Contributions for this issue were received from Manrico De Vincentis, Tommaso de Zan, Lorenzo Kamel, Chiara Marconi, Francesca Monaco, Beatrice Valentina Ortalizio, Thea Restovin, Lorenzo Vai.
Terrorism in cyberspace : the next generation / Gabriel Weimann. - Washington : Woodrow Wilson Center Press ; New York : Columbia University Press, c2015. - xvii, 296 p. - ISBN 978-0-231-70448-9; 978-0-231-70449-6 (pbk); 978-0-231-80136-2 (ebk)
With Terrorism in cyberspace, Gabriel Weimann, professor of Communication at the University of Haifa and author of the ground-breaking work Terrorism on the Internet (2006), attempts to fill the gap in research on the evolution of terrorists’ communications since the advent of the Internet and in particular in the last decade. The book is the result of a research project that started in the late 1990s involving continuous cooperation with various organisations and institutes, and builds on previous research analyses in this under-researched and multidisciplinary domain.
Three research questions lead Weimann in his analysis: “What are the new faces of online terrorism? What can be expected in the near future in terms of terrorist presence on the Net? How can we counter these trends?” (4). Each of these questions is addressed in one of the three parts of the volume (‘Terrorism enters cyberspace’, ‘Emerging trends’, ‘Future threats and challenges’) and represents a step toward a deeper understanding of the complex and entangled relationship between terrorism and the new means of communication.
The first part offers an overview of the shifts in terrorists’ use of online platforms: since the early 1990s, when terrorism entered cyberspace with a dozen online groups, the terrorist presence has expanded, relying on the Internet for more and more activities like psychological warfare, propaganda, online indoctrination, recruitment and mobilisation, data mining, virtual training, cyber planning and coordination, and fund raising.
The second part describes some trends that emerged on the Net after 2006. One of the striking aspects of this book is that it sheds light on phenomena ignored or misunderstood by the public, though perfectly accessible to everybody, such as the e-marketing of terror, the online debates between and within terrorist groups, and the terrorist presence on social media. In this regard, the example of the so-called “lone wolves in cyberspace” is outstanding. Contrary to common sense, ‘lone wolf terrorists’ are not alone: they are recruited, radicalised, taught and directed by others through online platforms. Indeed, although not usually considered, websites, blogs, social networks and chat-pages provide easy channels for cultivating extremism.
In addition, as explained in the third part, the most serious threats for contemporary societies, increasingly dependent on computer networks, come from cyberterrorism, commonly defined as “the use of computer network devices to sabotage critical national infrastructures such as energy, transportation, or government operations” (150). Yet, while technological as well as psychological countermeasures are available for countering terrorists’ use of the Internet (cyberterrorism included), a strategic, inter-agency and comprehensive approach is needed to win this battle. Indeed, Weimann’s analysis is not restricted to the communications field and in the last chapter of the book the author addresses an extremely complicated and sensitive political issue: the balance between security and privacy.
Finally, despite his pessimistic view that terrorism “is not likely to go away” (232), Weimann advances some policy proposals to counter terrorists on the Internet, building on his deep knowledge of communications and politics.
Although an academic work, Terrorism in cyberspace, with its journalistic jargon and intriguing examples, is a book accessible to the wider public. Therefore, it accomplishes two goals at the same time. For security experts, studying terrorist communications online may be a critical way to grasp the evolving trends in terrorism and identify potential future threats; for the wider public, it represents a key to understanding the possible implications of everyday tools like the Internet and social networks. (Francesca Monaco)
Cybersecurity in Israel / Lior Tabansky, Isaac Ben Israel. - Cham [etc.] : Springer, 2015. - xiii, 73 p. - (SpringerBriefs in Cybersecurity). - ISBN 978-3-319-18985-7; 978-3-319- 18986-4 (ebk)
Cybersecurity has been the single most important issue for national security in the recent past. High-profile cyber attacks, such as the one against Sony Corporation, allegedly perpetrated by North Korea in response to the release of a controversial movie about the Asian regime, prompted governments to step up measures in the field of information security. With prospects of an even greater cyber threat, many countries have recently adopted or are now in the process of renewing their national policies to curb cyber operations against their networks. In this context, Lior Tabansky and Isaac Ben Israel’s Cybersecurity in Israel aims to provide an overview of the evolution of Israel cybersecurity policy. The book is of great interest because Israel, in spite of its small size and limited resources, is widely considered one of the “cyber super powers” alongside major countries such as the United States, Russia and China.
