A Contemporary Crisis: Political Hostage-Taking and the Experience of Western Europe

A Contemporary Crisis: Political Hostage-Taking and the Experience of Western Europe

A Contemporary Crisis: Political Hostage-Taking and the Experience of Western Europe

A Contemporary Crisis: Political Hostage-Taking and the Experience of Western Europe

Synopsis

"This thorough and very logical analysis of hostage-taking incidents in Western Europe during the period 1970-1981 uses the 'Black September' siege at the Munich Olympics in 1972 as a detailed case study. The author, an English international consultant and expert on terrorism, sees developing patterns of similarity in most terrorist incidents. He offers no simple solutions, but discusses factors to be considered by those responsible for dealing with terrorist cases." Booknotes

Excerpt

Political terrorism has become a familiar phenomenon in recent years. Hardly a week goes by without some new incident occurring from which no one seems immune; heads of state and ordinary civilians, corporate executives and factory workers, Arabs and Jews, fascists and Marxists, children and grandparents have all fallen victim. Though political terrorism may take many forms, none is as shocking or as dramatic as the taking of hostages to press home demands. But it is governments which are truly held to ransom and political order which is most threatened. Unless effectively responded to and managed, incidents such as the 1979 occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran by militant students will continue to be "the most serious threat to world peace since the Cuban missile crisis."

Despite this, the study of political terrorism is still at a pretheoretical stage. No agreement has yet been reached on definition, let alone etiology. Though much has been written, value judgments and normative assertions abound. Scientific rigor has rarely been in evidence. Few studies have been empirically based, and fewer still have attempted to draw generalized conclusions. Opinions have been common, hypotheses scarce.

The research presented here is based on the assumption that any study of a social phenomenon which does not appear to fit into an established analytical category can benefit by adopting the general methodology ascribed to Paul Lazarsfeld: "the more things are the same, study the differences; the more things are different, study the similarities." It is apparent from even the most cursory analysis of political hostage incidents that numerous dissimilarities exist. Yet all share one significant commonality: they represent a new form of crisis.

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