European Terrorism in the 1970’s and 1980’s Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 8 January 2017

European Terrorism in the 1970’s and 1980’s

In a post World War II era, terrorism and covert terrorist actions became a major weapon against the governments of many European nations. In most cases, terrorism “had two purposes: to make life unendurable for the [country], and to ensure the active support of the population by executing traitors and collaborators . ” Even more, “a great number [of terrorist incidents] are directed against American targets or are related to a spillover from the problems in the Middle East .

” With that said, a close look will be taken to answer three questions regarding European terrorism in the 1970’s and 1980’s which include how the European governments confronted the threat, what methods the European governments took to deal with these terrorist groups, concluding with an analysis of what motivated the terrorists. To begin with, a look will first be taken into how the European governments confronted the threat of terrorism in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

The terrorist violence “during the postwar era in Europe has been characterized primarily by a combination of attacks by terrorist cells and hate crimes by individuals or small gangs of people—many of them racist skin heads . ” In order to confront the terrorist actions, the European governments, for the most part, sought to compromise with a form of “conflict resolution ” instead of direct action and retaliation that the United States has become so fond of employing.

At first, the ideaology was to react on the defensive, without direct reaction, as it was believed that the terrorists would soon become tired of their actions and protest and the nation could move on. However, by the early 1970’s public “outrage at terrorist attacks ” fueled the need for governments to act decisively in order to remove and dissemble the threat. For the first time in history, pressure was placed upon the nations that harbored and supported the terrorists . Essentially, the methods in dealing with the terrorist groups were, in the beginning, to simply let the terrorists have their say, and to attempt to negotiate, if possible.

However, as the public began to find out that the heinous crimes committed on their front yards was related to terrorist actions, the European governments were forced to take direct and decisive action against the terrorists. Their methods included allocating more funds for defense and counter-terrorist measures and intelligence and to “delegitimize terrorists, to get society to see them for what they are—criminals—and to use one of [their] most important tools, the rule of law, against them .

” The main defense against terrorism became the effectiveness of counter-intelligence measures and an enlightened society who no longer viewed terrorists with the pity they once deserved. The motivations of the terrorists were, at one time, honorable—as they were fighting against oppression and they didn’t employ any violent acts. However, “it will be sufficient to define political terrorism as a tactic employed by non-state actors involving the threat or use of fear-inducing forms of violence in an attempt to attain certain political objectives .

” This, essentially, is terrorism in its most basic form—violence to get a fear-based reaction. However, terrorism breaks down into a much deeper psychological philosophy in which “the label of ‘terrorists’ [applies] to certain peoples struggling, by the only means within their power, to win or regain the fundamental rights recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter .

” By this definition, a terrorist can be any human being facing oppression of their basic, most fundamental human rights, and is not necessarily the racially profiled stereotype that modern society has been taught to believe. Even more, throughout “history there [have] been political, social and economic situations in which endlessly and unjustly oppressed groups or races had to exercise their right to violence, their right to resist oppression by every means available . ” In seeking truth and justice in their nation or culture, many terrorists choose the violent way of expressing their need for honored human rights.

Moreover, “the question was not one of defending crime and violence but rather one of accepting the fact that such behavior, no matter how repugnant it appeared, had a motivation that all lovers of justice, freedom and human dignity could understand, even if they disapproved of it . ” Essentially, terrorism is, as the United States public has been led to believe after the events of 9/11, the most heinous action that a human being can take in order to harm another person or nation. However, in order to understand the motivations of the terrorist, it must be recalled, and inherently understood, that they are humans too.

They might be facing oppression, or they might be members of a religious cult who believe that nations who flaunt their materialism need to be punished, but the essence of the terrorist is that they are motivated by the need to fight and stand up against oppression against any odds. Overall, terrorism and covert terrorist actions have become a major weapon against the governments of many European and Western nations. Terrorism was meant to highlight the oppression that a people felt against their country, however, in many cases, terrorism evolved into brutal murders and heinous crimes.

From the analysis of the three questions regarding European terrorism in the 1970’s and 1980’s, which included how the European governments confronted the threat, what methods the European governments took to deal with these terrorist groups, followed by an analysis of what motivated the terrorists, a conclusion can be drawn as to the insidious motivations of the terrorists and the evolving methods that the European governments were forced to employ to keep pace with the evolving nature of the terrorist crimes.


Aston, Clive C. A Contemporary Crisis: Political Hostage-Taking and the Experience ofWestern Europe. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982. Crozier, Brian. The Rebels: A Study of Post-War Insurrections. Boston: Beacon Press, 1960. Martin, Gus. Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. New York: Sage Publications, 2006. Oliverio, Annamarie. “US versus European Approaches to Terrorism: Size Really Does Matter. ” Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice. 2008. http://policing. oxfordjournals. org/ cgi/content/abstract/2/4/452 Schmid, Alex Peter and Ronald D. Crelinsten. Western Responses to Terrorism. London: Routledge, 1993.

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