Michael: The anarchistsIt's hard to take the long view about suicide bombers. It behooves us to reflect that terrorism is not a new or unique phenomenon, however. We can learn from and gain perspective on the policy challenges of terrorism by an examination of history. Surprisingly, the current wave of ideological violence has an approximate historical precedent: the anarchists of the late 19th century. The anarchists too were international in scope, revolutionary in purpose, and homicidal on a devastating scale.
The anarachists racked up an deplorable number of assinations of heads of state and other political leaders, as well as their share of sheerly random acts of terrorist violence against innocent civilians - including bombings. In France they were even known as dynamitards.
The most salient parallel is that almost universally the response to anarachist terror were exactly the ones we are now seeing in response to jihadi terrorism; restrictions on free speech and association, serious curtailments of civil rights, xenophobic laws to deport and detain foreigners, and a relaxation of criminal standards of proof regarding association with known or suspected terrorists. The instructive aspect of this frenzy of legal zealotry in response to anarchist terrorism is that it was almost completely ineffective.
The increasingly draconian laws failed to curb anarachist violence or net terrorist plotters in any numbers, nor penetrate nor disrupt the anarchists' terror campaign. The networks were too diffuse and too clever. The increasing repression may only have fueled greater radicalization of recruitment populations, further exaserbating the problem. What actually soothed the rash of anarchist violence was that history moved on and made the anarchist credo irrelevant.
If we work to make the ideological appeals of Al Qaeda and their ilk irrelevant to the people of the Middle East, we'll ultimately do much more to end jihadi terror than could any criminal law or military operation.