The authors present the evolution of Israel cyber policy chronologically. In Chapters 2 and 3, they lay out the context in which it developed, providing some background on Israel’s grand strategy and innovation ecosystem. Given the harsh geopolitical environment, Israel’s grand strategy was devised to provide Israel with a qualitative edge over its adversaries, making it the country that has the world’s largest gross domestic expenditure on Research & Development as a share of GDP. Chapters 4 to 8 describe the evolution of Israeli cyber policy. Notable is the formulation of one of the first policies in the world for the defence from cyber threats of critical infrastructure, the release of a national Cyber Strategy in 2011 and the recent establishment of the National Cyber Security Authority (NCSA). Chap. 9 gives readers some hints about IsraeI’s cyberwarfare doctrine, although much of it still remains classified. The final chapter sums up the book’s major findings, reiterating that cybersecurity in Israel, as well as in other states, should not be considered merely a technical issue (IT-security), but instead understood as a policy influenced by culture, processes and people.
Tabansky and Ben Israel’s book is a valuable piece, written in a concise yet exhaustive way. The various chapters present all the major events leading to the formulation of Israel’s cyber policy. Chapters 2 and 3, on Israel’s grand strategy and its innovation ecosystem, are key to understanding how this country conceived and implemented its policy and how it later became a cyber ‘great power’. The book undoubtedly benefits from the ‘insider perspective’ of one of its authors, Ben Israel, who led the external team of experts in charge of the National Cyber Initiative, and whose recommendations were later reflected in the 2011 Israeli Cyber strategy. Given this, the two authors might have provided more in-depth information on certain topics, especially concerning Israel cyberwarfare. Recalling that much of the related material is still classified, the authors resort to ‘foreign’ sources to describe and explain two of the most important known cyber operations in history, Stuxnet and Operation Orchard. These two operations were allegedly conducted by Israel against Syrian radar detectors and Iranian nuclear facilities. The book would have gained greatly if it had elaborated more on some of the most controversial episodes of recent cybersecurity history. Despite this, Cybersecurity in Israel remains a must read for experts and analysts who want to expand their views on the cyber policy of one of the major cyber actors in the years to come. (Tommaso De Zan)
Terrorism online : politics, law and technology / edited by Lee Jarvis, Stuart MacDonald and Thomas M. Chen. - London and New York : Routledge, 2015. - xi, 198 p. - (Routledge studies in conflict, security and technology). - ISBN 978-0-415-73288-8; 978-1-315-84882-2 (ebk)
This book is a unitary and complete guide to the broad academic debate ranging from cybersecurity to counterterrorism. It aims to provide an encyclopaedic review of the wide variety of topics connected to the phenomenon of online terrorism. In order to do so, the three editors – Jarvis, MacDonald and Chen – rely on the support of eleven other authors, either international scholars or technical experts in cybersecurity.
As the editors underline, the background to the book is an academic conference held in Birmingham in April 2013. The contributions to the conference, as well as the book itself, were produced under the auspices of the Cyberterrorism Project, an international, interdisciplinary research network that puts together different kinds of expertise ranging from engineering to law and politics.
The book illustrates three main aspects of the cyberterror discourse. First, it analyses how terrorists are currently engaged with cyberspace and what kind of advantages and costs they incur. Second, it considers the extent of the threat posed by the terrorists and their activities, how they can harm critical infrastructure and what the specific targets are. Finally, in the last part of the book, the authors investigate the power of criminal law as a deterrent against perpetrating crimes.
