- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

Responding to the threat of terrorism today above all requires knowing the full spectrum of challenges posed by those who would do harm. In this light, few books are as insightful or as comprehensive as Boaz Ganor’s “The Counter-Terrorism Puzzle.”

In this compelling discussion of terrorism, Mr. Ganor, who is considered one of the world’s most prominent experts on terrorism and counterterrorism, identifies terrorist threats and delineates ways in which governments could most successfully proceed to address them.

The “puzzle” of the book’s title hints at the myriad ways a response to a terrorist threat can take shape. Mr. Ganor’s approach is an analytic one, and examines with precision the magnitude of the terrorist threat and counteraction in the form of policy making, intelligence collection and analysis, deterrence, and offensive and defensive countermeasures (and how to avoid the “boomerang effect”).

Mr. Ganor also includes a discussion of how democratic (as opposed to authoritarian) governments counter terrorism. Of note is his chapter on punitive legislative and judicial laws (anti-terrorism emergency laws, such as the Patriot Act). He also weighs in on the role of print and electronic media in covering attacks and the distinction between responsible and irresponsible reporting. The psychological impact of terrorism on society and the role of international cooperation and international treaties in defeating terrorism are also considered.

This is a broad and ambitious book covering the most wide ranging topics in counterterrorism analysis. Fortunately, Mr. Ganor is able to weave his observations into a coherent and powerful overview. A former officer in Israeli military intelligence, Mr. Ganor (whom, for the sake of full disclosure, I know in a professional capacity) was the founder and executive director of the International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center, in Herzliya, Israel.

“The Counter-Terrorism Puzzle” is actually two interwoven books. It originated as a doctoral dissertation on dilemmas in Israeli counterterrorism, so about half of the book focuses on how Israel has addressed counterterrorism dilemmas in its response to the Palestinian terrorist threat. The other half of the book suggests how governments such as the United States can effectively counter the threats posed by the insurgency being mounted by al Qaeda and its allies.

Mr. Ganor makes the important point that in order to facilitate appropriate legal and operational response measures, including international cooperation, a terrorist threat must first be defined. Mr. Ganor writes that “Terrorism is a form of violent struggle in which violence is deliberately used against civilians in order to achieve political goals (nationalistic, socioeconomic, ideological, religious, etc.).” He asserts that the use of “deliberate” targeting of civilians in order to achieve political objectives is what distinguishes a terrorist act from guerrilla warfare, where military units are targeted.

Such a formulation is important because it facilitates the outlawing of terrorism by the international community since all nations can agree that the deliberate targeting of civilians is illegitimate and should be universally legislated as a crime, whereas attacks against military personnel would be considered as part of regular warfare, including the right to retaliate by a country’s armed forces against those perpetrators. Mr. Ganor concludes that if acts of terrorism were universally outlawed as a form of warfare by the international community, then terrorist groups would have no choice but to “abandon terrorism and focus on guerrilla activity to achieve their political aims.”

Mr. Ganor is also at his best when he discusses the psychological toll of terrorism. He writes that terrorism is a form of warfare in which a localized violent incident is intended to spread a “paralyzing sense of fear within each individual in the targeted community that he or she could be the victim in the next attack.” By instilling a state of insecurity, terrorism aims to undermine the targeted country’s “ability to function” in order to “drive public opinion to pressure decision makers to surrender to the terrorists’ demands, thereby restoring the sense of personal safety they feel has been lost. In this way the target population becomes a tool in the hands of the terrorists to promote their political interests.”

Mr. Ganor then offers a detailed way in which governments might help strengthen the population’s psychological resilience to what he calls “psychological and morale-related warfare.”

The book’s greatest strength is its systematic approach to dealing with ways we know that terrorists have acted and will act in the future. The book’s analysis thus provides an important guide not only to decision makers but also to all those who are involved in trying to understand how to formulate effective counterterrorism policies and programs.

Joshua Sinai is an analyst on terrorism issues at ANSER in Arlington.

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