Decades of Terror: How Terrorism Today Compares to the 1970’s

Everyday we turn on the news or open the paper to find stories of bombings, shootings, and even stabbings committed in the name of Islam and in the name of ISIS. We act as if this violence is unique to us in 2016 while forgetting the very recent past. In the 1970’s, this nation was ravaged by a decade of bombings and shootings, claiming the lives of 184 innocent Americans, and injuring over 600 others (CNN). Though the motivations of today’s Islamic terrorists are different, the environment that allows them to flourish remains the same. The United States today, like the 70’s, suffers from an untrustworthy, ineffectual, government and a divided, war- weary population. Our nation today is conducive to fanatical, homegrown, terrorists fighting for unpopular views by the only means known to the savage, violence.

On January 24, 1975, a peaceful lunch hour in downtown Manhattan was shattered when a bomb concealed within a briefcase detonated at Fraunces Tavern, killing four hard working Americans. The organization responsible for this heinous attack was a Puerto Rican separatist group known as the FALN. In the same way that ISIS claims to fight against “US imperialism” in the middle east, the stated goal of the FALN was to end US “rule” in Puerto Rico and establish a Marxist state. Like the FALN, ISIS began to wage war in the United States when it became clear that they could not affect real change in their home country/ territory. They could not garner enough support at home to advance their cause by conventional means (diplomacy of conventional warfare).

These organizations are prone to adopt terrorist methodology when they see the state of our nation and the state of our government. In the 1970’s, a large portion of our people vigorously protested the war in Vietnam, indicating to the world that the American people were tired of war and giving the impression that we would cave in when faced with the use of terror tactics. The terrorism that ensued was meant to force a war weary people to demand their government make concessions and do whatever possible to end the war in Vietnam. To a large extent, this worked. Anti-Vietnam War groups such as the Weather Underground engaged in a campaign of over 45 bombings (CNN) in attempt to make the American people demand the federal government withdraw US forces from Vietnam despite consistent military victories. Thanks almost entirely to the American public, US involvement in Vietnam came to a close in 1975. There should be no doubt that the goal of ISIS today is to take advantage of Americans, weary of decades long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By spawning a new wave of homegrown terror ISIS hopes to break the spirits of the American people, forcing them to demand government action, forcing them to demand an end to the bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

If we accept that the circumstances under which terrorism thrives today is similar to the conditions of the 1970’s, then we must consider ourselves lucky. We have a template for reversing this course. The inauguration of President Reagan in 1981 was the beginning of the end for the homegrown terrorism that plagued the previous decade. Reagan’s presidency told the world that we were no longer frail and easily intimidated. The strength projected by the United States in the 80’s was such that terrorists learned that they would pay dearly for their transgressions. When, in 1986, Libyan terrorists killed two US soldiers by bombing a Berlin Discotheque, president Reagan authorized an air-strike against the Gaddafi regime, which reportedly killed 45 members of the Libyan military. Following this swift and severe punishment, the regime refrained from committing further acts of terror against the United States. Because our country responded with strength and because the American people stood strong, we were able to respond effectively to such attacks, keeping terror largely off our shores. This should be a lesson to us today. Our response to the recent acts of terror in New York and New Jersey should not be to quake with fear nor should we chalk it up to the actions of a few crazed individuals. We must make it clear to ISIS that terrorism will not pay.

With this election must come a mandate to our incoming government; every time ISIS acts against us or the rest of the civilized world, we must respond swiftly and severely. If they stab an American in Minnesota, we should level their command center in Raqqa. If they plant a bomb in Manhattan, we should knock out one of their supply convoys in Iraq. We, as Americans, must stand together against ISIS and demand its destruction. If we learn anything from the 1970’s, it should be that not standing united and not fighting terrorism is the surest way to guarantee its continuation.

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