Specifically, in Chap. 1, the authors raise the question whether contemporary terrorism is actually a new phenomenon or an old one in a new environment (cyberspace). The second part of the chapter is dedicated to analysis of the three phases of any online terrorist activity: outreach, logistics and attack. Chap. 2 highlights the figure of the so-called lone terrorist actor and the nature of the virtual interactions that he tries to achieve through the web. Chap. 3, on the other hand, examines the emergence of hacktivism, characterised by cohesion and complicity among hacker groups. The essay specifically analyses the case of the Redhack group, whose main purpose is to influence Turkish public opinion and turn it against government policies. Chap. 4 utilises the Stuxnet case to investigate the cost-benefit argument, according to which cyberterrorism is unlikely to happen on a large scale because its costs are much higher than those of traditional terrorist attacks. Chap. 5 explores media representations of cyberterrorism in the form of public discourse, while Chap. 6 examines whether punishment-based deterrence is likely to succeed in the specific context of cyberterrorism. According to the author, a fruitful policy response would be to improve cybersecurity further in order to “produce an unfavourable cost-benefit ratio for any potential cyber attack” (7). Chap. 7 focuses on the technical aspects of intelligence services in the surveillance of terrorist activities, using the Snowden case to study the scope and issues of US cyber surveillance. Lastly, Chap. 8 deals with the cyberterrorist act from a legal perspective, seeking to understand whether or not it can be considered an armed attack and if the right to self-defence applies in that scenario.
Given the authoritativeness of the authors, this book sheds much light on the complex phenomenon of cyberterrorism. The book examines the issue through concrete examples of cyber threats, malware and use of the Internet for terrorist recruiting and propaganda. Thanks to its neutrality and clarity, it can be of relevance to all readers. (Beatrice Valentina Ortalizio)
Challenges of constructing legitimacy in peacebuilding : Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone and East Timor / Daisaku Higashi. - London and New York : Routledge, 2015. - xvii, 197 p. : ill. - (Global institutions ; 97). - ISBN 978-1-138-85040-8; 978-1-315- 72471-3 (ebk)
As Michael Doyle and Nicholas Sambanis argue, “One of the most important challenges for the international community is how to rebuild state polities in the aftermath of civil war.”* In the past two decades, some twenty-five peacebuilding interventions, led by different international organisations, whether the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, or ‘coalitions of the willing’, have been in operation around the globe. This has led to a vivacious debate over their legitimacy and validity.
While both scholars and policymakers share the understanding that it is imperative for peacebuilders to obtain legitimacy, concrete methods and policies to construct it have not been envisaged. The aim of this book, thus, is to develop an understanding of these mechanisms and methods, so as to fill this gap.
Daisaku Higashi, a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia in Canada, provides an excellent and innovative overview of the factors that lead to the construction – or erosion – of legitimacy in peacebuilding operations.
The book is broken down into four chapters plus an initial introduction. The first chapter sets out the author’s main argument about the construction or erosion of legitimacy in the peacebuilding context. It assesses the different IR theories on the relationship between legitimacy and compliance, pointing out that a common feature is the claim that legitimacy is a critical factor in generating compliance, and that it achieves social control with lower costs. According to Higashi, with regard to sources of legitimacy, four critical factors are fundamental for compliance with key political programs: the role of international organisations (IOs, mainly the UN), the inclusiveness of a new government in a host state, the level of distribution of resources (money) to the population and the level of force used to control insurgents and violent political opponents. The first two elements are the ones emphasized by the author and provide for the innovative approach developed in this book. More specifically, the IOs involved must act as credible third parties to guarantee the fairness and impartiality of the process of political reconstruction. Moreover, the inclusiveness of any newly formed government is critical in the reconciliation process, as no party should be left out in the initial phase in order to avoid the radicalisation of enemies.
The subsequent chapters provide empirical evidence supporting the author’s argument. Four case studies set the base for a well-structured and wide-ranging analysis. Higashi chooses the peacebuilding operation in Afghanistan as the best example for assessing what issues may erode the legitimacy of international intervention. More specifically, the second chapter examines how warlords have decided whether or not to comply with the government’s request for disarmament. The author makes clear that the credibility of IOs as impartial third parties plays a crucial role. Chapter 3 deals instead with compliance behaviour in relation to the new Afghan constitution. The following chapter addresses other cases such as Iraq, Sierra Leone and East Timor, showing that the inclusiveness of the political process is critical in motivating compliance and creating legitimacy.
