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date: 21 April 2024

Terrorism as a Global Wave Phenomenon: An Overviewfree

Terrorism as a Global Wave Phenomenon: An Overviewfree

  • David C. RapoportDavid C. RapoportProfessor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles


Global terror began in the 1880s, but it took a century before a few scholars began to understand its peculiar dynamic. One reason for the difficulty was that many scholars and government officials had “historical amnesia.” When they saw it disappear, they assumed it had become part of history and no longer had contemporary relevance. But global terror disappears and then reappears. Another reason they failed to understand the pattern is that the concept of generation was rarely used to describe politics, a concept that requires one to recognize the importance of life cycles. Modern global terror comes in the form of waves precipitated by major political events that have important global significance. A wave consists of a variety of groups with similar tactics and purposes that alter the domestic and international scenes. Four very different waves have materialized: the Anarchist, the Anti-Colonial, the New Left, and the Religious. The first three have been completed and lasted around 40 years; the fourth is now in its third decade, and if it follows the rhythm of its predecessors, it should be over in the mid-2020s, but a fifth wave may emerge thereafter.


  • Contentious Politics and Political Violence
  • World Politics


Terrorism is violence for political purposes that goes beyond the legal rules established to regulate violence. Consequently, governments have difficulty treating captured terrorists as prisoners of war or criminals, a problem that affects different governments in various ways.1 Terrorism confined to particular states has been an intermittent feature of history for a very long time. At times, terror took an international dimension that included only two states. Irish immigrants in the United States, for example, created the Fenians who, after the American Civil War, struck Canadian targets hoping to create a war between the United States and the United Kingdom, which would enable efforts in Ireland to create an independent state. When that failed, the American Fenians bombed targets in England with the same purpose and futile end (Steward & McGowan, 2013). Only Irish groups participated. The global international form of terrorism developed later. It involves efforts to change the entire world or transform regions involving more than two states. These activities generate cooperation between foreign terrorists and populations in a variety of states.

Although global terror began in the 1880s, a century elapsed before a few scholars began to understand its peculiar dynamic. One reason for the difficulty was that many scholars and government officials had “historical amnesia.” When they saw terrorism begin to disappear, they assumed it had become part of history and no longer had contemporary relevance. But global terror disappears and then reappears. Another reason they failed to understand the pattern is that the concept of generation was rarely used to describe politics, a concept that requires one to recognize the importance of life cycles. Global terror comes in the form of waves that are precipitated by major political events that have important global significance. A wave consists of a variety of groups with similar tactics and purposes that alter the domestic and international scenes. Four very different waves have materialized: the Anarchist, Anti colonial, New Left, and Religious. The first three have been completed and lasted around 40 years; the fourth is now in its third decade. If it follows the rhythm of its predecessors it should be over in the mid-2020s, and a fifth wave may emerge thereafter.

Historical Amnesia

It took considerable time to understand that global terrorism appeared first in the 1880s and has remained since (Rapoport & Alexander, 1989). One reason for the problem was that global terrorism has a special rhythm that makes it seem to disappear often. Note how the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences treated the subject. In the first edition (1930), J.B.S. Hardman’s interesting terrorism article argued that “revolutionary terrorism” began in the 1880s and reached its high point two decades later. No group ever attained success, and terrorism would soon disappear completely because modern technology made the world so complex that only classes and masses mattered! The second edition (1966) had no terrorism article. Did the Hardman article persuade the new editors one was not needed even though some successful campaigns materialized after World War II in overseas European empires, or did the editors believe that because those empires had disappeared, terrorism did, too?

Other differences between the two editions suggest that another matter may have shaped the decision. The first edition contained interesting pieces on violence, assassination, and praetorianism that were eliminated in the second edition.2 The election and succession articles in the first edition emphasized that the processes often produced violence. But the second edition’s election article ignores the fact elections sometimes breed violence (Rapoport & Weinberg, 2001). There was no article on succession, perhaps because one could not be written without emphasizing that in some systems violence frequently determines who the successor will be. Why did the “best social scientists” in successive generations understand violence so differently?

