Book Review

Fighting Terrorism
How Democracies Can Defeat the International Terrorist Network

Benjamin Netanyahu
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001, 152 pp.


This is a short book by the former leader of one of our staunchest allies and one of the world's most sensible writers about terrorism. This post-9/11 edition also contains Netanyahu's famous speech before the U.S. Congress.

Today, almost two months after the World Trade Center attacks, we have little understanding of what the terrorists were hoping to achieve. Obviously they could not hope to change U.S. policy in the Middle East. The religious war against Christianity they wanted was a possibility only in their demented brains. They have dragged the reputation of Islam and of their fellow Arabs into the trash bin. If there is a God, he has certainly smiled on the West, and driven the often hypocritical, racist and corrupt Islamic people of the Middle East into an abyss of despair and powerlessness. Rather than trying to reform their countries and improve their lives, many (if not most) Muslims covertly support the terrorists who purposely deepen this despair and intentionally risk bringing the wrath of the United States down onto their heads - a wrath which, if they are successful in starting a war against Christianity, could end with the vitrification of their holy cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. As Netanyahu puts it, the terrorists and their followers pursue an irrational ideology irrationally.

Because we have only a vague idea about the terrorists' goals, Americans seek advice from the Israeli leaders like Netanyahu who have had decades of experience fighting terrorism. The central idea in Fighting Terrorism is that there is an international terrorist network whose goal is to restore the past glory of Islam. The issues of Western "interference" and the Palestinian conflict with Israel are only red herrings. He writes: "The soldiers of militant Islam and pan-Arabism do not hate the West because of Israel; they hate Israel because of the West."

The Muslim leaders cynically use the Palestinian territorial conflict as a tool to incite their people into a war against Christianity and Judaism. Evil governments use it as a means of conducting proxy wars against their enemies. Ambitious Muslim terrorists use it as a tool to achieve Arab hegemony and gain political power. Netanyahu rightly encourages America to attack the governments that support terrorism. But it has to be attacked on all three fronts, not just with preemptive military action. Although terrorism is not unique to Islam, terrorism and military conquest are a fundamental part of the Islamic religion and will never disappear entirely until the Muslims themselves confront and repudiate them - something that annihilating the terrorists and their governments might encourage them to do.

Netanyahu also argues that the only effect of weakening Israel by forcing it back to its pre-1967 borders will be to resurrect the Arabs' desire to destroy Israel in its entirety. Although his insights about Israel are valuable, Netanyahu's reasoning about the causes of terrorism is not particularly insightful. For insight into the phenomenon of terrorism, read the brilliant article "The Strategy of Terrorism" published in Foreign Affairs magazine, by David Fromkin, which is posted on their website.

Update Thanks to these folks for reporting the broken link.

Nov 3, 2001 Back