Negotiate or Reason With Terrorists? Terrorism Term Paper

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¶ … Negotiate or Reason with Terrorists?

Terrorism is not a new concept. It has been a tool of those who believe random acts of violence will further their personal cause for centuries. However, for Americans, terrorism was a concept that affected other countries, despite events such as the first attack on the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City bombing, terrorism was something seen on international news feeds, not something to be feared of on American soil. On September 1st, 2001, that arrogance ended.

The new American reality is that terrorism is a very real threat to their homeland; one that cannot be ignored.

The reaction to this threat, to date, has been primarily one of meeting violence with violence, force with force, but there has been concern regarding the effectiveness of this method. The question has now become, is it possible to negotiate or reason with terrorists? And, what are the implications of this answer for America's policy regarding the war on terror?

President Bush's position on negotiating with terrorism is quite clear. "No nation can negotiate with terrorists. For there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death" (qtd. "Negotiating with Terrorists").

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Despite the stumbling blocks that have been encountered in America's war on terror, this sentiment is still true. Negotiation must be based on rational conversation. All parties involved must be committed to finding a solution that provides a best-case scenario, not just for themselves, but for all involved. Radical zealots about a cause that refuse to even consider the other sides of an issue cannot be a participatory part of rational negotiations.

They have based their entire campaign for the promotion of their cause on inflicting violence and terror on innocent citizens, most often it is only through force that they understand the consequences of their actions.

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Of course, there are instances where negotiation is desired from parties that could be considered terrorists. The Sunday Times of London noted in 2005, "a small group of insurgent commanders apparently came face-to-face with four American officials seeking to establish a dialogue with the men they regard as their enemies" (qtd. "Negotiating with Terrorists").

When one reads accounts like this, it is natural to think that negotiation with terrorists could very well be a possibility. It seems that clearly there is some hope that the humanity within terrorists would make it possible to rationally negotiate a peace that would be acceptable to all involved.

However, in these instances, it could be theorized that individuals, such as the insurgent commanders noted earlier, are not truly terrorists. Political revolutionaries, yes; but terrorists, no.

These individuals clearly began to understand that their methods of attacking innocent civilians, and the costs they've incurred, are not the most effective means of accomplishing their goals. Their mindset has evolved from terrorism to revolution, and it is for this reason alone that they could now be negotiated with. However, if they had remained in the terrorism frame-of-mind, negotiation would not even be an option for them. For terrorists it's destroy or be destroyed. There is no middle ground.

These terrorists may have dreams of an eventual peace; however they see violence as a tool to accomplish it. As Waxman describes Mohammed Kureishi's vision of the future, their goals are of such an obsessive nature that they're willing to take whatever means necessary to bring them about. Kureishi envisions a world dominated by Islam and its non-democratic society, eventually overtaking the non-Muslim world including the United States.

To get to this point, Kureishi admits to the willingness of utilizing an offensive jihad, noting, "The filth of capitalism dominates the world and should be eradicated" (qtd. Waxman). What negotiation is possible with a frame of mind such as this?

Consider the actions of Mohammed Bouyeri and his murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam. van Gogh was a filmmaker and had made a short film regarding the oppression of Muslim women. While riding his bicycle, Bouyeri shot him six times "as van Gogh pleaded, 'We can still talk about it! Don't do it!'" (qtd. Krauthammer). The attack didn't stop there.

He nearly decapitated Bouyeri as he slit his throat with a kitchen knife. He then took a five-page Islamist manifesto and impaled it, with his knife, into van Gogh's chest. At his court appearance Bouyeri showed no remorse, and committed the act in the name of his religion (Krauthammer). Although not a terrorist, Bouyeri demonstrates the radical mindset that simply does not believe in the merits of negotiation.

Many cite earlier examples of successful negotiations with the PLO as a demonstration of the peaceful power of negotiations with terrorists.

Yet, how successful has this truly been? "It was that Nobel Peace prize-winning terrorist, Yasser Arafat, who called for the Intifada against Israel, resulting in the death of over a thousand people. Arafat headed the PLO" (Dzama). This was not a limited occurrence. By February of 2002, there had been more than 90 suicide bombers, as part of the Palestinian Intifada, since the Oslo accords of 1993 (Cohen). With this disturbing piece of information, it becomes clear that these negotiations were not successful at all.

As Dzama notes, "One (cannot) negotiate with fanatics who strap explosives on their bodies and walk into crowded restaurants or hop aboard packed buses."

When one considers the ramifications of negotiating with terrorists, the answer solidifies even more. If America were to negotiate with every radical organization that posed a threat or conducted an attack against American interests, what precedent would that set? It would only serve to encourage others to use violence and terror to get what they want.

Peaceful means of resolving conflicts would be set aside if these organizations knew they could get America's attention by stamping their foot like some petulant child. Whether their goals were reasonable or not, the United States would be opening itself up willingly to attacks as a means of bullying a global superpower.

Perhaps the more important question to consider is whom did Al Qaeda try to negotiate with before they condemned thousands of innocent people to their deaths on September 11th?

Did they try to speak with the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, that perished that fateful day to try to get them to understand their plight and find a peaceful solution? Or, did they, in traditional terrorist fashion, strike with absolute regard for the loss of human life - hoping for such utter destruction that it would knock America to its knees? Was the concept of negotiations so foreign to these scant fundamentalists that they were hyper-focused on bringing about the evils they believed to lie in the West, ignoring the evil in their own heart that would allow them to commit such atrocities? The answers to all of these questions lead to one general conclusion - negotiation is not an option.

The impact of this realization is profound for America's policies regarding the war on terror. It means that regretfully diplomacy and goodwill will do little to protect the nation, and others, from future attacks on the scale or greater than September 11th.

This realization dictates that America must communicate with terrorists in the only language they understand, violence. Although there will be challenges in supporting this commitment to combating terrorism, the fact that no other course of action will provide positive results should further America's resolve to trudge through the challenges and endure, knowing it is the best course of action possible.

With enough carefully directed force, the hope would be to bring about the evolution seen in those insurgent commanders of 2005 who finally began to realize that they simply were not going to accomplish their goals through terrorist actions, and that only by rational discourse and a willingness to compromise did they… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Negotiate or Reason With Terrorists? Terrorism.  (2006, December 15).  Retrieved September 20, 2020, from

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"Negotiate or Reason With Terrorists? Terrorism."  December 15, 2006.  Accessed September 20, 2020.