​Lindahl, Sondre (2019) A Critical Theory of Counterterrorism: Ontology, Epistemology and Normativity. London: Routledge. 188 pp.

​ISBN: 978-0-8153-5923-4

Sara M T Polo

University of Essex

Read more about this book: www.routledge.com

​Motivated by the shortcomings of dominant approaches to counterterrorism, epitomized by the so-called Global War on Terror, Sondre Lindahl offers a fascinating, alternative model of counterterrorism. The theory and model reflect a normative approach, in the tradition of Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS). Lindahl’s CTS model aims to prevent terrorism and foster individuals’ emancipation; this requires promoting human security and devoting resources to addressing the structural issues that are conducive to terrorism in the first place. Unlike the dominant war model, the CTS model strongly adheres to the principle of means/ends consistency whereby policies should be commensurate to, and consistent with, the changes they want to bring about. Specifically, Lindahl argues that counterterrorist policies and practices should be nonviolent. This may appear as counterintuitive and, possibly, even idealistic. However, the book does a very good job of justifying why the core elements of the CTS model are practically feasible. It draws on history and practice through a detailed case study of Norwegian peace diplomacy and counterterrorism, before and after Anders Breivik’s 2011 attacks. Drawing on the Norwegian experience, the book also provides some policy recommendations. Recognizing that most terrorism has national goals, rooted in deep politics, states should be willing to negotiate with opposition groups even if the latter engage in terrorism. Preventive strategies should include stopping arms trade and weapons manufacturing as well as countering radicalization. International efforts to counter terrorism need to be multilateral and uphold as much as possible the rules of international law and human rights. Overall, this book is a welcome contribution to the literature on counterterrorism and a stepping stone for future analyses of nonviolent strategies to combat and prevent terrorism.