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Terrorism and Us Foreign Policy [Hardcover]

Paul R. Pillar

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Book Description

1 May 2001
The United States government-backed by the overwhelming support of the American public-takes a hard line against international terrorism. The tenets of official U.S. counterterrorist policy are: make no concessions or deals with terrorists; bring them to justice for their crimes; isolate and apply pressure on states that sponsor terrorism; and bolster the counterterrorist capabilities of countries willing to work with the United States. While these tenets are sound principles, their application, specifically overseas, raises difficult questions. Does the "no deal" policy actually deter terrorists acts? Are there cases where agreements might reduce terrorism, while advancing other U.S. interests? Do isolation and pressure really force offending states to alter their support for terrorists? What factors affect the willingness, not just the capability, of foreign governments to help the United States in counterterrorism? In this critical study, a career CIA officer provides a guide to constructing and executing counterterrorist policy, urging that it be formulated as an integral part of broader U.S. foreign policy. In the first four chapters, Paul R. Pillar identifies the necessary elements of counterterrorist policy, he examines why the United States is a prime terrorist target, and he reveals why the counterterrorist policies that seem strongest are not always the most effective. Chapter 5 examines the widely varying nature of terrorist groups and the policy tools most appropriately applied to them. Chapter 6 focuses on states that sponsor terrorism (including Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Cuba), along with those that enable it to occur (particularly Greece and Pakistan). Pillar examines ways in which the American public's perspective toward terrorism can actually constrain counterterrorist policy, and he concludes that terrorism cannot be "defeated" only reduced, attenuated, and to some degree, controlled. The final chapter summarizes his recommendations for amending U.S. policy.

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"The book's strength is its nuanced sense of how Washington's counterterrorism policy actually works, day in and day out." --Philip Zelikow, Foreign Affairs, 10/3/2001 "Paul Pillar, a career Central Intelligence Agency officer and former deputy director of its Counterterrorist Center, provides a guide to constructing and executing effective counterterrorist policy. The author offers a valuable overview of the dimensions" --Joshua Sinai, Washington Times, 10/3/2001 "Provides hard realizations about the moral compromises that will be required in this new struggle." --Robert D. Kaplan, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, New York Times Book Review, 10/11/2001 "If you want to better understand the political context in which the war on terrorism will be fought, then Pillar's is the book to read." --Mitchell G. Bard, Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, Middle East Insight, 1/1/2002 "An excellent new book on terrorism..." --Sebastian Mallaby, WashingtonPost.com, 9/24/2001 "Paul Pillar... is one of the best-qualified U.S. writers on the subject of terrorism, and this is an excellent book... this is a knowledgeable, clearly written, and comprehensive explanation of U.S. responses to terrorism... Pillar's book is the best single source for balanced treatment of the advantages and disadvantages of counterterrorist tools available to the United States." --Audrey Kurth Cronin, Georgetown University, Perspectives on Political Science, 1/1/2002 "By far the best volume for a broad understanding of American responses to terrorism... It presents a nuanced, sophisticated, and timely discussion of the range of options available to the United States, placed firmly in the context of competing and overarching foreign policy goals... This sort of balanced, informed discussion is a much needed antidote to the recent spate of alarmist publications in the field, which unwittingly support the main goal of most terrorists." --Audrey Kurth Cronin, Georgetown University, Joint Force Quarterly, 10/1/2001 "[interview with Paul Pillar]" --Steve Hirsch, The National Journal, 1/26/2002 "His arguments are logical and thoroughly supported by the evidence. Happily, the book does not rely on speculative future scenarios but on analysis of the facts... anyone interested in contemporary terrorism would profit by reading it... It consititutes an essential source of information and analysis." --Martha Crenshaw, Wesleyan University, Terrorism and Political Violence, 7/1/2001 "[A] careful, well-balanced account of combating terrorism." --David Tucker, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, Book Review (?) "Timely, wise, and restrained..." -- Future Survey, 11/1/2001 "In a timely and important work, Paul R. Pillar provides exactly what its refreshingly straightforward title promises-- a comprehensive, scholarly, well-organized and cogently written study of global terrorism as it relates to the practice of U.S. relations with the rest of the world... The level of detail along with the breadth and depth of the sources insure its value to academics and seasoned practitioners alike... 9-11 did not contradict, but instead confirmed the book's main arguments." --David W. Thornton, Campbell University, Buies Creek, NC, American Diplomacy, 9/30/2002 "A welcome addition to a literature predominately focused on the nature, ideology, tactics, and motivations of terrorist groups... The world has shifted dramatically as a consequence of September 11. 'Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy' is a useful springboard for exploring this new environment." --Paul D. Hoyt, International Politics, 12/1/2002

