Politics & Policy

On Guard

A new terrorism survival guide is a must-read.

In the l970s I was part of a group hired by the National Water Commission to forecast trends that would impact the nation’s water resources around the turn of the century. Aside from predicting an ever-growing boom in outdoor recreation, we forecasted the likelihood of an increased potential for terrorism. That threat, we said, would come from extremists in the U.S., rogue foreign states, organized crime, and political and religious groups. We concluded that the ability of these coteries to do harm would escalate with advancements in modern technology.

That future is now.

The work we did included meetings with Pentagon researchers who attempted to forecast terrorist strikes and devise methods to prevent them. “It’s important work, but it can make you paranoid and depressed,” one researcher told me at the time. Before opening Juval Aviv’s Complete Terrorism Survival Guide, I was anticipating such an onset of such paranoia and depression — but this important work has no such side effect.

Aviv is a former Israeli counterterrorism intelligence officer. He has 30 years experience in intelligence and security work, including time as a consultant for El Al. He also served as the lead investigator on the Pan American 103/Lockerbie terrorist bombing. Today, Aviv is the CEO of Interfor, Inc., an international company that specializes in corporate investigations and security. In short, he knows what he’s talking about.

The guide begins, “The scourge of terrorism was long in the making. It won’t die easy. So be prepared for the worst.” With clarity and concision, Aviv sets out by describing what we are up against, giving us a decade-worth of chilling detail on such incidents as the cult attacks of the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo on the Tokyo subway system; the Rajneeshie lacing of salad bars in Oregon; the lone terrorist acts of Timothy McVeigh and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski; organized-crime kidnappings; the first World Trade Center blast; al Qaeda’s 2001 demolition of the Towers; anthrax by mail; credit-card fraud; cybercrime; and identity theft. Stacked together, there’s little doubt that these are extraordinary times.

Aviv can be sobering and frightening. But if you cannot face the fact that you are a likely target of criminals and terrorists, then you are in denial. This is reality, folks.

Need convincing? Aviv offers a terrorism-risk scorecard, enabling the reader to assess his or her degree of vulnerability. Urbanites, for instance, may want to head back to nature as they learn how hectic schedules, commuting, and dense populations make them more likely targets of terrorism.

Aviv shares an enormous volume of information on how to reduce risk and get prepared. He covers readiness at home, travel safety in the U.S. and abroad, how to safeguard your money and identity, and how to protect your business and buildings. The book is written clearly, offering numerous tips and cautionary warnings. I found it helpful to read the book with a yellow highlighter; this book is an invaluable resource you will want to keep nearby. Listed are the phone numbers, websites, and addresses you need to know to develop a zone of protection around yourself, your loved ones, and your assets. It is a resource book for the working library of the concerned citizen as well as the corporate executive.

This book will change you, too. Preparedness is an attitude. Slowly and steadily, Aviv becomes your motivational guide.

In keeping with Aviv’s philosophy of preparedness, I’ve already taken the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team training, which not only helps you assess local disaster potentials, but gives you hands-on skill-training on how to cope with natural and man-made disasters. But despite my own training, I learned many things from this book. It moved me to reinforce the hinges of the porch door with bar and carriage bolts. Any intruder wanting to gain entry that way will now need a lot of force, and such an attempted infiltration will also make a lot of noise. We’ve named the door the “Juval Aviv door.”

The Complete Terrorism Survival Guide will not let you down — but there are small criticisms. While Aviv does briefly recommend self-defense training, I think this deserves more emphasis. Psychological research shows that martial-arts training for youth and adults has many positive values beyond self-defense and fitness. Programs such as Chuck Norris’s Kick Drugs Out of America and Peter Westbrook’s fencing academy show that learning how to defend yourself increases self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-discipline — intangibles that are transferable to many other areas of life. A confident attitude alone, and the posture and movements it produces, is a definite deterrent to potential attackers — a point on which Aviv agrees.

Of course, if you do enroll in a class for self-defense, karate, or aikido, and the instructor says he is going to turn you into the next Bruce Lee, bow politely and leave. As Aviv points out, the best thing to do if faced by a criminal or a terrorist is to get away as fast as you can. This holds true for the martial arts, which should teach you only to fight as a last resort.

It also pays these days to have a working knowledge of weapons for self-defense, which Aviv does not cover. Anyone who chooses to protect themselves with a firearm should go to a range and take classes, or better yet enroll in the Gunsite Academy or the Halo Group. In such places they can learn how and when to use a firearm. They should also periodically practice with a gun, and perhaps take up a shooting sport. People who participate in shooting sports have more self-confidence with their firearms, and they also become better marksmen.

Indeed, the benefits of shooting sports go far. A 1966 research study of the Civilian Marksmanship Program conducted by the Arthur D. Little Corporation for the U.S. Army — reported in James B. Whisker’s The Citizen Soldier — found that “shooting experience, and particularly marksmanship instruction, with military-type small arms prior to entry into military service contributes significantly to the training of the individual soldier.” It also contributes greatly to the preparedness of the citizen soldier, which is what we all are until the terrorist threat is dampened.

These points aside, Juval Aviv has generated an invaluable book for our times. Not only will it have you prepared, but it will give you some peace of mind — a precious commodity these days.

— James Swan is a contributing editor of ESPNOutdoors.com.


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