From the defense correspondent for London's Sunday Times, an authoritative appraisal of the NATO and Eastern Bloc forces trained to engage in low-intensity (i.e., non-nuclear) conflict or covert action: guerrilla warfare, counterinsurgency, anti-terrorism operations, rescue missions, et al. While Adams (The Unnatural Alliance, 1984; The Financing of Terror, 1986) covers some of the same ground as Steven Emerson in Secret Warriors (p. 255), he's painting on a broader canvas. To illustrate, he provides considerable detail on how the USSR's Spetznaz (special-purpose troops) are recruited, trained, and deployed to further Moscow's foreign-policy goals. He does likewise for, among others, Britain's SAS, Belgium's ESI, France's GIGN, West Germany's GSG-9, and US military units like the Green Berets, whose stock in trade is rapid response or undercover assignments. Adams weaves judgment calls aplenty into rousing accounts of the records compiled by unconventional forces since WW II. He gives high marks to the UK's Special Air Service, whose triumphs range from quelling Communist rebels in Malaysia through a dramatic assault on the Iranian embassy in London. Also lauded are the Soviet soldiers who made quick work of a Czech uprising in 1968 and took over Kabul at year end 1979. The author is appreciably less complimentary in his evaluation of the checkered performance of US troops, which he attributes in large measure to Pentagon commanders' ""obsessive commitment"" to conventional warfare. As has been seen in Vietnam, Laos, and a host of other venues, Adams argues, the capacity to fight flexibly or in unorthodox ways ""can decide the fate of millions."" In this context, he warns, the West, led by the US, is now on the defensive. Overall, then, an instructive and cautionary briefing. The absorbing text includes eight pages of photographs (not seen).