For the long span from about 1938 to the mid-1960s . . . the internal life of the country was unusually free of violent episodes. The 1930s generation found it easy to forget how violent “their forebears had been and so it is not simply that historians have found a way of shrugging off the unhappy memories of our past; our amnesia is also a response to the experience of a whole generation.” (Hofstadter, 1970, pp. 3–4)

The National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence established after the 1968 assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert Kennedy also emphasized the idea that the United States suffered from “historical amnesia.”

Ironically, while the first edition of the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences stated that terrorism had disappeared, when the second edition was published, terrorist activity had become an important element in the Cold War, dominating the international scene, an upsurge that ended in the 1990s after the Soviet Union’s dramatic, unexpected collapse. Historical amnesia then reappeared; this time it was reflected in the U.S. government’s belief that global terrorism no longer existed. The government never seemed to understand that it had been very significant decades before the Soviet Union was even established. Just as Hardman ignored the fact that a new kind of terrorism emerged after World War I, the U.S. government seemed oblivious to the conspicuous fact that various religions in the 1980s produced terrorist groups without Soviet aid that were still functioning. Believing that “terrorism was over, the State Department abolished my office,” wrote Scott Stewart, a Security Service Special Agent (Stewart, 2012, p. 2). Government subsidies for the Rand Corporation’s useful terrorism research program evaporated and the program disappeared. In 1999, the Crowe Commission Report Confronting Terrorist Threats examined attacks on U.S. embassies and blamed the government for greatly reducing its intelligence resources. Then the disastrous attacks of September 11, 2011, occurred. Ironically, the 9/11 Commission Report found that the same indifference made 9/11 easier to perpetrate.

Terrorism studies generally ignore history, an odd fact when we remember how much history obsessed Clausewitz, who founded the “science” of war:

Examples from history make everything clear, and furnish the best description of proof in the empirical sciences. This applies with more force to the Art of War than to any other. If we wish to learn from history we must realize that what happened once can happen again.” (Clausewitz, 1991, p. 231)3

Clausewitz’s view of the pertinence of military history still resonates because states retain their armies even though there may be long periods between wars. But many still regard terrorism differently.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush’s “Address to the Joint Session of Congress and the American People” declared that terrorism would be eliminated. “Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government which supports them. Our war . . . will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated” (Bush, 2001, p. 68).

Although 9/11 was unique, President Bush’s declaration had a largely forgotten predecessor a century before. On September 6, 1901, after an anarchist assassinated President William McKinley, his successor, Theodore Roosevelt, called for all states to participate in a “crusade” to exterminate anarchist terrorism everywhere, and Congress passed the Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1903 to reduce immigrant numbers who came from countries where many Anarchists lived (Jensen, 2001). But four years later, the United States withdrew from the first and only other global counterterrorist campaign.


Our historical amnesia is partly due to the inadequacy of our analytical tools. Using the concept of generation as a key analytic concept compels one to recognize that as a generation gets older, its energy dissipates. Generation is very different from the more commonly used concepts like class, interest, ethnic identity, etc. Energies inspiring those entities may dissipate in time, too, but that process is not associated with specified short periods. Because very few analysts use the idea of generation to explain important social scenes, it is not surprising that when the activity they are describing dissipates, they believe it has disappeared.4

The striking differences between generations in the 1960s finally stimulated some academics to use generation to explain change (Rapoport, 1970).5 In 1986, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., published the first systematic detailed study of generations in his illuminating The Cycles of American History. He used Alexis de Tocqueville’s argument that in democracies “each generation is a new people” to analyze American politics from the 18th century to the present day as a process of successive 40-year cycles. The initial generation was consumed with “political activism and social egalitarianism,” which was then followed by a 40-year period of “quiet conservatism and personal acquisition.”6

