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Terrorism and America [Hardcover]

Philip B. Heymann
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)


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Book Description

July 31, 1998 0262082721 978-0262082723 1
The bombings of the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City federal building have shown that terrorist attacks can happen anywhere in the United States. Around the globe, massacres, hijackings, and bombings of airliners are frequent reminders of the threat of terrorism. The use of poison gas in the Tokyo subway has raised the specter of even more horrible forms of terror—including the use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

In this book, Philip Heymann argues that the United States and other democracies can fight terrorism while preserving liberty and maintaining a healthy, unified society. Drawing on his experience in the US Departments of State and Justice, he shows how domestic and foreign intelligence-gathering can thwart terrorism, how the United States must cooperate and share information with its allies, and how terrorism can be prevented in many cases. Terrorism will never disappear completely, but the policies Heymann offers can limit the harm to Americans and protect the integrity of US governmental processes.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This levelheaded appraisal of how the United States--and, indeed, any democratic society--can combat terrorism is a good policy primer on a subject that continues to confound law-abiding nations. Drawing on the lessons learned from terrorist acts such as the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings, Heymann offers advice that is sometimes obvious (intelligence gathering is critical) and occasionally counterintuitive (military action, though popular, is not a very effective deterrent). He is most sensitive to the fact that democracies cannot become security states--governments, in other words, shouldn't defend their liberty by subverting it. Most important, Heymann recognizes that terrorism can't be stopped, but that perhaps it can be managed: "We can deal with it; we can discourage it; but we cannot end it completely any more than we can end violence for other purposes." A bleak fact of modern life, and proof of why Heymann's insights are so welcome. --John J. Miller

From Booklist

Harvard Law School professor Heymann distinguishes international from domestic terrorism and urges "commonsense" steps to minimize danger while protecting citizens' liberty and the nation's unity, recognizing that terrorist violence cannot be entirely eliminated. He describes special issues raised by international terrorism (and state-sponsored terrorism) and the challenges of deciding whether and how substantively to negotiate for hostages. A strategy to prevent domestic terrorism, he points out, demands intelligence gathering, which means agencies like the FBI will sometimes fail to distinguish adequately between political dissent and political violence. Heymann calls for a major intelligence focus on "NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) weapons," better coordination and information exchange between U.S. agencies and other countries, military response to state-sponsored terrorism, and managing public expectations: "We must learn never to react to the limited violence of small groups by launching a crusade in which we destroy our unity . . . or our trust" in U.S. institutions. Mary Carroll

Product Details

  • Series: Belfer Center Studies in International Security
  • Hardcover: 207 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (July 31, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262082721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262082723
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,775,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introductory text on this subject. July 5, 2000
Format:Hardcover
Phillip Heymann offers a clear-minded, if somewhat cursory, appraisal of the difficulties terrorist activity presents democratic and "open" societies. He manages in just a little over 150 pages to clearly identify the dangers over-reaction to either terrorist threats or actions can pose to a society, as well the risks posed when a terrorist incident involves more than one country, without burdening the reader with too much detail.
This is not, however, an intellectual treatise or theoretical work. Heymann very clearly illustrates his points by examining specific incidents and their consequences involving not merely the US, but Italy, the UK, Germany, Israel, Columbia, and others. Perhaps most illustrative is his examination of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, which drives home the complications arising when multiple governments and competing policies become involved, and Chapter 7 on the criminal just system, which touches on everything from the difficulties of investigation to witness intimidation to the use (and possible abuse) of deadly force to the issue of civil rights.
By the end, Heymann delivers on his promise of a "common sense" strategy for dealing with both domestic and international terrorism. Pragmatically admitting the danger of terrorism can never be completely eliminated, it can at least be minimized by a combination of steps, including more targetted intelligence gathering, greater sharing of information with our allies, resisting giving into terrorist demands, and better training of law enforcement in dealing with terrorism.
The book has two small failings however. First, it provides only a cursory examination of what terrorism itself involves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Conventional wisdom that won't prevent terrorism June 30, 2009
Format:Paperback
Unfortunately, Philip Heymann's Terrorism & America was published a year before 9/11. Accordingly, two terrorists he focuses on at the beginning are Timothy McVeigh and Mahmoud Abouhalima (of the 1993 World Trade Center garage bombing notoriety), and much of the book seems dated because of the omission of the more severe 9/11 attack.

But my problems with this book run deeper. It's this type of analysis which I discarded long ago because it REALLY DOESN'T SOLVE THE PROBLEM. The author admits some terrorist attacks are unpreventable and has an unsettling take on whether terrorists will ever get or use weapons of mass destruction which he calls "NBC weapons" -- nuclear, biological, chemical -- to the probable dismay of the TV broadcasting firm with the same initials? Note: a recent "World At Risk" report suggests chemical weapons are much less of a danger than biological ones. Whether NBC or NB weapons might ever be used is a huge, looming question mark hanging over the analysis. His strategy is somewhat sensible IF they're never used, but how can we presume we'll be spared? I think the smart assumption is to assume they will be used, and figure out how to prevent such occurrences.

The author calls for common sense, keeping one's cool, not over-reacting if terrorism strikes. His solutions? Spend more money; gather more intelligence; prosecute terrorists swiftly; share information with allies; give a proportionate response when dealing with state-supported terrorists. He grasps pieces of the puzzle. It's well written, suitable for non-academics.

My problem with his analysis is that Professor Heymann doesn't follow through with the logic. He fails to see terrorism as a larger problem in which government, itself, can become the terrorist.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent starting point for further analysis. July 5, 2000
Format:Hardcover
Phillip Heymann offers a clear-minded, if somewhat cursory, appraisal of the difficulties terrorist activity presents democratic and "open" societies. He manages in just a little over 150 pages to clearly identify the dangers over-reaction to either terrorist threats or actions can pose to a society, as well the risks posed when a terrorist incident involves more than one country, without burdening the reader with too much detail.
This is not, however, an intellectual treatise or theoretical work. Heymann very clearly illustrates his points by examining specific incidents and their consequences involving not merely the US, but Italy, the UK, Germany, Israel, Columbia, and others. Perhaps most illustrative is his examination of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, which drives home the complications arising when multiple governments and competing policies become involved, and Chapter 7 on the criminal just system, which touches on everything from the difficulties of investigation to witness intimidation to the use (and possible abuse) of deadly force to the issue of civil rights.
By the end, Heymann delivers on his promise of a "common sense" strategy for dealing with both domestic and international terrorism. Pragmatically admitting the danger of terrorism can never be completely eliminated, it can at least be minimized by a combination of steps, including more targetted intelligence gathering, greater sharing of information with our allies, resisting giving into terrorist demands, and better training of law enforcement in dealing with terrorism.
The book has two small failings however. First, it provides only a cursory examination of what terrorism itself involves.
Read more ›
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