About the Author

Paul Pillar , who spent 28 years in the U.S. intelligence community, is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A serious but (frighteningly) understandable MUST read 29 Oct 2001
By Joel L. Gandelman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I first read about this book in the newspaper, I was prepared to read a very dry, boring academic work on terrorism. I was a Political Science major in college so that did not bother me. BUT I was truly SURPRISED when I read this -- and STRONGLY recommend it to everyone who wants to get "the complete picture" of where the United States is in this terrorism "war," how terrorism grew, where it is going...and how it may be contained.
True, this book cannot be compared to a "fast read" nonfiction book or an informative news magazine piece. It is quite serious and that's not surprising since its author was deputy chief of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center. But it is NOT boring and is easily undertandable. It's sort of between an academic text and a standard nonfiction book.
Even though it was written before the horrorific Sept 11 events there are plenty of references to Osama bin Laden..and many others terrorist individuals and groups. In fact, chapters are broken into headings such as states, groups, counterterrorist instruments, etc.
What's MOST interesting about this book is this: immediately after Sept 11 American policymakers (government and elected) had been faulted with not knowing much about terrorism.
But it is VERY clear from reading this book that this is THE book they have used to get up to speed. This clearly was their "Bible." A lot of what is going on now seems to be based on the concepts and conclusions in this book; and when you listen to some elected officials on Sunday news shows it's clear they read THIS book.
The most unsettling part of all this is: after you read it, and get a wonderful understanding of the groups, people, and options, you realize that: a)the US government and officials WERE indeed woefully unprepared (books like this and reports on terrorism apparently were used as doorstops by both political parties until disaster struck) and b) dealing with terrorism is akin to squeezing a half-full water balloon...for each push on one end, something bulges on the other end.
I STRONGLY recommend this book to ANYONE who wants to understand the historical, military and political minefield that the U.S. now tiptoes through.
Don't be scared off because it's a serious book! It's thoughtful, balanced with lots of quotes and analysis. Level-headed...and NOT a "doomsday" book. Academics will love it. Policy makers and elected officials already parrot it. And the average reader will find it understandable...and realize the challenges and dangers ahead as never before. Read it and keep it, or read it and lend it, or read it and sell it...but READ IT. Read it!
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking the panic out of terror 22 Sep 2001
By John C. Bannon - Published on Amazon.com
I have only begun reading this book, but have already advanced my understanding of terrorism a thousand-fold. It is eerie to read the book, knowing that it was written before the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. If only we'd read it before then...
This is not a mass-market book; it is more reminiscent of a college textbook. There are no photographs, and no lurid descriptions of terrorist attacks. Those omissions provide an example of the importance of this book: by de-sensationalizing terrorism, the author renders it possible to apply unimpassioned reason to a menace that can only by combatted by careful planning, intelligent strategizing, and long-term considerations of foreign policy. Despite its sobriety, however, the writing is lucid and elegant. It is a relief to find that at least one author has been studying the problem of terrorism so recently, and in such depth. After reading the book, terrorism remains something to be feared, but no longer a source of panic.
I urgently recommend the book to anyone who had been overwhelmed by the WTC incident and is trying to comprehend the "new world" in which we live. Pillar has made international terrorism comprehensible -- which is a major contribution to America's efforts to recover from the September 11th attack. Knowledge is strength.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read on terrorism 16 Oct 2002
By David Fallas-redondo - Published on Amazon.com
This is not a book about secret operations or police actions against terrorism. This text is about the phenomenom of terrorism, its different manifestations and the kinds of groups related to this activities. Mr. Pillar explains the methods for answering the terrorist threat and -contrary to what many may think- he relegates military actions to the last place of the list. This book was written before September 11, 2001, but certainly it helps explain why the attacks took place and sets the path to prevent such acts in the future. This book is also important for those interested on the legal aspects of terrorism, because it deals with different instruments adopted to combat this threat. For every person who would like to form his/her own opinion on how to fight terrorism, this text is a must read.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Anti-terrorism Tutorial From a Pro 14 Jan 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Paul Pillar brings stunning clarity and an insider's sagacity to a subject that is far more complex than the sound-bites and political posturing that we normally hear. Written before Sept. 11th, it is amazingly accurate in its assessment of the pitfalls and possibilities of counter-terrorist policy decisions. This is essential reading for a congress that has far too often passed simplistic and consequently counter-productive legislation to cure a problem that they don't fully comprehend. Though written by a savvy professional in this field, the book is amazingly lucid and full of concrete examples. A "must read".
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Our Fault 24 July 2006
By Retired Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Measured perhaps is the word that best describes this book. Paul Pillar has clearly attempted to present the issues of terrorism in a dispassionate and reasoned manner. For the most part he has succeeded. He also provides the readers of the paperback edition of this book with a new introductory essay that ties the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks into the main themes of the book. The book provides a useful basis for any discussion on the nature of terrorism and counter terrorism.

It is also a book is filled with interesting observations and comments. For example, anyone who has read Ron Suskind's book, "The One Per Cent Doctrine" undoubtedly remembers Vice President Cheney's comment to George Tenet that, "If there's a one per cent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al Qaeda to build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have treat it as a certainty in terms of our response." This book which was published well before the Suskind book, provides the reader with the same concept after someone, presumably Tenet, translated it into bureaucratese "...the potential consequences of CBRN weapons getting into the hands of terrorist groups are so severe that the possibility must be countered no matter how low the probability."

Of course this book, like so many written by former government officials is self serving. Pillar probably was forced out as the Deputy Chief of the Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) of the CIA, but the reasons for this are unclear. In any event he spends a good deal of the book justifying the work of CIA and providing what has become the standard Government Official response to critics of the Agency by claiming that: the problems raised by the critics are bogus and show a misunderstanding of how the agency operates and besides which action has already been taken internally to correct them. Nonetheless the book is worth reading and contributes to our understanding of the phenomena of terrorism.
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