The first British response to IRA violence was the worst. The IRA was identified as an enemy which had to be destroyed.Of course, firing on crowds of innocent people is counterproductive and morally repugnant. But at the other extreme, the "treat terrorism like any other crime" strategy ignores the fact that terrorism is different from other crimes precisely because terrorism seeks to achieve political goals. And in practice, the approach that Simpson recommends actually resulted in Britain giving in on key issues as a direct result of Irish Republican Army terrorism.
In 1972, the British Army fired into the crowd at a big demonstration in the city of Derry, killing 14 innocent people.
There were undercover killings of IRA volunteers later, and a team of three IRA people were summarily executed when they were caught on an operation in Gibraltar.
All these things did was to convince many people in Northern Ireland that the British Government operated on the same low moral level as the IRA itself.
Fortunately, there was another strategy as well; and this one worked. It was to treat political violence like any other crime.
Robert Pape, an associate professor of political science at the University of Chicago, describes Britain's later history with the IRA as one of appeasement:
If you look at the pattern of violence in the IRA, almost all of the killing is front-loaded to the 1970s and then trails off rather dramatically as you get through the mid-1980s through the 1990s.The degree to which Irish terror attacks have succeeded in forcing political change is indeed stunning. Former IRA terrorists have even been elected to the British parliament as members of Sinn Féin. Yet the IRA has never completely abandoned violence. Only a few months ago, in February, it refused to decommission its weapons.
There is a good reason for that, which is that the British government, starting in the mid-1980s, began to make numerous concessions to the IRA on the basis of its ordinary violence. In fact, there were secret negotiations in the 1980s, which then led to public negotiations, which then led to the Good Friday Accords.
If you look at the pattern of the IRA, this is a case where they actually got virtually everything that they wanted through ordinary violence.
Is this the outcome Simpson wants? A few MP's from the Al Qaeda party, acting as apologists for further atrocities?