THE TERRORIST TRAP: America's Experience with Terrorism by Jeffrey D. Simon

THE TERRORIST TRAP: America's Experience with Terrorism

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A copious account of the modern American experience with terrorism that substitutes descriptive detail for thoughtful analysis. Although the book's title implies a comprehensive history of terrorist activity in America, the text covers the period from 1776 to the 1950s in less than 30 pages. The narrative proper develops after 1968, which Simon, editor-in-chief of TVI (Terrorism, Violence, Insurgency Report), pinpoints as ""the beginning of international terrorism as we know it today."" He explores three central themes: the growing frequency of terrorist acts; the presidential role in countering terrorism; and the potential for terrorists to exploit sophisticated weaponry and technology. Using interviews with terrorists, hostages and other victims, government officials, and, most effectively, former presidents, Simon conveys the personal drama inherent in these often tragic events. These episodes, however, are frequently mired in excessive detail and lacking in critical analysis. Simon accepts the ""endless nature of terrorism,"" and thus falls into a pattern of describing individual incidents without considering their larger causes or their common linkages. For instance, Simon does not discuss the relation between America's economic, political, and social ties to Israel and its increasing position as a target of terrorist activity. Thus the connections among the 1979 -- 81 Iranian hostage crisis, the 1983 bombings of the US embassy and marine barracks in Lebanon, the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, the Persian Gulf War, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (to which he devotes significant space) are never drawn. Simon deserves credit for broaching such a broad and overwhelming subject as terrorism -- a subject he has obviously studied at great length. Though he may understand the manifold definitions of ""terrorism,"" however, these distinctions are not clearly identifiable for the reader. Despite its various limitations, the book proves a worthwhile read on a thorny and highly sensationalized topic.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.