The Terrorist Past Has a Message for the Terrorist Present

tags: terrorism, mass shootings

Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present Day” (Liveright, 2013).

Western Europe appears to be under an unrelenting terrorism assault. In the past 19 months, France has seen the attack on the newspaper Charlie Hebdo (17 deaths); the coordinated attacks in Paris (130); a cargo-truck attack in Nice (84); and this week a hostage-taking and murder of an elderly parish priest in the small town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

Since July 18, Germany has seen at least three smaller-scale attacks: A Pakistani refugee injured five people with an ax on a train; an Iranian-German teenager shot nine people dead in Munich; a Syrian refugee tried to set off a bomb at a concert in Ansbach, killing himself. Belgium, meanwhile, was struck by suicide bombers on March 22 who killed 32 people.

It is certainly understandable if fear and panic now grip the Continent. But it’s important to remember that this is hardly the first wave of terrorism that Europe has seen—and so far not the worst.

The first wave was the work of anarchists who struck across Europe and the Americas from the 1880s to the 1920s. In the worst of these attacks, a horse-drawn wagon filled with explosives killed 38 on Wall Street in New York in 1920. The next-worst attack occurred when an anarchist flung two bombs into a crowded opera house in Barcelona in 1893, killing 22 people. Between 1892 and 1894, Paris saw 11 bombings, which killed nine people.

But the anarchists’ true calling card was assassinating heads of state. They murdered the president of France, the prime minister of Spain, the empress of Austria-Hungary, the king of Italy—and President William McKinley. In addition, a band of nihilists killed Tsar Alexander II of Russia. No terrorist group before or since has assassinated so many leaders. ...

Read entire article at WSJ

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