Addressing Root Causes – the Example of Bruno Kreisky and Austria’s Confrontation with Middle Eastern Terrorism

Thomas Riegler


The tenure of Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky (1970-1983) is best known as a period of socio-political reform that profoundly transformed and modernized the country. Kreisky is also renowned as a statesman whose international stature was disproportional to Austria’s actual geopolitical insignificance. What is less well known is Kreisky’s counterterrorism policy, which is exceptional both in the context of the 1970s and 1980s as well as that of today. In short: Kreisky argued strongly that terrorism could only be tackled if its root causes were addressed. In order to fight terror, the grievances causing it have to be removed as a form of prevention. Kreisky specifically focused on the Middle Eastern conflict, which, from his point of view, could only be solved by means of a just peace. To achieve this result, a legitimate political representation of the Palestinian cause had to be fostered, thereby rendering the rampant “armed struggle” of militant Palestinians obsolete. This article aims to explore and evaluate Kreisky’s unique counterterrorism policy - both in terms of its successes and failures: on the one hand, Kreisky contributed to the international legitimisation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and its chairman, Yassir Arafat, while, on the other hand, Austria suffered some ‘ blowback’ in the form of terrorist attacks orchestrated by hard-line Palestinian elements.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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