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Explaining ISIS threat to U.S. in all its hideous detail

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Don't count Erick Stakelbeck, author of “ISIS Exposed: Beheadings, Slavery, and the Hellish Reality of Radical Islam” (Regnery, available Monday), among those who think the threat posed by ISIS is overblown.

An investigative journalist and terrorism analyst for CBN News who hosts his own weekly show, Stakelbeck views ISIS as one of the most powerful terrorist threats yet, warning that it aims to conquer the United States by 2020, following a 20-year plan that originated with al-Qaida. He details the ISIS threat abroad and at home, drawing on graphic eyewitness accounts of gruesome ISIS atrocities in the Middle East and the views of experts regarding ISIS capabilities.

Among what “ISIS Exposed” exposes in an ISIS handbook issued in December, “Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves.” It prescribes sexual slavery for female captives and forcing children into training camps where they practice beheadings with blond-haired, blue-eyed dolls.

A former case officer who did clandestine CIA work tells Stakelbeck that America's porous southern border is ripe for ISIS attempts to smuggle in weapons of mass destruction, shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles and other arms for use in attacks here.

And the experiences of a former sheriff in Minnesota's Twin Cities region, home to a large Somali population that has proven fertile ground for radical Islamism, illuminate social media's role in swelling jihadist ranks — radicalization and recruitment that leads some would-be terrorists to join ISIS fighters overseas and others to remain in the U.S. to plot “lone wolf” attacks.

Having little confidence in the Obama administration's ability to respond appropriately, Stakelbeck expects the ISIS threat to grow while this president remains in the White House. And the author doubts that ISIS can be defeated without American “boots on the ground” in the territory now held by the terrorists.

Stakelbeck writes that “every credible military strategist” he spoke with told him ISIS can't be “defeated militarily without some level of involvement from U.S. ground forces — and in more than just an ‘advisory role.'”

DEFEATING NAPOLEON

“The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo” by Brendan Simms (Basic Books) — This concise book maintains that the crux of Napoleon's June 1815 defeat was the defense of a farmhouse at a key crossroads on the way to Brussels by a British Army unit. Made up of exiles from Hanover in northern Germany, territory that King George III claimed based on his heritage but had been conquered by Napoleon 12 years earlier, the Second Light Battalion of the King's German Legion was part of what the author considers a truly multinational force led by the Duke of Wellington. The battalion ultimately retreated but held the farmhouse long enough to stymie Napoleon's French troops until Prussian reinforcements arrived en masse to seal his defeat. What noted historian Simms calls “unpublished material in the Hanoverian archives” helps tell the story of the battalion and its members.

SHAPING MODERN WARFARE

“Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World it Made” by Richard Rhodes (Simon & Schuster) — Taking an unconventional approach to his topic, the author — winner of a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” — mostly eschews the political and ideological aspects of the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War between right-wing forces backed by the Axis powers and left-wing forces backed by the Soviet Union while Western democracies declined to get involved. He focuses instead on the roles played by journalists, medical personnel, and writers and artists famed for works associated with that conflict, such as Ernest Hemingway (“For Whom the Bell Tolls”) and Pablo Picasso (“Guernica”). He also emphasizes technological developments with enduring significance for warfare and medicine, such as aircraft capable of large-scale bombing; innovations in collecting, storing and transfusing blood; and improved treatment of wounds that saved limbs.

IN THE PIPELINE

Forthcoming titles from both ends of the political spectrum:

Conservative

• “Paying with Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran” by John M. Kinder (University of Chicago Press, March 23)

• “Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women” by Sarah Helm (Nan A. Talese, March 31)

• “End the IRS Before It Ends Us: How to Restore a Low Tax, High Growth, Wealthy America” by Grover Norquist (Center Street, April 7)

• “Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America's Founding Document” by Sen. Mike Lee (Sentinel, April 7)

• “First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women” by Susan Swain and C-SPAN (PublicAffairs, April 14)

Liberal

• “Latinos and the Voting Rights Act: The Search for Racial Purpose” by Henry Flores (Lexington Books, available Monday)

• “Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire” by Margaret Regan (Beacon Press, Tuesday)

• “White Backlash: Immigration, Race, and American Politics” by Marisa Abrajano and Zoltan L. Hajnal (Princeton University Press, March 22)

• “State of the World 2015: Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability” by The Worldwatch Institute (Island Press, April 13)

• “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” by Kevin M. Krause (Basic Books, April 14)

Alan Wallace is a Trib Total Media editorial page writer (412-320-7983 or [email protected]).

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