Napoleoni describes the "New Economy of Terror", "a fast-growing international economic system with a turnover of about $1.5 trillion [that] is challenging Western hegemony." It is made up of illegal businesses such as arms and narcotics trading and oil and diamond smuggling, as well as charitable donations and legal profits.
Napoleoni reveals the interdependency between economies run by armed groups and Western economies. "As in the Crusades, religion is simply a recruitment tool; the real driving force is economics."
This book walks through stories of a lot of individuals and their money and logistical arrangements on the way to major terror operations. The narrator has the perfect sober, rich voice and gravitas to deliver this content.
The book really shines when the author pulls back and gives us an overview of the evolving world political economy after the fall of the USSR. While the west was congratulating itself, economic infrastructure all over the former communist-dominated world was withering. Where there had been political discipline (bad as it might have been in its way) and such things as regional arrangements allocating resources such as water, now these little atomized separatist groups were falling back into their enclosed, impoverished little zones. There were huge vacuums opening up in societies, on many levels, with large numbers of low-opportunity youths milling around, with nihilism, desperation and radicalization hovering and ready to take root. Along come the "right" people with money, an ideology, and bingo! Large swaths of the developing world fall into this atomized militia type condition, a breeding ground for radicalism. This is masterfully portrayed along with lots of particulars.
This history of course lacks the very latest round of developments, but gives very meaningful history. As a part of my recent studies into money laundering and offshore finance, I was curious about the bank, BCCI, and this history goes that far back (into the 80s), This sort of context vastly improves my understanding of what is happening now.
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This was an incredibly well researched, and well written book. Napoleoni paints a clear picture of the development and relationships between terror networks, it is also very easy to listen to great narration.