The book is a valuable resource for IR scholars and students, as well as for international operators in war-torn places. It may be considered a first step in framing a valid argument for mechanisms that can create legitimate government during peacebuilding operations. It does not claim to be exhaustive, and actually calls for further research. Still, its avant-garde analysis and conclusions give it the necessary added value. (Chiara Marconi)
* M. Doyle and N. Sambanis, “International Peacebuilding: A Theoretical and Quantitative Analysis”, American Political Science Review 94, no. 4 (2000): 779.
The diplomatic system of the European Union : evolution, change and challenges / edited by Michael Smith, Stephan Keukeleire and Sophie Vanhoonacker. - London ; New York : Routledge, 2015. - xxviii, 282 p. - (Routledge advances in European politics; 116). - ISBN 978-0-415-73228-4; 978-1-315-72634-2 (ebk)
The European Union has recently established a diplomatic system that is gradually evolving around different internal and external dynamics. For the sake of the EU’s own development, recent and new challenges will necessarily have to be faced through comprehensive and coherent solutions, which will most likely lead to a more visible and effective EU foreign policy.
This book examines the characteristics of the current EU foreign policy and provides clear and specific descriptions and analyses of the challenges that the Union will have to tackle in the short and medium run. Drawn from work carried out in the Jean Monnet Multilateral Research Network, it is a remarkable, original research study, written in clear and simple language. First, it contributes to the ongoing debate about the new ways of conducting diplomacy in general. Second and most prominently, it explores whether the Lisbon Treaty has served as an effective tool for creating a consistent and powerful EU system of diplomacy, capable of responding to the current and future needs of the global order.
The book is extremely well structured and detailed and is organised in four sections. In the first part, Brian Hocking, Michael Smith and David Spence illustrate the basic literature in the field of diplomacy and explore the origins as well as the consolidation of EU external action before and after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The second part focuses on the institutional challenges that the EU is currently facing and the possible outcomes that different decisions and policies will have on the EU’s emerging role as a global actor. The authors (Sophie Vanhoonacker, Karolina Pomorska, Simon Duke, Ole Elgström, Jan Wouters, Jed Odermatt and Thomas Ramopoulos) evaluate the impact of numerous issues that are destabilising the EU’s diplomatic system: the increased and uncontrolled power of new actors and the growing importance of new issues in the global arena; the economic and financial crisis of the Eurozone; the instability on the southern and eastern borders due to terrorism, migration flows and the deteriorated political and diplomatic relationship with Russia. In the third part, the authors (Michael Smith, Tom Casier, David Allen and Sebastian Santander) illustrate the concept of strategic diplomacy, offering a useful analysis of some case studies of key strategic partners of the EU, such as Russia, China, India and Brazil. The last part is dedicated to EU structural diplomacy (see the chapter by Stephan Keukeleire, Floor Keuleers and Kolja Raube) and explores whether the EU has been successful in implementing structural policies towards Kosovo (Stephan Keukeleire, Daan Fonck and Raphael Métais), the Democratic Republic of Congo (Arnout Justaert) and North Africa (Patrick Holden).
Even though the book addresses a large number of issues, the result is a concrete and extremely interesting analysis of the EU system of diplomacy and its internal and external challenges. Moreover, Fraser Cameron’s conclusions are well structured and convincing: he claims that the EU’s foreign policy is a work in progress and that, indeed, there is still a gap between how the European External Action Service perceives itself and how European citizens see it. This discrepancy necessarily results in citizens not engaging with and supporting European politics and affairs, which in turn prevents their development. Moreover, he argues that the success and evolution of EU diplomacy will depend on whether there will be further integration and whether states will be willing to give up some national power for the sake of EU unity and strength. In fact, the main concern is that EU institutions dealing with external relations might not be capable of overcoming the existing challenges unless the national interests of individual member states are set aside and joint policies consistently implemented and upheld in the name of the common good.
