TERRORISM How the West Can Win edited by Benjamin Netanyahu (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: $18.95; 254 pp.)
Benjamin Netanyahu has produced a compelling book that reaffirms my own conclusion that in modern terrorism, we are not dealing with some transient and easily solved problem that can be banished by one quick and bold stroke. Rather, we are dealing with a complex and deeply rooted set of factors that require careful analysis, extended planning and coordination, commitment of substantial resources and recognition of the reality that no matter what course we follow, the cost in human lives may be high. Possibly most important, we must face the reality that the struggle against terrorism will not be brief.
Few are as well equipped to bring us this message as Netanyahu. He currently serves as Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations. Netanyahu not only distinguished himself as a commander in many operations for his country’s military but served for several years as the executive director of the Jonathan Institute, a Jerusalem research foundation on terrorism. He has been touched in the most personal way by modern terrorism. His brother, Lt. Jonathan Netanyahu, died leading the historic Entebbe rescue mission and is the namesake of the institute.
The book’s organization is its strength and also its weakness. Some repetition is almost unavoidable in a collection of essays such as those embodied in this book. However, the 37 authors included provide self-contained pieces, allowing the reader to select from an interesting menu that includes cabinet members of three nations, law enforcement officials, journalists, academics and U.S. congressmen.
To provide a logical construct, Netanyahu effectively groups the articles in eight sections. The sections define terrorism and its roots in totalitarianism and Islam, terrorism’s international connections, the media as problem and problem solver, and the legal and moral underpinnings for outlined solutions.
Netanyahu himself provides at the beginning of the volume as succinct a definition of terrorism as you might want: “Terrorism is the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming, and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends.” While this definition may seem obvious, many contributors to this work underscore the means of terrorism in hopes that we and the media will not allow ourselves to “rationalize or apologize for them.”
Charles Krauthammer, senior editor at the New Republic and contributor to Time and the Washington Post, recognizes that terrorism survives on publicity. He therefore urges on the media
Please Turn to Page 8 ‘How the West Can Win’
Continued From First Page “an exercise of discipline, a willingness to avert one’s eyes, self-censorship, if you will.” I have heard journalists argue that they must report all the news--that they must not censor the news. I submit that daily choices are made by all journalists, and that commonly the choices are simply based on what the public will find most “interesting.” Krauthammer points to “the decision to put Sabra and Shatilla on Page 1, while consigning the massacres of the Druse and Shiites a year later to Page 20.” He adds, “One is not asking the media to ignore terrorism simply not to celebrate it.”
Netanyahu would go further. “Scrutiny is not censorship. What the public has a right to demand of journalists is the same scrupulousness and professionalism, no more and no less, that they would show in the case of covering organized crime and its bosses. The proven power of a thorough press investigation to expose and repudiate such corruption--indeed, to galvanize public opposition against it--is exactly the power that can be harnessed against terrorism. A thoughtful press can turn terrorism’s greatest weapon against the terrorists themselves.”
And what is the role of government? As Netanyahu points out, terrorist murders are anything but senseless--they are the visible part of a vicious plan. What then must be our plan?
A common theme in this book is that we must respond with strength, with force and with no hint of compromise. Moshe Arens, a minister in the Israeli government, believes we should warn other governments supporting terrorism that “shielding terrorism behind the facade and immunity of their embassies will no longer be tolerated,” and that democracies must reach agreements for military collaboration against terrorists. Yitzhak Rabin, former prime minister of Israel and current foreign minister, believes this collaboration should be formalized in an international center to direct actions against terrorists.
Secretary of State George Schultz and Sen. Paul Laxalt go even further. They argue that we must be prepared to launch preemptive strikes. I agree. Netanyahu adds that, “Under no circumstances should governments categorically rule out a military response simply because of the risk of civilian casualties.” I agree. In fact, Netanyahu sees no distinction between terrorists and a state that deliberately employs them. “We need not confine our military response to the terrorists themselves.” I emphatically agree.
Paul Johnson, British historian and former editor of the New Statesman, sums it up: “Let us debate privately among ourselves when, and if so how, we will be prepared to discard the obstacle of sovereignty and national frontiers, which shelter the state terrorists. Let us calmly and discreetly amass and train the forces which will be necessary for such police action and discuss how we will deal with the political and international consequences. Let us decide in good time the limits beyond which terrorist states will not be allowed to pass, and let us perfect a military instrument of fearful retribution when and if those limits are crossed.”
Love a good book?
Get the latest news, events and more from the Los Angeles Times Book Club, and help us get L.A. reading and talking.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.