WHY TERRORISM WORKS by Alan M. Dershowitz


Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge
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The ubiquitous and prolific Harvard law professor (Shouting Fire, 2002, etc.) weighs in on civil liberties and international justice in a time of terror.

Some of Dershowitz’s theses will be familiar to anyone who watches Larry King or Meet the Press: Terrorism is a natural outcome of the Western powers’ conduct around the world; terrorism exists because the West has not found effective ways of stamping it out; terrorism exists because “it is successful—terrorists have constantly benefited from their terrorist acts.” Never mind the questionable wisdom (or logic) of blaming the victim: Dershowitz drops all that to argue how the war against terrorism should be waged, for a time of war it is, and one that may never end. Going after the terrorists with brutal force will just create more martyrs, true, but martyrs are far less dangerous in the long run than “charismatic leaders capable of persuading followers to risk or forfeit their lives”—leaders who are abundant on the present world scene. Dershowitz urges that battling these leaders be done without sacrificing civil liberties at home, for “if we gradually compromise the tools of freedom one at a time, we will not have them available when we truly need them to combat tyranny.” Perhaps surprisingly, though, he recommends that stronger domestic security measures be put into place; the ID card itself is less a problem, he writes, than are “the content of government databases and the circumstances under which government authorities should be entitled to ask anyone to identify him or herself,” and the specter of Big Brotherism is less troublesome than the fact that those entrusted to be vigilant are “simply not smart enough, not knowledgeable enough, and not experienced enough to do the job.”

Sensible overall, with little of the grandstanding or self-aggrandizement of Dershowitz’s recent outings. Still, of interest to policymakers more than to general readers.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 2002
ISBN: 0-300-09766-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2002


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