Sunday, August 7, 2005

Putting the Muscle on Terrorism

Walter Laqueur's review of Robert Pape's Dying to Win and Mia Bloom's Dying to Kill (Book World, July 24) implies that democratic societies are unable to deal with terrorism without using authoritative or repressive measures. Yet the example he gives of the ability of dictatorships to control terrorism -- "there was little if any terrorism under Gen. Franco and the Greek colonels" -- is just wrong.

In Spain, Franco's repression of the Basques led to the formation of ETA (Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna) in 1959. ETA's violent campaign began in 1961 with an attempt to derail a train transporting politicians. In 1973 ETA committed what may be the most successful terrorist action in the 20th century (if success is measured by helping to achieve the group's goals, rather than by number of victims) when it detonated explosives under a car and assassinated Prime Minister Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco. The Admiral's death was a major blow to Franco's succession plans -- Franco intended to have a military junta headed by the Admiral control the country under a puppet king -- and gave Juan Carlos more freedom to work toward a democratic transition. After Spain became democratic, the majority of ETA supporters reentered the political mainstream, leaving behind a relatively small core of terrorist supporters.

In Greece the revolutionary group 17N was formed in 1973 after the military junta employed tanks to crush the student-worker occupation of an Athens university. Two years later, 17N assassinated Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens. Opposition to the Junta also led to the formation of the terrorist group ELA.

Dictatorship is not a solution to terrorism.


Arlington, Va.

Help Is on the Way

There's an old line about PR that goes something like this: "I don't care what you say about me . . . just spell the name right." Too bad your reviewer, Chris Lehmann, couldn't meet even that low standard in his acerbic review of my book SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (Book World, July 10).

Lehmann's accuracy problems begin with his mangling of the all-caps title, which is not a "ponderous author-coined acronym for 'Self-Help and Motivation,' " as he alleges, but a natural shorthand for a phrase -- "Self-Help and Actualization Movement"--that was in common usage long before I decided to write SHAM. How does a reviewer get the title wrong? Maybe Lehmann needs to do a bit more background research on his topic before he sits down at the computer in another one of his bilious moods.

A few questions for my intrepid critic:

If the paradoxical truism I argue about the self-help movement's dependency on repeat business is in fact so "obvious," then why hasn't it been documented before, and why does self-help continue to enjoy the hold it has over so many millions of otherwise intelligent, culturally savvy followers?

If my sections on the various self-help gurus are to be dismissed as "thumbnails," why has so little of this information appeared comprehensively in print before now?

How is it "irrelevant" that Suze Orman had a speech impediment as a child? Is it not interesting that someone so afflicted would rise to prominence as a seminar speaker? And why is it "nobody's business" that Orman never married? She talks endlessly about achieving "balance" in life; shouldn't her primarily female audience look at her own success in that area?

The only "proof" I offer of the victimization movement's corrupting effect on American values is the case of convicted Starbuck's embezzler Rosemary Heinen? Are you kidding me? Did Lehmann read the book? I would direct his attention to much of the introduction, all of Chapter 8 ("We Are All Diseased") and perhaps two-thirds of the conclusion ("A SHAM Society").

Further, many of Lehmann's provocative-sounding broadsides can't withstand even the most cursory logical scrutiny. He observes, for example, that the "outrages" I describe are "real enough, but the reader wants some sustained explanation of why they keep occurring." Has Lehmann done his own painstaking investigation of the self-help movement? Or is he just omniscient? If neither of the above, then what was his basis for rejecting the wealth of data and argument that I (and my many firsthand sources) provide? Indeed, Lehmann's review was so full of gratuitous, purposeful venom that I wondered halfway through what his own agenda was, going in.


Allentown, Pa.

Doing Right by Children

Judging from Elliott Currie's review of Martin Guggenheim's What's Wrong With Children's Rights (Book World, June 26), it is clear that Guggenheim sees the battle cry for "children's rights" as having isolated children from the interests of their parents. He wants to return America to the era of parents' rights, in which the government intervenes as little as possible in family life.

If Guggenheim had done the most rudimentary of Internet searches, he would have found several children's rights groups, including the Children's Rights Council, that are working toward precisely such goals. CRC's federally trademarked motto is "The Best Parent is Both Parents." What this means is that we are not talking about polar opposites -- either parents' rights on the one hand or government on the other, but that there is a "third way" in which children are seen as loving and needing two parents.

CRC operates mainly in divorce, where the highest number of at-risk children exist. Our research has found that government tax policy, child support policy and family policy of the past 25 years have inadvertently encouraged and supported more single-parent families, which increases the burden on government to make those single parents more self-sufficient. The "third way," which would encourage joint custody, parent education, mediation, parenting plans and access (visitation) enforcement, would dilute the power of government, strengthen families, result in more marriages and reduce problems for children and society.


Chief Executive Officer

The Children's Rights Council

Editor's Note

John Irving, author of Until I Find You , has called our attention to his previous associations with Book World's reviewer of that book, Marianne Wiggins (July 10). That contact, which we have now corroborated, should have disqualified her as a reviewer; our signed agreements with reviewers spell out our conflict-of-interest rules carefully ("if you have had any contact, friendly or otherwise, with the author of this book . . . or if there is any possibility of an appearance of a conflict of interest in the assignment of this review to you, please let Book World know immediately"). Had we known that Irving had dedicated one of his earlier novels to Marianne Wiggins's ex-husband, Salman Rushdie, and had we known that Irving and Wiggins had socialized with each other in the past, we would not have made the assignment. We apologize to our readers for this misstep.

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