Thinking Aloud: “The Perfect Kill”

May 19, 2015 by Darius 

I recently read The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins by longtime CIA operative and later journalist Robert Baer.  The Perfect Kill attempts to demonstrate the laws of a successful political killing through examples from the life of Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s chief assassin and one of the best assassins in modern history.

As the title suggests, each chapter in The Perfect Kill is one of Baer’s laws of assassination, covering everything from choosing the right target to carrying out the hit to melting back into the unknown.  Peppered throughout is the story of Mughniyah (called Hajj Radwan in the book) and Baer’s own attempts to track down and assassinate Mughniyah.

While The Perfect Kill is an entertaining read, I found it heavy on Baer waxing eloquent about assassination and light on specifics.  Furthermore, Baer put a great many thoughts into Mughniyah’s head regarding motives and mindset, which I found rather annoying, as neither Baer (nor any US intelligence officer) even saw a good picture of Mughniyah, much less picked his brain for his motives.  Although Baer did make some good points, especially in his chapter on the US drone program, he had a tendency throughout the book to dismiss what he didn’t understand, for example, the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Additionally, Baer’s callousness about Lebanon’s people and civil war, in particular, was unhelpful to his story and off-putting to the reader (e.g. “Was this the start of it, the Christian civil war?  Fuck these people and their shitty little blood feuds.”)

Based on the nature of his subject matter, Baer often wasn’t able to, or chose not to, hew too closely to facts and actual events.  As a result, The Perfect Kill is more theoretical than practical and, in many places, carries at least a whiff of BS.  Or maybe I have a particularly sensitive nose.

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