Abdel Bari Atwan is regarded as a knowledgeable Al Qaeda expert who has concentrated on the activities of the organisations for more than fifteen years. Atwan is the editor-in-chief of one of the most renowned Islamic newspapers based in the western world, Al Quds al-Arabi. The journalist interviewed Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. Atwan has also developed certain connections with members of the organisation. Therefore, the journalist has information which comes from reliable sources within the organisation. The author’s latest book, After bin Laden: Al-Qaeda, the Next Generation, is an extensive analysis of the organisation which lost its leader.
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In his book, the author argues that even though the organisation has lost its leader, it has not lost its grip. According to Atwan, the organisation is now “stronger and more widespread than ever”, and it is present in all continents (13). The author notes that the assassination of bin Laden made him a martyr whose message is being spread all over the world. Atwan also states that the assassination of the leader haunted by a variety of groups contributed to the development of the organisation as Al Qaeda has evolved into something bigger than an organisation. It is now “an ideology” which does not “depend upon a centralised leadership” (Atwan 14). The author stresses that numerous smaller groups are operating globally. The journalist claims that the organisation has developed new strategies focusing on the cyber world. Atwan concludes that the organisation has become a more serious threat to the western world as the influence of Al Qaeda is strong in the countries of the Middle East and Africa. Needless to add, that Al Qaeda’s rule in these regions may dramatically change the geopolitical situation as these countries have significant amounts of natural resources.
It is necessary to state that the book can be a valuable contribution to such disciplines as Middle East Studies and Political Science as it provides insights into the development of an organisation which has a considerable impact on several societies in different parts of the world. Atwan employs some theories and concepts in his book. For instance, he exploits The Three Degrees of Influence Theory to analyse the impact Al Qaeda has on young generations of Muslims as well as western youth (Atwan 244). The author also mentions several concepts, e.g. the concept of the umma, i.e. a global society of Muslims (Atwan 23). However, the author does not use any particular theory or concept to frame his argument as such frame is inappropriate for the book in question. The book can be seen as an extensive feature article where the author provides some information on a topic as well as his opinion on the matter.
Due to the book’s specific genre, the author extensively uses endnotes, which makes the information in the book more accurate and reliable. The book includes a select bibliography where all major sources are given. This contributes to the reliability of the book, as it is clear that the author uses valid data. Remarkably, the notes provided at the end of the book contain a lot of links to a variety of online sources. This is effective as the reader can easily access the primary data used by the author. The reader does not have to rely on the writer’s opinion and can come to his/her conclusions. It is necessary to note that the book contains the most meaningful dates and names. However, the author does not make a list of specific data out of his book. As far as the methodology of the book is concerned, the author exploits interviews, such secondary sources as books and newspaper articles, historical accounts and personal observations. This methodology is appropriate for the book, as any feature writing requires a balance of facts and opinions.
Apart from reliability, the book is also characterised by clarity and specific style. Atwan does not employ difficult structures; he does not resort to complicated terminology or literary devices. The author uses his journalistic approach to expressing his opinions and telling stories. Atwan uses clear and simple terms to analyse a variety of concepts. Whenever he exploits a term, a name or an abbreviation, he provides an extensive explanation. It is easy to follow the book as its narrative is concise. The author often tells stories from different people’s lives to illustrate his arguments. Admittedly, this makes the book under review easy to comprehend.
It is also necessary to add that the evidence given by the author is sufficient. As has been mentioned above, the author employs a variety of sources to support his argument. He also tells numerous stories which support his viewpoint. However, it is also important to state that the author’s personal opinion is vivid. The book is not an analytical analysis of the events. The author tries to be unbiased, but it is still obvious that Atwan is against some concepts promulgated by Al Qaeda as well as western societies. Though the author arguments are persuasive, and the reader cannot but share the same view on the matter.
This precision and convincing reasoning can be regarded as one of the strengths of the book. Clarity of facts presentation is also one of the book’s strong sides. As has been mentioned above, the book is properly referenced, and the reader can easily access some of the primary sources used in the book. Nonetheless, the book has several limitations. One of the major limitations of the book can also be regarded as one of its strengths. Thus, the author’s opinion that the organisation is becoming stronger is supported by a variety of facts, stories, etc. However, the author does not properly highlight the opposing view. The author focuses on the development and, so-to-speak, successes of the organisation. Nevertheless, little information about losses within the organisation is given. It may seem that the book spreads panic rather than provides extensive facts on the matter.
Irrespective of the downsides of the book, it can be helpful for a wide audience. Researchers, students, policymakers, etc. can benefit from reading the book as it contains a lot of valuable information concerning the past and possible future of Al Qaeda. This book contains valuable insights into the structure of the organisation, which can help foresee the way it will develop.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that After bin Laden: Al-Qaeda, the Next Generation is the book for those interested in the future geopolitical situation in the world. The author shares his concerns about the organisation, which can become a very serious power able to shape other countries’ policies. Atwan warns that Al Qaeda has evolved into a brand new organisation which exploits new ways to achieve its goals. It is clear that a new stage of Al Qaeda’s development has started and policymakers of different countries should take this into account.
Atwan, Abdel Bari. After bin Laden: Al Qaeda, the Next Generation. London: New Press, 2013. Print.