Courtesy Reuters
Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: The U.S. vs. al Qaeda
Explore the Anthology

It Could Happen Here: Facing the New Terrorism

In This Review

Terrorism and America: A Commonsense Strategy for a Democratic Society (BCSIA Studies in International Security)
By Philip B. Heymann
The MIT Press, 2000
208 pp. $16.95

America's Achilles' Heel: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Terrorism and Covert Attack

By Richard A. Falkenrath, Robert D. Newman and Bradley A. Thaye
MIT Press, 1998
350 pp. $22.50

Inside Terrorism

By Bruce Hoffman
Columbia University Press, 1998
278 pp. $24.95

Terrorism With Chemical and Biological Weapons: Calibrating Risks and Responses

Edited by Brad Roberts
Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, 1997
140 pp. $12.95

The Ultimate Terrorists

By Jessica Stern
Harvard University Press, 1999
176 pp. $22.95

According to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, last summer's embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania were not two more examples of old-fashioned terrorism. "What is new," she declared, "is the emergence of terrorist coalitions that do not answer fully to any government, that operate across national borders and have access to advanced technology." The bomb victims, she claimed, were caught up "in a new kind of confrontation that looms as a new century is about to begin . . . a clash between civilization itself and anarchy -- between the rule of law and no rules at all."

The secretary's words would have been accurate had they been uttered a century earlier, when a loose-knit transnational movement quite literally devoted to the promotion of anarchy wreaked havoc across the globe. From 1894 to 1901, anarchists managed to assassinate the president of France, the prime minister of Spain, the empress of Austria, the king of Italy, and the president of the United States. All this was accomplished without downloading weapons diagrams from the Internet; they relied instead on manuals such as Johann Most's widely distributed pamphlet, The Science of Revolutionary Warfare: A Little Handbook of Instruction in the Use and Preparation of Nitroglycerin, Dynamite, Gun-Cotton, Fulminating Mercury, Bombs, Fuses, Poisons, etc. etc.

Some anarchists showed no scruples in inflicting large numbers of civilian casualties. As the bomber of a crowded Parisian cafe put it at his trial, "[Anarchists] do not spare bourgeois women and children, because the wives and children of those they love are not spared either." And authorities responded then as they do today; one British police officer wrote in 1898, "Murderous organizations have increased in size and scope; they are more daring, they are served by the more terrible weapons offered by modern science, and the world is nowadays threatened by new forces which . . . may someday wreak universal destruction."

Extralegal political violence by individuals and groups has occurred throughout history, hysterical media coverage of today's terrorism "crises" notwithstanding. Even religious terrorism is nothing new. "

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