Smeared across the headlines, the spectacular deeds of terrorists make them seem ""utterly threatening and utterly...


THE ULTIMATE WEAPON: Terrorists and World Order

Smeared across the headlines, the spectacular deeds of terrorists make them seem ""utterly threatening and utterly incomprehensible""--a view that Schreiber is out to refute in this acute and challenging study of politically motivated violence. Affiliated with the Harvard Center for Criminal Justice, Schreiber argues cogently that terrorism is the weapon of the dispossessed; that it frequently works; and that it is no more or less reprehensible than the depredations of wartime armies which frequently make terror against civilian populations official policy--viz. the London blitz, Hiroshima, or Vietnam. The fact remains that the world's legal codes are singularly unprepared to deal with the terrorist who is generally not a common criminal, not susceptible to ""punishment"" or ""conscience,"" and not infrequently seen as a gallant freedom fighter by some oppressed minority. Since inertia dictates that ""the obvious approach of undercutting the potential terrorist by co-opting his program"" is generally the last to be tried, Schreiber considers various other tactics which may forestall disaster in cases of hijacking or hostage-taking. He notes that stepping-up security precautions, or ""target hardening,"" has limits everywhere and may backfire in countries that guard their citizens' liberties. Counterforce--the retaliatory raid--generally increases the odds that lives will be lost, and Schreiber in any case is not of the school that believes success means ""the obliteration of the terrorist."" Thus the seemingly simple counsel to buy time, negotiate, avoid trickery, and allow a natural sympathy to develop between hostage and abductor. Drawing on material from Attica to Entebbe, Schreiber maintains that time elapsed always works in favor of preserving lives. Intelligent and far-sighted, this goes well beyond Ovid Demaris' facile Brothers in Blood (1977) and other works that blame this 20th-century epidemic on nihilism and depravity.

Pub Date: March 27, 1978


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1978