Overall, the book is not only particularly appealing to scholars and students of international relations and European studies, but is also recommended to academics that aim to acquire a better understanding of EU diplomatic action.. (Thea Restovin)
The European Union’s foreign policy in comparative perspective : beyond the “actorness and power” debate / edited by Ingo Peters. - London and New York : Routledge, 2016. - xiv, 292 p. - (Routledge/UACES contemporary European studies; 30). - ISBN 978-1-138-77670-8; 978-1-315-72631-1 (ebk)
This book provides a precise and accurate portrait of the European Union as a political, economic and military actor. After a brief introduction, Ingo Peters offers some simple and clear statements about the European Union, making – sometimes obvious – remarks about its organisational features, which allows him to structure the analysis in three different sections. The three main areas analysed are foreign economic policy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the crisis management operations in which the EU is involved. Thus, the EU’s relevance in international affairs is outlined from three different perspectives, which proves functional to examining such a complicated organisation as the EU. On the one hand, the book provides a clear overview of both its bureaucratic and institutional functioning, on the other, it portrays the organisation’s political and economic resilience in comparison with other important actors in all three areas examined.
The first part of the book looks at the EU’s foreign economic policy, which is undoubtedly the most evident manifestation of cooperation in the EU. The contributors focus attention on the EU’s economic standing in relation to recent important issues, considering it a self-playing actor, like the United States, or an international organisation, like ASEAN. This comparative perspective makes the unique nature of the Union even clearer, while it highlights the need to redefine its common policy: the EU still appears far from being a single actor. In the first section of this comparative analysis, the authors describe the EU as an organisation that still displays features of multiple representation, with a compromise-oriented decision-making process. In the light of the recent discussions concerning reform of global economic governance, despite its ability to handle its numerous forms of representation, the EU appeared unable to speak with one voice in international fora.
In dealing with the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, the book seeks to provide an event-oriented illustration of the EU’s actorness and power. In this part, the contributors use the same approach as in the first part of the book, combining comparative analysis with case-oriented elements. The section includes detailed analyses of the EU’s engagement in such cases as the Balkan wars and the recent Arab springs. In so doing, the authors seek to compare the Union’s actorness and power with that of NATO, especially towards the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This comparison with both NATO and US policies makes the reader aware of the differences in impact and/or results, which are considered limited and full of shortcomings.
In the same way, the third section looks at the EU’s involvement in crisis management missions and operations, again in comparison with the US and NATO. This certainly helps to assess the EU in the different cases chosen, from the state-building operation in Afghanistan to the regional strategy in the Sahel area and the civilian missions and military operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the conclusions, Peters answers the questions he initially posed. Overall, this book is interesting for both those who seek a comparative analysis of the EU’s foreign policy and those who pursue more detailed research on the EU’s role, power and influence in international affairs. (Manrico De Vincentis)
Mutti. Angela Merkel spiegata agli italiani / Michael Braun. - Roma; Bari : GLF editori Laterza, 2015. - v, 147 p. (I Robinson). - ISBN 978-88-581-2121-4; 978-88-581- 2344-7 (ebk)
Angela Merkel is undoubtedly one of the most influential politicians alive today. In Europe, she is loved as much as she is hated. She was Time’s ‘Person of the Year 2015”, but for the majority of Germans, their Chancellor is simply Mutti, Mom. Mutti is also the title of the latest book written by Michael Braun, which pictures Merkel’s political rise alongside two bigger stories: German reunification and European integration.
