David Fromkin, via Fareed Zakaria and the survival of the “defeatist” !

“When modern Middle Eastern terrorism first appeared on the scene in the 1960s and 1970s, the historian David Fromkin wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs that is perhaps the best guide to understanding the phenomenon. He pointed out that from its very beginnings, after the French Revolution, terrorism has been a strategy of the weak, designed to project false strength and, above all, make onlookers miscalculate.

Fromkin provided two examples that offer powerful lessons. He recounted a meeting in 1945 with a leader of the Irgun, a group of about 1,500 Jewish militants in Palestine, which was then part of the British empire. The Irgun knew they could not defeat the mighty British army, so they decided to blow up buildings and create the appearance of chaos. “This, he [the Irgun leader] said, would lead the British to overreact by garrisoning the country,” drawing forces from across the empire. That would strain British coffers and eventually London would have to leave Palestine. Fromkin noted that “the Irgun, seeing that it was too small to defeat Great Britain, decided, as an alternative approach, that Britain was big enough to defeat itself.”


The Thirty Years’ War was a series of wars in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, and one of the longest.

Initially a war between Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmenting Holy Roman Empire, it gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers of Europe,[16] becoming less about religion and more a continuation of the France–Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence.

The Thirty Years’ War saw the devastation of entire regions, with famine and disease significantly decreasing the population of the German and Italian states, the Kingdom of Bohemia, and the Low Countries. The war also bankrupted most of the combatant powers. Both mercenaries and soldiers in armies were expected to fund themselves by looting or extorting tribute, which imposed severe hardships on the inhabitants of occupied territories.

The Thirty Years’ War ended with the treaties of Osnabrück and Münster, part of the wider Peace of Westphalia.

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