Newspaper Blogs

July 28, 2003

FIGHTING TERRORISM....Over on Winds of Change recently I left this comment in response to Michael Totten:

Serious people understand how complex this problem [i.e., terrorism] is and how many different things need to come together for us to win. The unserious ones are the people who think that a bigger military is going to do the job.

Sending the marines in is easy and feels good. But if you're really serious about winning the war, you need to go far, far beyond that.

Michael replied, "Yes I very much agree that we need to go far beyond using only the military."

But today, via Matt Yglesias, I see that Michael has a TechCentralStation column in which he explains his skepticism about the Middle East "road map" and suggests a different approach:

The first phase should be simple. Terrorism must be punished. And anti-terrorism must be encouraged. The Palestinian Authority should be given one last chance to eliminate terror. And if the PA refuses, the U.S. must do the following:

  • Classify the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist organization.

  • Declare "regime change" in the West Bank and Gaza the official United States policy.

  • Support to the hilt every anti-terror operation by Israelis short of war crimes.

The first phase would not be complete until the enemies of peace are defeated, deported, imprisoned, or killed. These include Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Yasser Arafat's Fatah, the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It may also include the Palestinian Authority.

Since all it would take for the PA to fail its "one last chance" is a single extremist lunatic, I think we can take it for granted that Michael's alternate plan would quickly come into effect — and he knows it. And while Michael does say that there would be subsequent phases in which we would dictate the terms of a Palestinian democracy, that only comes later. In the here-and-now, there's little question that his plan relies entirely on a massive application of military force, and the followup depends on a continuing military presence as well.

So back we come. It's one thing to simply disagree: perhaps hawks like Michael think fighting terrorism is primarily a military operation and perhaps I don't. But why say that you agree that we should "go far beyond using only the military" and then write a lengthy piece in which you advocate a solution that includes nothing else?

I keep running into this problem when I engage with hawks. I'm moderately hawkish myself, but that doesn't make me blind to the reality that massive military force is neither practical nor sufficient to solve the problem of terrorism — unless you're advocating a war of total annihilation. Most hawks say they aren't, and claim that of course they understand that there are important non-military aspects to this fight and that I shouldn't make a straw man of their arguments. But when they put words to paper, all I ever hear about are plans for massive military reprisals if terrorism doesn't stop right now.

If Michael thinks the solution to Palestinian terrorism is a replay of World War II — all-out war followed by a lengthy occupation in which we impose a system of government and dictate national boundaries — fine. But let's not pretend that's anything but a purely military solution, OK?

Posted by Kevin Drum at July 28, 2003 04:54 PM | TrackBack


That's great of you to stay focussed through the entire exchange, Kevin. I wonder if you will be so patient around the 30th time you ride this merry-go-round though. That's how you turn into a left-wing lunatic.

Posted by: Eric M at July 28, 2003 05:08 PM | PERMALINK

The difference, Kevin, is that you type with both hands.

Posted by: Iain J Coleman at July 28, 2003 05:20 PM | PERMALINK

It’s a shame that you didn’t quote the best part of the article: “There is a moral case to be made for a Palestinian state. There's a strategic and "realist" case to be made for it, too. But it is trumped by the need to contain a fast-spreading barbarism. No country on Earth should appease or surrender to terror. Peace at any price has a price tag too high.”

Michael Totten was discussing the fact that the use of the paramilitary tactic of suicide-bombing is spreading - and, of course, innocent people are being killed. One way to stop the use of that tactic is to avoid rewarding it, to show that terrorism does not work. The roadmap doesn't do that.

The concept of fighting terrorism rather than appeasing it does not mean ‘a war of total annihilation.’ – any more than the consideration of non-military tactics means ‘peace at any price’.

You fear that one extremist lunatic would cause the PA to fail. That’s a point that can be discussed. Between the two extremes of peace at any price and a war of annihilation, there are an infinite number of solutions – if you have the imagination to create and consider them. For instance, what would you do to discourage the use of the paramilitary tactic of suicide bombing?

Posted by: mary at July 28, 2003 06:02 PM | PERMALINK

I was only discussing Michael's approach, and he doesn't suggest anything other than a completely military solution. I agree that there are many solutions between the extremes, but I can't see where Michael advocates one.

(As for a war of annihilation, I mentioned that only because I think that's what a purely military solution would have to entail to be successful. I see very few historical parallels that suggest otherwise.)

