In his discussions with German Chancellor #Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni American President #Donald Trump would do well to ask them about their countries’ battle with terrorism. These two countries showed that terrorism cannot be defeated solely with arrests or soldiers and the lessons learnt in those seasons of domestic terrorism are as valid now as they were then.


The student revolts in Paris in May 1968 began a movement that spread to other countries and was meant to be the first stage of a new world. As the American public grew increasingly worried about the war in Vietnam the Europeans saw a revolt of young people against societies which they saw as corrupt and degenerate.

This season gave the Europe new singers, authors and film directors that tried to capture the spirit of the times and were very different from their “hippy” contemporaries in the United States. But this season also had a tragic face because it gave Italy and Germany terrorist groups that caused death for years afterwards.

In Italy the more radical members of the student rebellion formed the Red Brigades which attempted to use terrorism to advance their communist ideology. Their counterparts in Germany formed the Red Army Faction that was also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang after their founders.

Both groups undertook armed resistence with assassinations of people that they considered “accomplices” of the Establishment.

The Red Brigades in Italy then took a major action that would become the lead to its eventual demise when on March 16 1979 they kidnapped prominent Italian politician and former Prime Minister Aldo Moro in Rome. Fifty five days later his bullet riddled body was left in an abandoned car on a road between the offices of the ruling Christian Democrat Party and those of the opposing Italian Communist Party.

A clear message to the two political parties targeted by the terrorists.

Cold War

In many ways these two groups were the creation of the cold war between the United States and the then Soviet Union. Both Italy and Germany were major parts of that bitter struggle and the terrorism was considered by some as inspired by Moscow.

In Italy right wing groups emerged that attempted to cause confusion in the mind of the public and to justify the introduction of draconian anti terror laws.

This became known as the “tactics of tension” in a period that is now called the “Years of lead” in Italy. Due to the activities of both groups this period of history still causes major controversy in Italy today.

Popular support

The revolt by these two terrorist groups were not resolved by major military force but by the decision of the government authorities to uproot the popular support amongst the young. In the end the growing isolation of the groups from the “people” that they were ostensibly defending became the major factor for their defeat.

Over time the leaders of the Red Brigades were either arrested and sent to prison or died in the course of their struggles.

In Germany the tragic season ended with arrest and imprisonment.

Founders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof with another member of the faction Gudrun Ensslin committed suicide in prison.


The German and Italian experiences should serve as lessons for those combating Islamic terrorism, beginning with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Soldiers and sophisticated hardware are ineffective in eliminating the threat if the fanatics do not lose their popular support and if the reasons for the armed struggled are not addressed and resolved. A winning battle will only be followed by a short term lull and other terrorists taking up the mantle of the cause.

The United States learnt another lesson at the end of Second World War with the proper rebuilding of the former enemies that created long term peace. Germany, Italy and Japan were these defeated enemies and they are now amongst America’s most important allies.

Has this lesson been forgotten as well?