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The MP from the Al Qaeda party

Via LGF, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson argues that Britain should deal with Muslim terrorists the way it dealt with the IRA:

The first British response to IRA violence was the worst. The IRA was identified as an enemy which had to be destroyed.

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.
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.

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.

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.
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.

Is this the outcome Simpson wants? A few MP's from the Al Qaeda party, acting as apologists for further atrocities?


Anonymous said...

There's another important, BIG difference. The IRA had limited, achievable goals. At the absolute furthest point down the spectrum, they wanted an independent and united Ireland, separate from the UK.

Theirs was, quite literally, a traditional insurgency fought through terrorist means. The terrorists we now face do not want to be left alone—because they don't want to leave us alone. They want us to convert to their way, or be destroyed. This is not something that can be countered by giving in to some political demands, because there is no point at which they will be satisfied by capitulation. 

Posted by RFTR

Anonymous said...

"Is this the outcome Simpson wants? A few MP's from the Al Qaeda party, acting as apologists for further atrocities?"

I assume you mean MPs besides George Galloway.

Asymetrical Warfare, like any warfare must be at least partialy judged on the basis of the cause it is employed for.

To the extent that the cause of the IRA (or the PLO) is just, their is some justification for their actions. We make similar distinctions with conventional war. Saddam attacking Kuwait was wrong, while the U.S. driving him from Kuwait in the first Gulf War was right.

Most people have determined that Al-Qaida's greivances are not legitimate, and that it's methods are totaly unjust. With the IRA and the PLO, most people think that there are some legitimate greivances, but the methods used are not proportional to the wrongs they address.  

Posted by Dave Justus

Anonymous said...

While the Ann Coulter-types within Al Qaeda surely have no intention of compromise on any political goal, they are already suffering the fate of all
political absolutists, which is to fail at the impossible and, therefore, to eventually lose support and drop into the dustbin of history.

At the same time, parts of Al Qaeda have focused on limited goals--such as inflicting as much economic and political pain as possible on the U.S. via Iraq.
Their support is coming from around the world and includes elements with no desire for a global caliphate. Rather, they primarily resent American hegemony and war crimes in the region.

It is of course delusional for Al Qaeda to pretend that the right-wing sado-militarists who defend Abu Ghraib's atrocities and call for more are their
only true enemies. It's just as silly to pretend that Al Qaeda is only about killing every last infidel.

John Robb of the Global Guerrillas  blog observes that Al Qaeda has morphed into an "open source" terror provider:

``al Qaeda is not a cohesive organization anymore. Their network has given way to an even looser but more potent form of development: open source warfare. In this model, autonomous groups arise, innovate, plan, and act locally without central direction. Al Qaeda merely serves as the final arbiter of the attack's efficacy to the articulated war plan -- endorsement of the action and the group, comes after the operation is accomplished..."

In the face of NY Times columnist Tom Friedman's misleading statement that no Muslim clerics have issued a fatwa, or ruling, against Osama bin Laden,
Newsweek's Fareed Zacharia provides a list of Islamic leaders and organizations that have condemned and issued fatwas against Al Qaeda's tactics. These are the people--who condemn both Al Qaeda and U.S. atrocities--who the U.S. must engage
in negotiations and, yes, compromise with.

U.S. policy should be focused on expanding the divide between the hard core in Al Qaeda from the fellow travelers and, more important, on supporting the Arab and muslim opponents of AQ.

Unfortunately, the invasion of Iraq and unconditional support for Israeli militarism and territorial expansion make it next to impossible for the U.S. to gather support among AQ's most important enemies--non-extremist muslim leaders.


Posted by bunkerbuster



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