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The Forum > Article Comments > Talking to terrorists? > Comments

Talking to terrorists? : Comments

By Mike Kent, published 6/1/2006

Mike Kent argues when governments suspent dialogue with terrorists it leads to more dangerous attacks.

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While I disagree with the general thrust of your article you've put up good arguments.

I think its appropriate to narrow the subject to the most dangerous terrorist groupings - al-Quaida (very organised and well led) and our local terrorist suspects (not).

If you are suggesting that we should bargain with al-Quaida "the Base" or what bin Laden prefers to call the "International Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders " then there is no serious room to bargain. This is because - al-Quaida calls for an armed Islamist revolution to foment the overthrow of all regimes which do not rule by Islamic law and to enforce the expulsion of Western military and commercial interests from all Muslim countries .

Our home grown, would be, Islamic terrorists broadly support al-Quaida's "Vision Statement" but specifically want to damage Australia for its (Howard's) participation in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Few governments bargain with a minority within a minority just because it may or may not turn terrorist. Government's bargain with Large minorities or majorities - thats domocracy.

In terms of bargaining with terrorist hostage takers in Iraq etc: This goes on all time - generally in secret - by the CIA, and the UK Secret Intelligence Service (aka "MI6") etc - money changes hands. Governments usually do not want to admit they are negotiating with terrorists for the reasons you point to. Instead they use secret means and/or (in Australia's case) leaders of Australia's Islamic community to do the right and humanitarian thing.

Domestically, one would expect that there is also bargaining plans and experience in government. Police often bargain with hostage taking gunmen instead of any triggers having to be pulled. From my reading of it this philosophy may be the first line of strategy in similar terrorist scenarios - although deadly force is a valid final option...

So, I think, your contention that the option of communication has been closed off, in terms of bargaining, is basically wrong.

Posted by plantagenet, Sunday, 8 January 2006 4:06:37 PM
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Hope this fits in, Mike,

Richard Drayton in January’s Guardian Weekly, summarises how the high tide of a mainly US techno euphoria of the 1990s spurred on by the end of the Cold War, gave thought to the neo-con concept for the New American 21st Century, advocating US diplomatic control for the whole world. Further, the tragic occurrence on 9/11 by Islamic terrorists conveniently reinforced both neo-con and fundamental American religous minds the already spoken need for a unipolar US to police and shape this world of ours in the American Way.

Whatever way we look at it, while Drayton says even more dark dreams grew in American military universities about such a future, we might say that in public universities more commonsense has prevailed both in Australia and America.

In military universities, according to Drayton, a Colonel Ralph Peters forecast a coming age of continuous outbreaks of military conflict, no doubt mostly involved in a future policing role against very angry Islamics and certain Third World countries. Here we could also add America’s intrusion into global economics, insolently breaking its own WTO rules, not only upsetting South Korean farmers, but also for South America where nations big and small are very much perturbed about the US heavily subsidiing its own farmers while stealing South American markets with the dumping of cheap subsised grain.

According to Drayton, the studies in the US military universities now lean much more on geo-political tactics rather than those of outright warfare. Ralph Peters talks about Donald Rumsfeld’s talk of the need to abolish the cherished memories of a cultural past, an example shown when the White House gave orders to break the locks and throw away the keys of the historically famous Baghdad Museum, telling the Iraqi looters - to “go for it you new Ali Baba’s, it’s now all yours to keep!”

On to Part Two.
Posted by bushbred, Sunday, 8 January 2006 7:07:34 PM
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Here we are reminded of a remark by the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, telling in his latest best-seller, “Not Quite the Diplomat”, how the Americans in their role of global king pins, are spoiling themselves with their political top brass using language in reports, only fit for the gutter. He points out how much most world peoples admired the Americans directly after WW2, even though as were the comments, the damned Yanks had to be forced into this self- same war by Japan. However, respect and even affection for the US of A, was built up so much by America not setting out to politically destroy Japan and West Germany, but gave generous rebuilding aid through the US-sponsored Marshall Plan, and also by their apparent forthrightness in insisting on the total abolishment of colonialism.

