6.12 Terrorism

End of the Cold War and Globalization

US Army photographer. "US Embassy Beirut." April 29, 1983.
US Army photographer. “US Embassy Beirut.” April 29, 1983. Wikimedia. April 17, 2010.

While Europe has suffered from economic and, to a lesser extent, political instability since the 1980s, that instability pales in comparison to the instability of other world regions. In particular, the Middle East entered into a period of outright bloodshed and chaos as the twenty-first century began. In turn, the shock waves of Middle Eastern conflict have reverberated around the globe, inspiring the growth of international terrorist groups on the one hand and racist and Islamophobic political parties on the other.

As the world changed, the tactics that minority and extremist groups used to make themselves heard changed as well. Mark Kishlansky defines this new form of terrorism “as a violent act against innocent civilians for the purpose of undermining the power of the government.”2 Although terrorism itself was not a new, the tactic of targeting civilian that began in the 1970s was new.

Key Takeaways

Watch these films regarding this “new terrorism” that Kishlansky describes and then consider the following questions:

  • Why has the post-Cold War period seen so many terrorist attacks?
  • What are the historical roots of this form of terrorism? How long will it continue? What might be done to end it?
Waging War Against the New Terrorism. 2002. Films on Demand. 22:59.

If you get a message that the video cannot be authenticated, use the link below: https://ccco.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://fod-infobase-com.ccco.idm.oclc.org/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=151823&xtid=30264.

Relocation and Refugees

Knobil, Mark. "Darfur Refugee Camp in Chad." March 29, 2005.
Knobil, Mark. “Darfur Refugee Camp in Chad.” March 29, 2005. Wikimedia. January 27, 2013.

One result of that rapidly changing world encountered by many in the latter half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first was the relocation of thousands of people. Many of these individuals were refugees, though there were a number of reasons for migration.


Read this BBC article: European Refugee Movements After World War II, and as you read, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the new globalism? How and why did it develop? How does it relate to the technological and social concerns of our age? What might it achieve?
  • Why are there so many “foreigners” in Europe today? Why has their presence caused such alarm? How will the tensions they create be resolved?
  • How have the computer and the technological age of which it is a part changed the world? What are its opportunities, and what are its dangers? What new ways of living do you see in further discoveries and advances?
  • What will Globalism do to the world? How will it affect economies and societies? Are we headed toward one worldism or will regionalism reassert itself?
  • What have been the motivations for European countries to work toward an economic and social union? What positive results might such a union bring? What were the major sticking points to the union? Will complete union ever come?


Exploration – Munich Olympics

ProhibitOnions. "Front View of Israeli Apartment." 2007.
ProhibitOnions. “Front View of Israeli Apartment.” 2007. Wikimedia. July 6, 2007.

The Munich Massacre

In 1972, the Olympics returned to Munich for the first time since 1936. This is meant to be a return of the German state to the world stage on a mission of goodwill. What happens is something very different and will color the Olympic memory to the present day. In 2012, a petition was put before the Olympic Committee of the London Olympics asking for a moment of silence to be observed in honor of the athletes killed 40 years before. For unknown reasons, the petition was denied and the 40th anniversary of the massacre passed unnoted.


Read the following summary and watch the video clips at Encyclopedia Britannica here.

As you watch the video below, consider these questions:

  • How does the Munich Massacre fit the definition of “new” terrorism?
  • Why did the Operation Wrath of God take twenty years to complete? Do you think the ends justified the means? Why or why not?



The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Munich Massacre.” Encyclopedia Britannica. August 29, 2019. Accessed March 30, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/event/Munich-Massacre.



To cite the most recent examples, the US invasion of Iraq in 2002 inadvertently prompted a massive increase in recruitment for anti-Western terrorist organizations (many of which drew from disaffected EU citizens of Middle Eastern and North African ancestry). The Arab Spring of 2010 led to a brief moment of hope that new democracies might take the place of military dictatorships in countries like Libya, Egypt, and Syria, only to see authoritarian regimes or parties reassert control. Syria in particular spiraled into a horrendously bloody civil war in 2010, prompting millions of Syrian civilians to flee the country. Turkey, one of the most venerable democracies in the region since its foundation as a modern state in the aftermath of World War I, has seen its president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan steadily assert greater authority over the press and the judiciary. The two other regional powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, carry on a proxy war in Yemen and fund rival paramilitary (often considered terrorist) groups across the region. Israel, meanwhile, continues to face both regional hostility and internal threats from desperate Palestinian insurgents, responding by tightening its control over the nominally autonomous Palestinian regions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In Europe, fleeing Middle Eastern (and to a lesser extent, African) refugees seeking the infinitely greater stability and opportunity available to them abroad have brought about a resurgence of far-right and, in many cases, openly neo-fascist politics. While fascistic parties like France’s National Front have existed since the 1960s, they remained basically marginal and demonized for most of their history. Since 2010, far right parties have grown steadily in importance, seeing their share of each country’s electorate increase as worries about the impact of immigration drives voters to embrace nativist, crypto-racist political messages. Even some citizens who do not harbor openly racist views have come to be attracted to the new right, since mainstream political parties often seem to represent only the interests of out-of-touch social elites (again, Brexit serves as the starkest demonstration of voter resentment translating into a shocking political result).

While interpretations of events since the start of the twenty-first century will necessarily vary, what seems clear is that both the postwar consensus between center-left and center-right politics is all but a dead letter. Likewise, fascism can no longer be considered a terrible historical error that is, fortunately, now dead and gone; it has lurched back onto the world stage. A widespread sense of anger, disillusionment, and resentment haunts politics not just in Europe, but in much of the world.

That being noted, there are also indications that the center still holds. In France, the National Front’s presidential candidate in 2017, Marine Le Pen, was decisively defeated by the resolutely centrist Emmanuel Macron. Contemporary far-right parties have yet to enjoy the kind of electoral breakthrough that set the stage for (to cite one obvious example) the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. Even those countries that have proved most willing to use military force in the name of their ideological and economic agendas, namely Russia and the United States, have not launched further wars on the scale of the disastrous American invasion of Iraq in 2002.

Predicting the future is a fool’s errand, and one that historians in particular are generally loathe to engage in. That said, if nothing else, history provides both examples and counterexamples of things that have happened in the past that can, and should, serve as warnings for the present. As this text has demonstrated, much of history has been governed by greed, indifference to human suffering, and the lust for power. It can be hoped that studying the consequences of those factors and the actions inspired by them might prove to be an antidote to their appeal, and hopefully to their purported legitimacy as political motivations.


  1. Mark Kishlansky, et. al. Civilization in the West, 7th ed. (New York: Pearson, 2012), 925. image


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PPSC HIS 1320: Western Civilization: 1650-Present by Wayne Artis, Sarah Clay, and Kim Fujikawa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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