Terrorism," demolishes what Hill considers to be a series of "deceptive and dangerous myths" that have sprung up following 9/11: that "America faces an entirely new kind of challenge;" that "we brought this on ourselves;" that there are "legitimate grievances about poverty and oppression" that "leave those afflicted with no choice but to take up terrorism;" and that "nothing we do can be effective against such a threat.
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