Targeting Terror focuses on the U.S. government's diplomacy in the war on terror, a topic otherwise little covered. From a solid base of research, Levitt analyzes the policy of Washington (and, to a lesser extent, of European capitals) in dealing with Middle Eastern terrorist states and organizations. The result is a compelling and informative analysis that readers in government and media, especially, will find useful.
Levitt argues that the Bush administration has changed some aspects of its approach to terrorism but others—particularly those run by the State Department—remain unchanged. He finds that State continues to deal with several entities and states—such as the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Saudi Arabia—on the premise that their links to terrorist groups do not exist. Even as Treasury freezes terrorist assets and Justice prosecutes terrorists, State repeatedly meets with groups and individuals tightly linked to terrorism. One disturbing example: the State Department ignored clear-cut proof of the direct complicity of Palestinian leaders in terrorism, found in abundance in documents seized by the Israeli authorities, and declared instead that there "is no conclusive evidence that the senior leadership of the PA [Palestinian Authority] or PLO were involved in planning or approving specific acts of violence." Another example is the State Department's dealing with Riyadh as though the extensive evidence tying it to terror did not exist.
Levitt also argues that wide collaboration among terrorist organizations requires the U.S. government to restructure the way it handles terrorism; one cannot fight al-Qa‘ida while maintaining cordial relations with Yasir Arafat. As the overlap of terrorist groups grows through their collaboration, the war on terror must target all those groups and all their supporters.