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Lone Wolf Terror and the Rise of Leaderless Resistance
Author BioGeorge Michael is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Westfield State University. He is author of The Enemy of My Enemy and Willis Carto and the American Far Right.
Main DescriptionOn July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik detonated a car bomb in downtown Oslo, Norway. He didn't stop there, traveling several hours from the city to ambush a youth camp while the rest of Norway was distracted by his earlier attack. That's where the facts end. But what motivated him? Did he have help staging the attacks? The evidence suggests a startling truth: that this was the work of one man, pursuing a mission he was convinced was just.
If Breivik did indeed act alone, he wouldn't be the first. Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City based essentially on his own motivations. Eric Robert Rudolph embarked on a campaign of terror over several years, including the Centennial Park bombing at the 1996 Olympics. Ted Kaczynski was revealed to be the Unabomber that same year. And these are only the most notable examples. As George Michael demonstrates in Lone Wolf Terror and the Rise of Leaderless Resistance, they are not isolated cases. Rather, they represent the new way warfare will be conducted in the twenty-first century.
Lone Wolf Terror investigates the motivations of numerous political and ideological elements, such as right-wing individuals, ecoextremists, foreign jihadists, and even quasi-governmental entities. In all these cases, those carrying out destructive acts operate as "lone wolves" and small cells, with little or no connection to formal organizations. Ultimately, Michael suggests that leaderless resistance has become the most common tactical approach of political terrorists in the West and elsewhere.
Reviews"From the ancient strategies of Sun Tzu to the activities of contemporary 'leaderless' jihadists, George Michael has provided a richly detailed, timely, and fascinating account of the evolution of lone wolf terrorism and the development of a so-called fifth generation of warfare."
--Darren Mulloy, Wilfrid Laurier University, author of American Extremism
"The topic of leaderless resistance/lone wolf terrorism is certainly a significant issue at the present time to both policy makers and academics. ... A comprehensive scholarly overview of most of the significant theories and research on terrorism."
--Christopher Hewitt, author of Understanding Terrorism in America
"As globalization continues to process a lot of populist anger over injustices--both perceived and real--stemming from its rapid expansion into traditional cultures, the world is going to suffer a lot more of the 'leaderless' terrorism that Michael explores in this wonderfully evenhanded book. Those hunting for solutions--in addition to the 'bad guys'--would do well to add this to their reading list."
--Thomas P. M. Barnett, Chief Analyst, Wikistrat
"George Michael's readable, well-researched, and theoretically informed book probes the vital question of the shape that violent nonstate actors will take as we move into an era of government austerity and a general weakening of the nation-state, even as technological advances may allow individuals or small groups to carry out unprecedented levels of violence. An important contribution to our understanding of a problem that will unfortunately continue to bedevil us."
--Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, author of Bin Laden's Legacy
"In this important book, strategist George Michael argues that there has been 'a shift from terrorism by organized groups to terrorism by unaffiliated individuals' and draws the implications of this epochal change. He does so by placing this development in the history of modern warfare, surveying the leaderless resistance phenomenon, and persuasively warning about the danger of lone wolves who engage in terrorism 'on their own initiative with no traditional command-and-control hierarchy.'"
--Daniel Pipes, author of Militant Islam Reaches America
At a GlanceThe most dangerous enemy: One person with a grudge and a plan
George Michael has appeared a number of times on C-SPAN.
You can watch the videos here.
C-SPAN BOOKTV Program "Lone Wolf Terror and the Rise of Leaderless Resistance" with George Michael will air Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 11 pm (ET): for more information, click here.
Increasingly, individuals and small groups are responsible for some of the most lethal acts of terrorism. Ominously, “leaderless resistance” has gained currency in a variety of extremist subcultures. Over the past few years, numerous lone-wolf incidents carried out by a diverse assortment of radicals have gained headlines. On the political right, Anders Behring Breivik carried out a bombing of the Norwegian prime minister and a subsequent shooting spree at a summer camp that was operated by the Norwegian Labor Party. As he explained, the attacks were intended to send a message to the government that he disapproved of Norway’s liberal immigration policies. On the political left, the Anonymous group has been linked to numerous episodes of “hacktivism” with the primary goal of promoting Internet freedom. Radical Islamists have carried out lone wolf attacks as well. In November 2009 Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim-American psychiatrist in the U.S. Army, went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas which killed 12 and left 31 wounded. According to acquaintances, Hasan felt conflicted over his role in the U.S. military and his Muslim religion. More recently, in March 2012, a young French Muslim, Mohammed Merah, carried out a series of shootings that targeted French soldiers and Jewish civilians. In many parts of the world, the setting is not conducive to large, clandestine groups insofar as many foreign governments are coordinating their counterterrorism efforts with the U.S. government, as they seek to dismantle terrorist organizations and deny them funding and resources. On the other hand, the emergence of new technology, such as the Internet, allows like-minded activists to operate on their own initiative without the direction of a formal organization—hence, the emergence of leaderless resistance as a new operational strategy and the miniaturization of terrorist and insurgent movements around the world today.