The Ghost Warriors: Inside Israel's Undercover War Against Suicide Terrorism by Samuel M. Katz is an informative and highly relevant book for anyone interested in the modern battlefield and how unconventional solutions are needed to fix unconventional problems.
The Ghost Warriors provides a good background into the nuances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while describing the harsh realities of life on the ground for Israelis, especially those who live on the borders of Gaza and the West Bank.
Israel, surrounded by enemies both externally and within its blurry internal borders was faced with deadly suicide bombings throughout the 90's and 2000's, killing and terrorizing its civilians.
Rooting out terrorism and preventing attacks before they happened was made more difficult by the fact that many of the attackers lived within Israel (the West Bank and East Jerusalem) and were shielded by their own civilian populace in neighborhoods that were incredibly dangerous for Israeli police to enter.
In order to take the fight to the enemy, and be proactive rather than reactive, Israel needed to infiltrate Palestinian villages and neighborhoods. To this end, the Israeli government developed a unit called the Ya'mas, the border guard's undercover counterterrorism unit .
Ya'mas operatives, tasked more with espionage than typical police work, dressed and spoke like Palestinians, even tailoring their accents and dialects as the mission required.
Over the course of hundreds of audacious missions into the most hostile terrorist hotbeds, the Ya'mas proved incredibly successful at wresting the initiative from the enemy. Many missions became pitched battles as the Ya'mas operators were often discovered after they grabbed their targets. Under heavy fire, a frantic rescue mission would ensue, as Israeli reinforcements had to help the Ya'mas operatives escape while minimizing collateral damage.
The creation and development of the Ya'mas serves as a case study for fighting terrorism, as conventional military solutions are often ineffective against a shadowy enemy embedded within a civilian populace.
So why did we review a book about the Israeli military on a site for United States Marines?
1) In regards to urban warfare and counter-terrorism, Israel is the subject matter expert. To put it in a context for Americans, it would be as if Canada and Mexico were sworn enemies of the United States, and certain cities within America were centers of terrorist activity, too dangerous for conventional police to work in.
2) The Ghost Warriors describes military tactics that are directly applicable to Marine Officers. Maneuver, boldness, speed, surprise, shock, and psychological warfare are all part of the Israeli playbook. The central aim of the Ya'mas was to seize the initiative, keep the enemy confused and scared, and move faster than the enemy to dictate the tempo.
3) As the global war on terror proceeds indefinitely, it is helpful for Americans to learn from the stunning success of the Israelis in fighting terrorism.
4) The mindset and competence of the Israeli military explains why we do so much joint training with them.
5) Most importantly, it is wildly entertaining and reads like a thriller. The level of risk involved in every single mission is almost unfathomable, and the Ya'mas operatives' dedication to duty is admirable. Certain tactics (such as operators disguising themselves as women) are straight out of a movie.
If you are interested in the changing face of war, and how certain conflicts require deeply unconventional tactics (or simply want to read about terrorists being killed and captured) pick up The Ghost Warriors.
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