But as Chris Patten points out, since the late 1970s American prestige in our world has all gone askew, the US said to have been concerned that former enemies Germany and Japan, were beginning to outrun her in the economic stakes. Thus we now have globalisation and back to a 1920s world of corporatised Big Biz, with US and British companies doing very well now, thank you very much. But somehow since the end of the Marshall Plan, America has changed from a once very admired nation to one intensely hated, especially by Islamics. Some political philosophers even suggest that America and her present close allies should go down on bended knees and offer to share the blame with the Islamic world, admitting that the increasing demand for Middle East oil by America and Britain, has a lot to answer for. Otherwise, it is believed there could be even more tragic things happening to both sides for many more years to come.

George C, WA - Bushbred
Posted by bushbred, Sunday, 8 January 2006 7:21:59 PM
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Good arguments...and also extremely DANGEROUS. They are predicated on the assumption that terrorists are simply aiming for ‘just’ and ‘equitable’ outcomes. It also assumes that the majority of ‘reasonable’ people within a given group, are the ones who drive the political/social agenda.

Hence, all you have to do is talk with them and understand their legitimate grievances (caused by you of course) and ‘voila’ problem solved.

The authors arguments and line of reasoning are also aimed at and based on a non-tribal non-Islamic western rationalist audience.

For example, the ‘grievances’ which characterize the situation in Iraq are very TRIBAL and ‘RELIGIOUS’ and arise out of greed for privilege which was the norm under Sadaams very selective distribution of wealth and power based on tribal and theological criteria. ie. SUNNI.

Coupled to this, is the theological (and eternal no compromise) view of the Islamic State pursued by the extreme radicals from outside Iraq.

Their ‘grievances’ involve a return to the status quo which in turn MUST involve the unjust oppression and repression of the Shia and Kurds who are numerically larger and therefore more likely to turn the tables.

In such cases, there is no room at all for ‘discussion’ or reasoning, the only language viable is that of force.

So the single biggest problem of the idea ‘resolve conflict peacefully’ is that it could only work in either a secular/atheistic framework, or, where the grievances between the parties are based on a miscommunication or misunderstanding of the others intent.

This is not always the case, as with Iraq, and therefore the possibility of peaceful resolution is inadmissable and flawed.

While the Biblical approach is ‘Do for your neighbour as you would have them do for you’ -in the atheistic or, non JudaoChristian stream of history, such beautiful ideas are not accepted. The Islamic theological view is that the World and all in it belongs to Allah and his apostle. That the world is divided into Dar Ul Islam (Islamic peace) and Dar Ul Hab (war, where Islam is yet to rule)
Such views are incompatible with the authors argument.
Posted by BOAZ_David, Monday, 9 January 2006 7:38:14 AM
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Reading the article which I thought was very good I thought of one thing. When does no mean NO.

Islamic terrorist
"remove Jews from the lands of the on and so on...."

Answer is no. So that's it, the terrorists start negotiating with bombs and governments start negotiating right back at them.

Sometimes there will not be a middle ground.

What most terrorists cannot understand because they see it as a threat to their way of life is that in a democracy, which is the current system that works best in the world, not everybody gets their own way. And women will have power too. One person one vote. And that I would think is non negotiable -isn't it?
Posted by The Big Fish, Monday, 9 January 2006 11:49:28 AM
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Two points need to be made.

First, when I think of terrorism in an historical sense, I think of different situations than those mentioned in Mike's article. I think of the Zionist movement blowing up hotels in British-controlled Palestine in the lead-up to the 1948 formation of the Jewish state of Israel; I think of IRA bombs being used to intimidate the UK government and people into adding Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic; and I think of the Shining Path movement in Peru trying to impose their political will on that country. So Mike's article would have been better if he had discussed terrorism in the wider sense, not just choosing those examples which seem to support his thesis.

Second, terrorism may appear to be the tactics of the weak against the strong but, in many cases, it is better described as the tactics of the unpopular against the popular. Many political groups throughout history have not had popular support and hence they have sometimes used terrorism to scare people into submission and/or acceptance of their cause. Maybe Mike should advise us whether he believes negotiaing with terrorists in these situations is still his preferred course of action.
Posted by Bernie Masters, Monday, 9 January 2006 12:00:10 PM
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