Each new phase flows out of the conditions and contradictions of the phase before and then itself prepares the way for the next recurrence. A true cycle . . . is self-generating. It cannot be determined short of catastrophe by external events. Wars, depressions, inflations may heighten or complicate moods, but the cycle itself rolls on, self-contained, self-sufficient and autonomous. (Schlesinger, 1986, p. 27)7

Wave Concept

While linking generations to cycles is useful for studying democratic politics, global terrorism must be viewed differently. Profound, dramatic, unexpected international political events stimulated global terror, inspiring new generations with hope that the world could be transformed. But one cannot assume precipitating events of the same magnitude will always recur and at the same time. While a period lasted roughly 40 years, the rhythm or development process of each period, was different. Wave, rather than cycle, clearly is the appropriate term to describe those periods.

A wave consists of organizations with similar tactics and objectives. Organizations normally do not survive as long as the wave that gave them birth does, though a few organizations are likely to be active when their wave disappears. In those special cases, the organization sometimes incorporates features of the new wave. Surprise attacks are essential because small groups must find ways to publicize their actions to get attention and generate recruits. Surprise attacks sometimes produce overreaction, which terrorists know they can profit from. Each wave has experienced some dramatic overreactions with enormous international consequences. In the First Wave, World War I was precipitated when the Austrian-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated and their government claimed without evidence that Serbia was involved. The anxiety produced by 9/11 made the U.S. government think that Al-Qaeda would use weapons of mass destruction if they could get them, and the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 to prevent that from happening. But no evidence was available that Iraq had those weapons, and the invasion intensified Islamic hostility to the United States and also alienated many U.S. allies. Several other important overreactions in global terror history are discussed below.

The need to secure information to prevent surprise leads governments to employ unusual interrogation techniques that are not used to deal with criminals. Thus, in the First Wave, torture, which had disappeared in Europe, became common everywhere and it has remained a feature of every subsequent wave. Government agents frequently infiltrate groups, a process that induces those agents sometimes to provoke terrorist actions that may not occur otherwise. Another problem in dealing with terrorists comes from the fact that there are no accepted rules for dealing with them. On the one hand, governments generally claim they should be treated as criminals, but rules that designate appropriate responses to criminal deeds are never found to be fully appropriate. Terrorists, on the other hand, usually claim they should be treated as enemy soldiers, but they do not follow the accepted rules of war.

Each wave is driven by a distinctive purpose. The First or Anarchist Wave was committed to equality. Nationalism or the self-determination principle inspired the Second or Anticolonial Wave after World War I; then in the 1960s, more radical aspirations become conspicuous again in the Third or New Left Wave. In 1979, religion replaced secular principles of legitimacy, and the Fourth or Religious Wave began, which should dissipate in the 21st-century’s third decade. If history repeats itself, a Fifth Wave will appear with a new purpose, one unlikely to be known ahead of time. In each wave, groups often emerge dedicated to single issue like the Earth Liberation Front, or to support the government, like the Ulster Volunteer Force. Because those groups do not aim to transform the domestic and/or international systems, they are not examined here as part of the wave.

Important unanticipated political events were crucial in generating each wave. The Paris Commune catastrophe (1871) inspired the belief that a new method of insurrection was necessary and helped ignite the First Wave. The Anticolonial Wave was linked to the Versailles Treaty after World War I, which demonstrated how much the international world had become committed to the principle of self-determination. In Europe, the empires of the defeated powers like Austro-Hungary were divided into sovereign nation states. The overseas empires of defeated states largely became League of Nations mandates administered by one of the victorious states until the mandate’s population was deemed able to govern itself. But terrorist uprisings occurred in those territories against the mandate governments and uprisings also occurred in the victors’ overseas empires. The New Left Wave was fueled by Castro’s revolution in Cuba and the U.S. disaster in Vietnam. The Religious Wave was the outcome of four events in 1979. The Iranian Revolution was the first and most important; it transformed a secular state into a religious one, a state that promoted religious terror. Other events demonstrated the weakness of secular elements in pushing popular international political agendas within the Middle East, such as the Soviet Union's military efforts in Afghanistan to protect a Marxist government.