Braun’s smooth prose pictures Angela Merkel as the right woman in the right place at the right time. Going back over her youth spent “beyond the Berlin wall” (where she preferred scientific research to political aspirations), and retracing her career until the recent European economic crisis, it seems that she has always been successful in taking advantage of the political predicaments of others. The list is long: her climb to power started with the defection from the political game of two fellow party members accused of having collaborated with the Stasi (the East German secret police), and continued thanks to Helmuth Kohl, eager to boast an East German woman in his first post-reunification government. Kohl was also the most illustrious victim of Merkel’s Realpolitik, which brought her first to the leadership of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), and then Germany. Realism, opportunism, good luck and a constant search for moderate political positions seem to be perfectly mixed in Angel Merkel’s life. In the last years, after a long period of low popularity, she gained the widespread consensus that has finally legitimated her rise. From being an authoritarian Mutti (as first described by her party fellows who coined the nickname), today Merkel has become the good Mutti, who defends German citizens and the interests of her country from those external menaces and indebted countries that are threatening the European Union. But the more the Chancellor increases her consensus in Germany, the more she loses popularity in other European countries, where she has not taken a step back from asking for the same structural reforms proposed during the CDU’s 2005 German federal election campaign, which almost cost it victory.
The character that takes shape in Braun’s portrait is more complex than expected: not an ordinary pledger of empty promises but a temporizer and an astute woman; not a person inclined to political swings, but a politician free from ideologies. A model of stateswoman that seems rather far from the dominant Italian typology (but less than we might think), and therefore more difficult to understand from an Italian perspective.
The best feature of Braun’s book is that it offers a clear and accurate story of one of the most controversial figures of our time, avoiding any definitive judgement. According to the author, the challenges of the European construction will decide if Angela Merkel deserves a place in history. The Euro crisis has temporarily been overcome, but the EU needs political and institutional reforms more than ever. Will Angela Merkel be able to deal with these challenges, adopting that proactive activism for structural changes that she has never shown at home? A victory for Berlin today could turn into a total defeat for the EU tomorrow (probably the worst way to get into the history books). Angela Merkel now faces the hardest choice: she can decide to remain the Germans’ Mutti or try to become a mother to all Europeans. The EU has already known many fathers, but never a mother. This would be a real political record at the continental level, in addition to her many national ones. (Lorenzo Vai)
Infidel kings and unholy warriors : faith, power, and violence in the age of crusade and jihad / Brian A. Catlos. - New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. - xvii, 390 p. : ill. - ISBN 978-0-8090-5837-2; 978-0-374-5353-2 (pbk); 978-0-374-71205-1 (ebk)
Although focused on a relatively distant past, Infidel kings and unholy warriors is a book that speaks to and sheds light on the present. Then as now, the cleavages and sectarian strife that are increasingly brewing in several Mediterranean areas had less to do with religious differences than with economics and other practical aspects. The book, authored by Brian A. Catlos, a professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado, convincingly shows that, mutatis mutandis, the same applies to the age of the Crusades (1050-1200): the violence of the period was rooted more often in power and money than in religious issues.
Infidel kings is an essential compendium of knowledge about the Mediterranean region during the Middle Ages, which spanned west to east from Spain, North Africa, and southern Italy across the Mediterranean to Egypt, the Crusade states, and Byzantium. Nearly every page offers new insights into little known historical figures and episodes related to Córdoba, the royal court in Palermo, Antioch, Jerusalem and numerous other Mediterranean environments. It sheds light on the dynamics of interaction between the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish peoples of the region and allows readers to listen to their echoes in the realities of strife but also coexistence in the Mediterranean today.
Catlos avoids any nostalgic or romanticised vision of the Middle Ages and rejects the idea that in the Middle Ages one’s identity as a Christian, Muslim or Jew was concrete and immutable and that it shaped one’s actions and experience in the world to the exclusion of almost all other traits. While deconstructing these claims, the author shows why specificities of time and place should return to their inclusive original dimension. On the other hand, he contends that Christian Europe’s engagement with the diverse, complex and contested Mediterranean region set the stage for European and Middle Eastern modernity (12).
The major criticism that can be levelled at this work is that a few sections are difficult to read. The narrative sometimes jumps back and forth in time and the lack of a chronological order creates confusion. Overall, however, this is an outstanding academic accomplishment that offers a rich and thoughtful analysis and wise and original insights into the many ways in which the Middle Ages shaped the world that we, today, still inhabit. (Lorenzo Kamel)