Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Fifth Horseman: Immensly nerve-wracking

The Palestinian vs. Israel conflict is one that induces very strong reactions in the Middle East. Ever since Israel came into existence as a state in 1948, it is the dearest wish of the neighboring arab states (and many other Islamic states) that Israel be proved weaker than the other states. However, in every conflict, it is Israel that prevails, many times decimating the Arab armies very strongly. One by-product of this tension is that the US is seen as a massive power broker and the main supporter of Israel; if this support for Israel be taken away, it will be far weaker.
The book plays on this concept, taking a committed move by an Islamic leader (willing to sacrifice his people) into black-mailing the US into forcing Israel to roll back its settlements in the West Back. These settlements have always been controversial, since they have been seen as a move by Israel to annex as much of the post-1967 through settlements. Israel has far less support for these settlements.

The Fifth Horseman: Immensely nerve-wracking

Many decades of US and Soviet conflict happened under the banner of an unwritten document called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). You kill me, I will kill you back, hence don't even try to think of starting a war with me. But what happens when you meet an enemy who is prepared to lose everything ? All existing logic goes away !
This book has a concept that is so chilling, if you realize that all this seems so realistic and could happen even more easily if you put pure dedicated terrorists in the picture. When you hear the words of 'dirty bomb' and nuclear terrorism, read this book. Even though book was written in the start of the 80's, it seems so real, and detail rich. The authors (Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre) normally write about historical events, and hence this book seems much of character. However, The Fifth Horseman caused them to do a lot of travel so as to get the research right, and then the details of the book were a suspense right till the end because of the controversial subject.
There is the New York Policeman, of Italian descent called Angelo Rocchia who is the hero of this book. But right now, the events are way beyond him. The White House has received a design supposedly of an atomic bomb, with a letter by Qaddafi (the Libyan dictator) wanting the US to evict Israel from the settlements in the West Bank. There is a great deal of skepticism, after all how could the Libyans have a nuclear bomb. But there is a design that seems fairly complex. And then there is the confirmation by the scientist that the design is not of an atomic bomb, but of something much more powerful and destructive, a thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb, capable of killing millions in New York city.
And then some more doubts when the demo bomb fails to go off on time, and then the reaction when the bomb does go off. Turns out that the Libyans did a clever job in modifying a design stolen from the French and with bomb material stolen under the cameras of a watching body. And then the Libyan leader had some dedicated Palestinians to hold the bomb in the US and if necessary, blow it up. They had the responsibility of keeping it hidden till the time came for the bomb to either be blown up or surrendered.
So, while the action is going on to silently hunt for the bomb without making the city aware that such a search is going on (to avoid panic), the discussion and dialogs happening in the book are very engrossing. There are essentially 3 sets of dialogs, with the discussion between the President and his advisors and cabinet, between the President and the Israeli Prime Minister (supposedly Menachem Begin), and between the President and the Israeli leader (this is one conflict that the President loses, when the Libyans discover that the President is lying). It was nice touch that the Libyans had the same machinery as the Americans, but were assumed so backward that nobody would suspect the Libyans of having a new machine that could make out whether you were telling the truth or lying by reading your eyes and patters inside.
All these discussions give a great idea of how the negotiations between nations are held, and the immense political backgrounds to such discussions. The book is an incredible thriller, and it is great reading. Even if Libya is now on the positive side, you can read the book as to how the art of nuclear blackmail and terrorism works, and how scary it can be.

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