While waves survive for similar periods, the rhythms of each may be very different. It took some time for the Paris Commune to have its effect. While the end of World War I produced several uprisings quickly, only one was successful. A second major political event, the Atlantic Charter in 1941, defined the intentions of the Allies toward all imperial territories, making it much easier to generate successful terrorist campaigns after World War II. Indeed, the end of the Second Wave occurred when the energy of governments to resist, not the energy of terrorists to keep fighting, dissipated. The principal event producing Third Wave was the Vietnam War but it lasted 9 years, and not until its fourth year, in 1968, did the wave get going. The Fourth Wave emerged immediately in 1979.

Some tactics are used in every wave, but each wave introduces and emphasizes different ones. The First Wave was committed to assassination; the Second Wave aimed to eliminate the police; the Third Wave was consumed with hostage taking; and the Fourth Wave introduced self-martyrdom or suicide bombing. Although the geographic center of each wave is different, Western states have always been a principal target, and they were a major source for terror in the First and Third waves.

A wave contains many individual groups, but the number varies in each wave. Each wave has groups with different purposes. In the First Wave, the populists claimed to represent the masses alienated from a government controlled by an out-of-touch closed elite; the populists had socialist aspirations. Anarchists were the second group aiming to eliminate the state and all forms of inequality. The Anarchist Wave is so named because anarchists seemed to be active everywhere and to produce the most provocative acts, which led the public influenced by the media to make the terms terrorist and Anarchist interchangeable (Jaszi, 1930). The third type were the Nationalists, who aimed to create separate states. Nationalists remained present in every wave, though their tactics and rationale varied depending on the wave they were associated with. All Second Wave groups were nationalist, but they had either right-wing or left-wing programs for the states they intended to establish.

The Third or New Left Wave produced two major forms: revolutionaries and separatists. There were two kinds of revolutionaries, the transnational and the national. The transnationals were very small groups that emerged in the developed world of Western Europe and North America and saw themselves as Third World agents. Their internationalism was reflected in their targets and in their commitment to cooperate with foreign groups. But they were the wave’s least durable groups. The priorities of both the national revolutionaries and the separatists were to remake their own states immediately. National revolutionaries sought a state based on radical equality, while the separatists wanted to create a new state from an ethnic base that often transcended state boundaries and thus could create serious tensions with neighboring states. Separatists were present everywhere except Latin America, where all groups were national revolutionaries, a unique quality that is discussed in the analysis of the Third Wave.

Secular causes inspired the first three waves, but religious ingredients were sometimes important because they were connected with ethnic and national identities, as the Irish, Armenian, Macedonian, Cypriot, Quebec, Israeli, and Palestinian examples illustrate (Tololyan, 1992). But these earlier groups did not seek to eliminate secular influences by recreating religious regimes within their original boundaries, a process that would uproot the existing international system, an aim that would be a crucial feature for the Fourth Wave.

Fourth or Religious Wave groups are classified by the respective religions that inspired them. Islam initiated the wave. Iran was a secular state that became a religious one; it committed the first terrorist act and was deeply involved throughout the wave in supporting global terrorist activity, a pattern not seen before. Iran originally aimed to bring the Shia and Sunni, the two principal Islamic sects, together, but instead it produced a variety of serious deadly conflicts between those sects that had not been experienced for centuries. One of the conflicts was the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988), the 20th century’s longest conventional war.8 The wave’s most important durable groups were Islamic, and they devised the wave’s distinctive tactic, self-martyrdom (i.e., “suicide bombing”), which made the wave the most indiscriminate and destructive one. The 9/11 attacks were the deadliest and most spectacular suicide bombing events in history, killing 2,996 people and injuring more than 6,000 others, thus producing more casualties than the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II.

