In This Review

The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins
The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins
By Robert B. Baer
Blue Rider Press, 2014, 336 pp

Assassination may well be an efficient use of force, but leaders are often wary of it for both moral and strategic reasons. But as many countries have been drawn into murky struggles against violent extremists, leaders have become more sanguine about “targeted killings,” especially if they are carried out from a distance, using drones. Baer, a former CIA operative, tells the story of his search for Imad Mughniyeh, a skilled Hezbollah member with a long and deadly record of orchestrating bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations. Mughniyeh—whom Baer chooses to refer to by the nom de guerre Hajj Radwan—was himself eventually killed in 2008, although not by the CIA. (Hezbollah’s leaders, and many others, contend that Israeli assassins did him in.) Baer explains that assassination requires dedication, self-discipline, and a degree of intimacy with one’s target—all reasons why he thinks the United States is unlikely to ever do it very well. This makes for a lively and challenging read, although the focus on Lebanon, where political murders are almost routine, does not allow Baer much room to explore the impact of assassination on places where it is rare.