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Book Review: Wanted Dead or Alive: Manhunts from Geronimo to Bin Laden

Wanted Dead or Alive: Manhunts from Geronimo to Bin Laden. By Benjamin Runkle. Palgrave Macmillan,; 282 pages; $27.00.

Beginning with Geronimo and ending with Osama Bin Laden, this book describes strategic manhunts conducted by the United States military in pursuit of America’s enemies. Author Benjamin Runkle depicts the political rationale behind manhunts and analyzes the lessons learned.

Runkle provides significant detail on the operations themselves. There are some interesting tidbits about military leaders such as General Henry Lawton’s drinking problem and Arthur McArthur’s fatherly relationship with the heroic Frederick Funston. This meshes well with the explanation of the political factors in the manhunts, giving the accounts more depth and greater readability.

The concluding chapter is titled “Beyond bin Laden: The Future of Strategic Manhunts.” In this chapter, Runkle makes the point that the human terrain is the greatest challenge. Technology can provide very little assistance in the human arena; America’s adversaries will simply go low-tech to avoid surveillance.

The author makes some good points about the pitfalls that can occur in manhunts. Rarely does a successful manhunt correlate with the achievement of America’s broader strategic objectives. Other issues include when the target of a manhunt is seen as a martyr and when political leaders pander to public opinion and prematurely terminate manhunts.

This is an excellent book for any student of terrorism or military affairs. It provides good detail in a highly readable manner so that the reader both grasps the information and is eager for more. Wanted Dead or Alive would make an excellent textbook.

Reviewer: Chris Hertig, CPP, CPOI (Certified Protection Officer Instructor) is a member of the Behavioral Sciences Department at York College of Pennsylvania. He is co-editor of The Professional Protection Officer and a member of the ASIS Council on Academic and Training Programs.