A few Islamic groups like Hamas aim to create a national religious state. But many want to transform the international world by eliminating the system of independent states where each has sovereignty over its territory and equal standing in international law, an arrangement the Treaty of Westphalia created in 1648. Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) aim to establish a caliphate that all Muslims, no matter where they live in the world, are obliged to obey. The Islamic diaspora intensified the wave’s global character; immigrants occasionally made attacks in their new homes and some went back to join groups in Islamic territories. The First Wave also produced a similar pattern, though the two waves seem very different otherwise.

Other Fourth Wave religions have produced groups with more limited territorial aspirations and therefore pose no threat to the international system as a whole. Sikhs aimed to secede from India and re-establish the religious state of Khalistan (Land of the Pure), which the British made part of India in 1849. The Tamils of Sri Lanka also aimed to secede. Although it was not a religious group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) used the tactic of suicide bombing to fight against Buddhist efforts to make Sri Lanka a religious state. Sikh and Tamil diasporas in the West were significant supporters and provided much of the finances needed. Religious Jews in Israel want to transform the country into a religious state that would regain all its ancient Biblical territories. Some Christian groups in the United States fought to make it a religious state. Jews and Christians produced far fewer casualties than other groups in the wave, but the apocalypse is a theme in Jewish and Christian groups and could under certain circumstances produce catastrophic experiences.

The number of groups varies in each wave, and that number dissipates when no new ones emerge to replace those destroyed. Waves overlap each other in time and space. A few Second Wave groups in Africa were still alive in the 1970s, and some Third Wave groups aided them in their struggles for independence. The Fourth Wave emerged in the middle of the Third Wave. That induced some Third and Fourth Wave groups to fight each other bitterly, especially in the Middle East, something that never happened before.

Creation of the Global Political and Technological Contexts

The wave phenomenon cannot be understood fully without seeing it as a byproduct of the French Revolution. The first three waves embraced some key aspirations of the Revolution, while the Fourth explicitly rejected the Revolution’s ideals altogether, especially its hostility to religion.

After Napoleon was crushed, the relationship between domestic and international politics in Europe became transformed. Many insurrections occurred, inspired by desires to achieve the French Revolution’s unfulfilled promises, particularly with respect to new state boundaries, republicanism, secularism, and egalitarianism. In 1820, 1830, 1848, and 1871, uprisings in one European state generated comparable ones elsewhere. Europeans crossed borders easily (as no passports were needed) and became deeply involved in revolts elsewhere. The French Revolution abolished the practice of extraditing individuals for political reasons, and most European states continued this practice afterwards, intensifying the uprisings’ international character (Bassiouni, 1974). A new type of person emerged, described by de Tocqueville as the “professional revolutionary” (Richter, 1967), an intellectual devoting all his time to revolutions, moving from one country to another to foster them (e.g., Filippo Buonarroti, Mikhail Bakunin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Peter Kropotkin).9

Uprisings created Belgium, and helped produce Italy and Germany, but there were so many failures that many after 1848 sought a more radical revolutionary model. In 1864, the First Internationale, claiming 8 million members, emerged to unite socialist, communist, and anarchist groups with trade unions for the impending class struggle. When France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War (1871), radicals established the Paris Commune, abolishing private property. The French response was devastating. Some 20,000 communards and sympathizers were killed, more than the Franco-Prussian War casualty numbers, and more than 7,500 were either jailed or deported to distant places overseas. Thousands fled to Belgium, England, Italy, Spain, and the United States. Radicals became convinced that the support of standing armies for their governments made mass uprisings unrealistic. A new method was necessary—small groups employing terror.

Important technological changes contributed to terrorism’s global character. In the First Wave, the telegraph enabled one to transmit information immediately across the world, enabling daily mass newspapers to describe incidents and plans quickly to very large numbers of people. The railroad and the steamship made international travel easy, quick, and inexpensive. Each successive wave was associated with communication and transportation innovations that intensified its global dimension, making it possible to bring global elements even closer together. The telephone and the radio were important in the Second Wave, television and airplanes were crucial in the Third, and the Internet shapes the Fourth.

