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75 Foreign Aff. 24 (1996)
Postmodern Terrorism

handle is hein.journals/fora75 and id is 764 raw text is: Postmodern Terrorism
Walter Laqueur
NEW RULES FOR AN OLD GAME
As THE nineteenth century ended, it seemed no one was safe from
terrorist attack. In 1894 an Italian anarchist assassinated French
President Sadi Carnot. In 1897 anarchists fatally stabbed Empress
Elizabeth of Austria and killed Antonio Cdnovas, the Spanish prime
minister. In 19oo Umberto I, the Italian king, fell in yet another anar-
chist attack; in 19Ol an American anarchist killed William McKinley,
president of the United States. Terrorism became the leading preoc-
cupation of politicians, police chiefs, journalists, and writers from
Dostoevsky to Henry James. If in the year 19oo the leaders of the
main industrial powers had assembled, most of them would have in-
sisted on giving terrorism top priority on their agenda, as President
Clinton did at the Group of Seven meeting after the June bombing
of the U.S. military compound in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
From this perspective the recent upsurge of terrorist activity is not
particularly threatening. According to the State Department's annual
report on the subject, fewer people died last year in incidents of in-
ternational terrorism (165) than the year before (314). Such figures,
however, are almost meaningless, because of both the incidents they
disregard and those they count. Current definitions of terrorism fail
to capture the magnitude of the problem worldwide.
Terrorism has been defined as the substate application of violence or
threatened violence intended to sow panic in a society, to weaken or even
overthrow the incumbents, and to bring about political change. It shades
WALTER LAOUEUR, Chairman of the International Research Council
at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of
Terrorism and Guerrilla.

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