Terrorism is basically the use of violence as a form of coercion. The IRA plants bombs and shoots folks because they want Northern Ireland out of the UK. Bin Laden wants us to stop helping Israel, so he planted bombs and kamikazed the WTC.
A terrorist is a lot like a spoiled kid throwing a temper tantrum, you know the kind; A brat who smacks and bites their parent while howling like a harpy as he/she is dragged from the mall without the brand of clothes they wanted. Irritating as it is, this represents the only way he/she has to maybe exert some control. Many parents will do anything to shut their kid(s) up and get the people to quit gawking. These parents are fools, though their offspring are now quiet, they have learned that making a scene in public gets results.
Results: FUCK YOU MOM, I HATE THIS SHIRT!!
That's what terrorists do, except they raise the stakes a bit by bargaining for lives rather than shoes or a cell phone. For example if some of their buddies are being held in prison, they'll do something like hijacking a plane full of people. Then they'll be demanding the release of said comrades, which if not met, will result in the same plane exploding. People and all. Why not just bust their friends out? They don't exactly have standing armies, like say a country or your typical Bond villain, so these types of action are the only way they can get leverage over a country that does. In other words, they don't have the numbers or equipment to win in a "fair" fight.
So, just like our powerless brat in the mall, they fall back on tantrum tactics. Also like the kid, they'll be keen to try the same kind of stunt in the future if they see that it works.
We'll start with one that was especially awkward, for everyone involved. It was 1972 when a group of Palestinian terrorists called Black September abducted a bunch of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. They, Black September, wanted some of their imprisoned comrades in Israel to be freed. Israel told the West Germans* acting as intermediaries, that they don't negotiate with terrorists**. Presumably they explained why, not wanting to encourage more of this kind of thing, but Germany would have to learn this lesson the hard way. Not that day though, no they learned a different lesson the hard way that day, why special forces trained in counter-terrorism, like Special Air Service (SAS) and Delta Force were useful.
"Klaus, you and Hans will sneak in through the veranda. To ensure they don't know you're police, put on track suits to draw attention away from your machine guns."
To be fair, Germany and Israel had something of a history which the Germans had been trying like hell to fix. By 1972 the two countries were pretty tight, and West Germany felt, correctly, that they couldn't just let this happen. Though they had the right feeling, they had the wrong tools, and the rescue was botched. It left them with a pile of dead terrorists and a few wounded ones too. This would be fine, if the entire group of hostages had not been killed. Germany had shown themselves to be somewhat incompetent in hostage rescue tactic.
If you remember why the Palestinians kidnapped the athletes in the first place, you understand why Germany would've been smart to have carted their prisoners off to Israel. A month later another group hijacked a Lufthansa flight and demanded their release to Libya. Obviously unable to do anything about rescuing the hostages, West Germany acquiesced.
Five years later Germany was still a tad embarrassed about being the personification of Sgt. Schultz when it came to terrorism. Then another group of Palestinian terrorists, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, decided that it was time to spring some of their pals from the Red Army Faction out of prison. In Germany. Knowing the Germans were incompetent pussies in the area of terrorism, the PFLP hijacked Lufthansa flight 181. Planning to trade the passengers for their comrades seemed like a sure thing. Problem was, Germany was less Schultz in 1977 and more a good guy version of Otto Skorzeny. Don't trust Wikipedia on who he was? Check this out.
The PFLP hadn't counted on GSG 9, Grenzschutzgruppe 9, Germany's way of telling terrorists that Germans were not all "smiles and sunshine" like they thought after Munich. Well their silent way at that point, Germany didn't advertise their quest for a spec ops team. We like to think it's because they wanted terrorists to try something like they did in '72, then the foot would be on the other hand.
GSG 9 dude, jumping out of da choppa. This tactic is far cooler than the earlier gambit with track suits, but makes us think "Won't the terrorists wonder why there's a loud helicopter on the roof?"
After landing, refueling in and getting kicked out of several countries, the terrorists ordered the co-pilot to head for Somalia. In the meantime they'd fucked up and killed the pilot. Rather than scaring the Germans, it really pissed them off. The PFLP was about to see some Feuerzauber, German for fire magic. When the plane landed in Mogadishu, GSG 9 was there. With the help of two SAS commandos and a team of Somali soldiers, Germany got its dignity back. In a brief gunbattle, 75% of the four terrorists were killed while only one injury was suffered to the rescuers.
Besides bombings, this is how most acts of terrorism unfolded, either they got what they wanted or were gunned down by special forces teams. As the 70s gave way to the 80s, it was pretty obvious that taking hostages didn't work anymore.
Hell, even taking hostages and getting to a sympathetic country didn't work anymore: In 1976 the PFLP decided that the time was right to try busting out some more prisoners. So they hijacked Air France flight 139, service from Tel Aviv to Paris, via Athens. Needless to say, there were quite a few Israelis aboard, which the terrorists had counted on. They figured that taking a big group of them to a Jew hating country, it would force Israel into releasing their prisoners. The hijacked A300 was flown to Entebbe in Uganda, where it and the terrorists stayed under Idi Amin's protection.
Protection that wasn't worth a damn compared to Operation Thunderbolt .The Israelis, again showing themselves to be tough on terrorism, said "Fuck the PFPL and Idi Amin's Uganda, we're gonna go down there to kick their asses and get our people!" That's exactly what they did, and rescued most of the hostages of Air France flight 139. We really can't do this mission justice, Hollywood has tried a couple of times and come up short.
Even with Charles Bronson, pictured here firing his gun while looking in a direction which is perpendicular to the bullet's path.
It really was that awesome, so suffice it to say all but four hostages were rescued. The price? Well monetarily it couldn't have been cheap, for anyone involved; Air France was out a brand new A300 (that wasn't part of the rescue plan), Idi Amin lost more than a few soldiers on top of several MiG-17 fighters at the airport, and the Israelis lost a bad ass by the name of Yonatan Netanyahu.
If you were a hostage on a plane, you could rest assured it was just a matter of time before men dressed in black with submachine guns would show up to rescue you. The terrorists noticed this too, and started changing things up in 1994 with another Air France hijacking...
*By the way, when we say "Germany" prior to 1989, we mean West Germany. Back?
**The Israelis were not going to just let this shit slide, that would encourage groups like the PFLP to try something similar again someday. They had the Mossad track down almost everybody involved, with extreme prejudice. Though a few escaped and a dead ringer for another was accidentally killed in Norway, they seem to have gotten the message that fucking with Israel has consequences. While we feel terrible for the guy killed in Lilihammer, it's safe to say he'd still be alive if his doppelganger hadn't decided to get involved in murdering athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Back?