In 1867, Alfred Nobel patented dynamite for mining purposes. But soon it was used to make a new type of bomb, much easier to construct, conceal, and move than previous bombs; it could be detonated by a timer, enabling attackers to escape before the explosion. The bomb became the major weapon for terrorists, a major reason Nobel gave his fortune to establish the annual Nobel Prizes, especially the one devoted to peace!10 The bomb is still the terrorist’s principal weapon, and it is likely to remain so, though many analysts have argued that terrorists will soon use weapons of mass destruction.

Before the 1880s, terrorism was confined to group activities in a particular territory, activity that had no specific impact elsewhere, lasted for different time periods, and therefore had no relationship to the concept of generations. The Zealots and Siccari who led the Jewish uprising against Rome in the 1st century were active for 25 years (Rapoport, 1984), the Assassins of the late 11th century survived for three centuries in the Muslim world, the Sons of Liberty who helped stimulate the American Revolution were active for a decade, and the Ku Klux Klan fought a successful 5-year campaign uprooting Reconstruction policies after the American Civil War (Rapoport, 2008). But global terror groups interact with each other, states, foreign social entities, and international organizations, and in a generation, the wave appears in most or all inhabited continents and then dissipates.

The First Wave began in Russia and quickly spread throughout Europe. Within a decade, it appeared in North and South America, and in the 20th century, in Asia, Australia, and Africa. Foreign personalities sometimes founded domestic groups (e.g., the Russian Mikhail Bakunin in Spain). Immigrants and diaspora communities became critical elements. Some states gave terrorists aid and sanctuaries. Events in one state often had significant impact elsewhere. Prominent nationalist struggles created serious potential threats to international peace. Armenians and Macedonian militants aimed to provoke major European states to invade the Ottoman Empire. Those European states knew intervention could produce a great war, putting major European powers on different sides, and avoided the situation several times. But somehow that lesson was forgotten in 1914 when the Ottoman Empire was not involved.

A century passed before a scholar recognized that one could not understand global terrorism without putting it in the context of international waves. In 1986, Zeev Ivianski wrote

The terrorist wave is the work of a generation . . . as a result of some profound historical shock. . . . The generation of the terror destroys itself, has no direct continuation, yet the tradition renews itself in later waves of violence, (Ivianski, 1986)11

The four global waves are discussed in detail in additional articles: the Anarchist, Anti-Colonial, New Left and Religious.


  • Anderson, B. (2005). Under three flags: Anarchism and the anti-colonial imagination. New York: Verso.
  • Bassiouni, M. (1974). International extradition law and world public order. Amsterdam: Luitingh-Sijthoff.
  • Clausewitz, C. (1991) On war. In A. Rapoport (Ed.), Clausewitz on war. Dorchester, U.K.:Dorset Press.
  • Eppright, C. (1997). Counterterrorism and conventional military force: The relationship between political effect and utility. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 20(4), 333–344.
  • Hofstadter, R. (1970). Reflections on violence in the United States. In R. Hofstadter & M. Wallace (Eds.), American violence: A documentary history. New York: Alfred E. Knopf.
  • Ivianski, I. (1986). Lechi’s share in the struggle for Israel’s liberation. In E. Tavin & Y. Alexander (Eds.), Terrorists or freedom fighters. Fairfax, VA: Hero Books.
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  • Jensen, R. B. (2001). The United States, international policing, and the war against anarchist terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 13(1), 15–46.
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  • Rapoport, D. C. (1984). Fear and trembling: Terrorism in three religious traditions. American Political Science Review, 78(3), 658–677.
  • Rapoport, D. C. (2008). Before the bombs there were the mobs: American experiences with terror. Terrorism and Political Violence, 20(2), 167–194.
  • Rapoport, D. C., & Alexander, Y. (1989). The orality of terrorism (2d ed., revised). New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Rapoport, D. C., & Weinberg, L. (2001). Elections and violence. In D. C. Rapoport & L. Weinberg (Eds.), The democratic experience and violence. Portland, OR: Frank Cass.
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  • Steward, P., & McGowan, B. (2013). The Fenians: Irish rebellion in the North Atlantic World, 1858–1876. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
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  • Tololyan, K. (1992). Terrorism in modern Armenian culture. Terrorism and Political Violence, 4(2).
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  • 1. In the French Revolution, the government created the Reign of Terror, in which the rules governing criminal acts were ignored; individuals were punished not for their acts but because their character was deemed inappropriate for the new world being created. Our subject in this essay is rebel terror. State terror is discussed briefly in the essay on the First or Anarchist Wave.

