Book Review:

Rx for a Post-Terrorist World?

Reviewed by Joseph Rosenberg
Shadow Warriors--Inside the Special Forces
by Tom Clancy with General Carl Steiner and Tony Koltz
Putnam, 2002

Clancy shows how the traditional military until recently has thwarted the objectives of Special Forces troops.

This best-seller, from the word factory of Tom Clancy, continues his life-long admiration and exhortation for all things military. However, to those of us of the pacifist left, imagined moral superiority is no longer a luxury. We here in the USA have been "had" in a big and fearsome way, and we need the Tom Clancys to give us a road map to how we defend ourselves against the terrorists at, and within, our gates.

In 500+ pages of testimony by General Stiner and almost mind-altering military jargon, this book shows us the origins of "special forces" and special operations from the 1950s onward. At their heart, these operations involved highly trained and motivated troops who do more than just go "bang-bang," They seek to neutralize the enemy and gain that objective with a minimum amount of civilian damage.

I must admit a prejudice on my part, as I served in Psychological Operations and know quite a few Special Ops guys. Our objective was not to destroy, but to win the hearts and minds. Clancy shows how the traditional military until recently has thwarted this objective and marginalized these troops. He makes a cogent case for expanding the special forces concepts in fighting terrorist states and movements.

Certainly, the biblical principle of "an eye for an eye" is not working in the Middle East, the Balkans or anywhere else where man's own indifference to his fellow man is the mode of consciousness. Preparedness and intelligent use of military force unfortunately must be employed if we are to continue our existence on this planet. We must be vigilant not to allow the abridgement of our liberties in the name of its defense, we also must be vigilant not to let prior attitudes against the type of operations and training espoused by this book blind us to their current necessity.

This is one of Mr. Clancy's better prose efforts; his tone is non-judgmental and to the point, yet shows his expertise at shaping a story. I think when you have seen three buildings either implode or be torn apart like tinker toys, partisan bickering and intellectual games of "gotcha" become obsolete. We do need to know what our military can do to defend us and direct our resources to an intelligent defense that does not include mass weapons of destruction but make use of our own courage and intelligence. We do not need to vanquish, but just punish our enemies and defend our freedoms. And somehow, we need to change the mindset of our enemies. I much prefer Mr. Clancy's approach to the alternative--one big nuclear blowout.


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This story was published on May 2, 2002.