"TERRORISM: WAR IN THE SHADOWS," Wednesday, 10 p.m. (2) (8)--An epic journalist of the past tackles an epic problem of the present.

Make that the near past. Walter Cronkite reappears this week as the reporter in a "CBS Reports" hour examining the growing international menace of political terrorism.

Growing? Exploding is more like it, as terrorists continue to make headlines and put a huge fright into diplomats and international travelers.

Americans have been a primary target.

Almost 40% of terrorist attacks in the 1970s were directed against the United States, CBS says, quoting the State Department. And last year alone terrorists attacked Americans or American interests in Europe more than 80 times, the network says.

The war against terrorism is unlike other wars. "There are no visible soldiers, no visible fronts," Cronkite says. "There is a network run not by lone assassins, but by recognized nations."

Elements of that network are examined through the eyes of victims and aggressors on both sides of the Israeli-Lebanon border and in Rome and Washington.

Although anti-American terrorism has been confined to overseas, FBI director William Webster tells Cronkite that it's "entirely realistic" that Islamic terrorists could wage some kind of attack in the United States.

Although President Reagan has promised "swift and effective retribution" against terrorist attacks, some members of the Administration take a more conservative position.

Israel--which constantly lives under terrorist threat--is one nation whose policy is to immediately strike back. But is it possible to fight terrorism without becoming terrorists?

The jury is still out. Yet Rome-based journalist Claire Sterling, a expert on terrorism, has logic on her side when she tells Cronkite: "There is no such thing as good killers and bad killers."

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