  • 2. The absence of assassination is odd. Three years before the 2nd edition was published, President Kennedy became the fourth American president assassinated. Six other presidents were attacked before Kennedy’s tragedy. No major state had as many heads of states and/or prime ministers killed in that 100 year period. Many more efforts were made after the 2nd edition was published; eight presidents were targeted, and Ronald Reagan was wounded.

  • 3. For an interesting discussion of the relevance of Clausewitz for terrorist studies, see Eppright (1997).

  • 4. The importance of generation has an unusual and often forgotten history. Plato discussed the transformation of governments from one political form to another as a generational process. But his successors thought social status, class, and ethnicity were much more useful to explain change. The concept of generation as essential for understanding political change was revived in the 19th century when democracy became a significant feature of political life. Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic study of American politics stated major changes occurred only when a new generation emerg1ed. “Among democratic nations each generation is a new people” that provokes a “struggle between public and private concerns.” Two other prominent figures in Tocqueville’s generation made similar points. Auguste Comte emphasized that generations had an important role in determining “the velocity of human evolution,” and John Stuart Mill refined Comte’s concept, arguing that in each successive age the “principal phenomena” of society are different only when a “new set” of individuals reaches maturity and takes possession of society. Important early 20th-century scholars also became committed to the notion. Karl Mannheim published his “The Problem of Generations” in 1927 and his contemporary Ortega y Gasset contended that generation is “the pivot responsible for the movements of historical evolution”.

  • 5. In popular U.S. discourse, references to generations appeared before the 1960s and were linked to political events. “Baby Boomers” were born after World War II and became wealthy and “optimistic and produced a striking increase in birth rates. The “Lost Generation” fought in World War I and the “Greatest Generation” fought in World War II!

  • 6. Schlesinger developed the concept of generation in Chapter 2. The Oxford English Dictionary indicates that generation usually means 30 years, but sometimes it can mean 40 years.

  • 7. Generation as a tool for analyzing American political history was also employed in two books by Strauss and Howe (1991 and 1997). They use the term cycle, too.

  • 8. Iran did not start the war, but Iraq was fearful that it would make great inroads in Iraq’s Shia population and decided to attack when Iran had hardly completed its own revolution.

  • 9. Bakunin and Kropotkin were Russian anarchists, Buonarroti was an Italian utopian socialist, and Proudhon a French anarchist.

  • 10. In 1888, Alfred’s Nobel’s brother Ludvig died while visiting France and a French newspaper erroneously thought Alfred had died and published Alfred’s obituary! “The merchant of death is dead . . . who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.” Furious with this description, Alfred became very concerned with how he would be remembered. He had no wife or children, and gave his fortune to establish the annual Nobel Prizes. See Lallanilla, M., The Dark Side of the Nobel Prizes (2013). Four persons described as terrorists received the Nobel Peace Prize when they made significant efforts to create peaceful solutions: Menachem Begin (1978), Anwar Sadat (1978), Nelson Mandela (1993), and Yasser Arafat (1994). Ironically, four American presidents also got the prize: Theodore Roosevelt (1905), Woodrow Wilson (1919), Jimmy Carter (2002), and Barak Obama (2009).

  • 11. In this article, Ivianski discussed only the First Wave, but in a later piece, he discussed the Second Wave, in which he participated.