Posted by: Kevin Drum at July 28, 2003 06:29 PM | PERMALINK

I didn’t see this as a completely military solution. From the essay:

“The first phase would not be complete until the enemies of peace are defeated, deported, imprisoned, or killed.”

This is a discussion about dealing with terrorism – an act that some define as criminal. How should terrorists be dealt with? How should criminals be dealt with - should they be defeated, deported, imprisoned or killed – or should they be given political power? Which do you think is the better solution?

Posted by: mary at July 28, 2003 06:45 PM | PERMALINK

Boy, I'm glad someone else was confused by that article of Totten's. I read it earlier and thought that I was too stupid to understand that he really is a man of peace.

Off topic: I heard an interview on Fresh Air with the author of "All the Shah's Men" and what an eyeopener that was. The whole Iran coup really shows how easy it is to foment terrorism. I think the path to quelling it runs the opposite way with economic engagement instead of oppression. I'm a fatal hug gal and cling to that and infinite patience whenever hawks confront me with their Tottenesque plans.

Posted by: casadelogo at July 28, 2003 06:46 PM | PERMALINK

Hello Kevin,
Re: the war on terrorism. Here is a 9-part article that was posted on Slate,com last fall:

A Real War on Terrorism
Robert Wright, a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of The Moral Animal and Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.

Posted by: Wayne at July 28, 2003 06:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think that if you look at the Israeli-Palestinian situation, you will see that harsh military reprisals to terrorist bombings, or even occupation, have only increased the frequency of suicide bombings. I think if the answer was just send in the armed forces to mop 'em up, the Israelis would have done that themselves by now.

I agree, you don't want to just throw up your hands in the face of terrorism or reward it, but as Kevin said, it's an awfully complex problem, one that won't be fixed just by taking a hard line. Clearly, if these people are suicide bombers, the threat of being killed isn't going to dissuade them.

I'll be honest, I don't have a solution to the problem. I'd be skeptical of anyone who said they did. I think you do the best you can to try to track and catch suspected and known terrorists, provide as much defensive security as possible, and make efforts to reach out to the non-violent portions of the Palestinian population.

But there's no quick fix. It's like trying to end car theft. You send your cops out there and do what you can, but there's no way to get every single car thief.

Posted by: Royko at July 28, 2003 06:53 PM | PERMALINK

Michael's article very explicitly combines military force (the most minor player) with diplomacy, economic isolation, and other measures. I am still at a loss as to how you could so misread it.

At no time in his article did he suggest that American troops would defeat Hamas, Hizbollah, and the other genocidal elements in the Palestinian polity. Whether the efforts came from the Israelis, the Palestinians themselves, or other Arab states, does not mattter. All he is saying that without serious cooperation in The Roadmap and an end to both official Palestinian incitement of hate and a strategy of total war, America will not only oppose a Palestinian state and forego the use of its influence with Israel on this issue, it will designate responsible Palestinian groups as "terrorist organizations" and bring the full weight of its legal (recall the Patriot Act's penalties for involvement with these groups) and diplomatic influence down against them.

In the current Mideast environment, that would be taken by many rulers there as a seious threat. The Palestinians are already complaining that the destruction of Saddam's regime has pinched their ability to find terror, demonstrations, etc. That could be made much worse.

The core of Totten's argument is simple, and almost inarguable: unless there is a price for Palestinian non-compliance, all the "peace process" does is assist and encourage their war against Israel and its people (in addition to encouraging the tactic of suicide bombing elsewhere). That will NOT lead to peace either for Israel or the rest of the Western world, which means a policy that is serious about peace in that region needs to make Palestinian non-compliance costly.

To this end, Totten did indeed propose a "beyond just the Marines" approach to the problem, one that addresses the core policy defect in the current approach.

It's one thing to disagree with his diagnosis, another thing to mischaracterize his argument.

Posted by: Joe Katzman at July 28, 2003 07:23 PM | PERMALINK

Do you know how to defeat the terrorists? Remove their support. How do you remove their support?

Provide what Hamas provides: schools, soccer camps, water, electricity, welfare, etc, etc. USAID is doing a terrible job at it.

(See today's and erlier comments @ my blog.)

Posted by: Arash at July 28, 2003 07:37 PM | PERMALINK

How about a single democratic nation in the region?

Posted by: theCoach at July 28, 2003 07:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm more or less an uberHawk who thinks the military option should not be a " last resort " (more specifically,that military force not be perceived as a last resort by terrorists and their sponsors so our diplomacy is that much more effective)but the complexity of the terrorist problem should never be forgotten.

