Review: Living with Terrorism

An acquaintance of mine asked me if I enjoyed reading this book. I replied “No, I did not really enjoy it. But I did find it useful.” Since the topic of the book is unpleasant, some of the material in the book is also unpleasant and not appropriate for younger readers.

The author, Howard Linett is originally from the US, but has spent a number of years in Jerusalem working in law enforcement–which explains in part the book’s subtitle “Survival Lessons from the Streets of Jerusalem.”

While the author uses a number of personal stories (his and those of other people whom he personally knows) to backstop the advice which he provides, he never comes across as cocky or full of himself. In fact, he is downright laconic and deprecating at times–even when I wish he would go into more detail for a particular situation and tell the readers how everything finally came out right–if it did.

Speaking of situations, one matter which the author comes back to again and again is the need for situational awareness, both with regards to one’s immediate surroundings as well as more generally to the place where one lives.

While the author speaks of the happenings in Jerusalem and its environs, he does so for an American audience, never letting us forget the differences which currently exist with regard to current levels of terrorism or the lack thereof.

Topics include everything from performing a personal risk assessment, to understanding the basics of what motivates different terrorist groups to understanding how different tools and devices may be used both by terrorists and to prevent specific acts from occurring, to specific means of self-defense and protection in the event one is caught in a terrorist attack.

Mr. Linett also goes into some detail on the steps which can be taken to protect against chemical/biological agents by sealing up a portion of one’s dwelling. I found this section the least helpful (perhaps because it was the most step-by-step, and therefore did not lend itself to principle so much as particular application).

After reading the book, I was struck by a couple things. On the one hand, I was reminded how blessed we Americans are that we do not need to consider what to do to protect ourselves if we are about to be roadblocked and kidnapped for torture and/or death. On the other hand, I was reminded that safety is largely an illusion and that it would be wise to consider how quickly things can change–as was violently demonstrated on 9/11/01.

While one may agree or disagree with the author’s particular solutions to the dangers he discusses, there is no question that he has survived for many years in an environment which is much more hostile than any with which most Americans are intimately familiar. In short, he has earned the right to tell us a few things–and we would do well to consider them.