Summary: Today’s violence from Islamic extremists has many similarities to the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Using standard police and intelligence methods, Western governments defeated the anarchists — without massive restrictions on civil liberties, without military operations. We can defeat today’s Islamic extremists using similar methods — reversing the results from 16 years of failed wars.
“Wars are measured in body counts. The news carries a running tally. You change the world with rivers of blood.”
— Terrorist leader Saleem Ulman, from the NCIS-LA episode “Truth Or Consequences”.
The violence of anarchist terrorists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries has been largely forgotten, as seen in this quote from Wikipedia:
Some revolutionaries of this time encouraged acts of violence such as sabotage or even assassination of heads of state to further spark a revolution. However, these actions were regarded by many anarchists as counter-productive or ineffective.
This is the only mention of violence in the Wikipedia entry, which grossly misrepresents their significance in that era. A more accurate historical viewpoint is this comment by Stefan at Matthew Yglesias’ blog:
Consider that over about a 20 year period, anarchists assassinated, among others, Russian Czar Alexander II (1881), French president Sadi Carnot (1894), Spanish prime minister Canovas (1897), Elizabeth of Bavaria (Empress Consort of Austria-Hungary) (1898), King Umberto I of Italy (1900), and US president William McKinley (1901). If Islamist terrorists had managed to murder an equivalent number of Western heads of state, we’d all be living under martial law by now.
Police work and international coordination successfully suppressed the anarchist extremists, without the military action we have used to fight jihadists since 9/11. Many anarchist terrorists were from Italy, but we never bombed Italy. We could learn much from their success.