Syria supports Hezbollah for different reasons than Iran and may be more amenable to diplomatic pressure. Iran is far more plugged into the world economy and is more politically pluralist than Iraq was under Saddam and the Khameini regime is more vulnerable to economic and internal countervailing force. These levers as well as intelligence and ideology should all be used where they are the most effective options.

The conservative case, at least as I see it, is that military force is highly relevant as terrorist sponsoring regimes and Islamist terror groups calculate the costs of their next moves. In other words, demonstrated willingness to use force massively and disproportionately may have something of a deterrent effect on terrorists whose resources are after all finite. No good dying for " the cause " if " the cause " dies right after you. (RAND had a good paper available online pondering whether al Qaida can be deterred)

Regular, measured, finely-tined, escalatory responses to terrorism on the other hand, as an above poster referenced regarding Israel, may actually embolden future attacks because the graded nature of the response indicates a psychological unwillingness to " go all out ". Terrorists begin to calculate that the costs of the expected counterattack are worth paying in order to have the political benefit of pulling off their next action.

This is speculation on my part but as evidence I would point to the British experience in Northern Ireland as well as that of Israel post 1967.

Posted by: mark safranski at July 28, 2003 08:09 PM | PERMALINK

"I keep running into this problem when I engage with hawks."
I believe the correct term is chickenhawks. I'd be more attentive to Totten's argument for ruthless force if he'd fought or killed an enemy in the field (as Kerry has) instead of just waiting for others far away to do so. What does he know from military strategy?
I think Coleman nails it.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 28, 2003 08:14 PM | PERMALINK


I think you do misunderstand my position.

I do not by a long shot think only military means can solve this problem. But I also don't think we can ignore the military component in some places, including the West Bank and Gaza.

That's really all I'm saying. At this point, the Israelis are effecitively told they *can't* fight terrorism, even while the Palestinian Authority refuses to do it.

And so if the Palestinain Authority refuses to crack down, and instead aligns itself with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, how can Israelis be expected to trust the Palestinian Authority with their security?

Somebody has to deal with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Their goal is the total destruction of Israel and the creation of the theocratic Taliban-like state. It is not possible to make peace with them because they say peace is treason.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 28, 2003 08:14 PM | PERMALINK


What exactly did the strike on Hamas leader Rantissi lead to? Seventeen innocent Jewish lives. Israeli incitement, such as random raiding of refugee camps and using children as human shields, simply does not help. And you are wrong about Israel not fighting terrorism. The IDF makes daily arrests inside the occupied territories in almost all of the West Bank.

The PA stopped a suicide bomber who was on her way to a suicide mission inside Israel.

The thing is that the PA has no security apparatus, and that Sharon uses excessive force. Neither are good options; I agree.

You bring up other thing, such as dropping the right of return and not giving the Palestinians more than what was offered by Barak in 2000. The Barak offer gave the Palestinians 80% of what they want; not 98%. That bothers me as well.

Posted by: Arash at July 28, 2003 08:22 PM | PERMALINK

Arash speaks to the heart of the matter.

The military solution is only effective if it is total, merciless, and indefinite. History has proven this.

And then, in the 21st century, a military solution with such qualities may still fail to accomplish the desired goals.

But what are those goals?

Historically to date:

Clearly, the primary interest we have in the Middle east is securing a cheap and reliable flow of oil. As Kissinger said (a perspective echoed by the neo-cons in various PNAC manifestos) the managing of an uninterupted oil flow from the region is simply too important to be left to the Arabs.

Secondary, is the primitive yet potent, drive for triumph of the judiac/christian belief system over the frightening (to the western mind) moslim traditions and the fulfillment of all the apocaliptic implications involved per scripture.

The military solution necessarily invovles a clash of cultures; a pitting of wills. It is, of course, a theory of dominance by brute force. Now the neocons hope that somewhere in the midst of the violence and violation by outsiders moslims will still be able to glean some of the goodness of American democratic virtue. Or maybe they don't believe this and hope only that the violence will be sufficient to cause moslims to bend to their will.

Either way, application of military force seems like a losing strategy in the log run.

A more effective solution would involve free market forces that deal creatively with the Arab/moslim control of petroleum assets, even if that results in higher fuel prices in the short run. Oil is worth whatever it is worth in relation to the goods and services we can export to OPEC nations. An equalibrium price can be established and that's what we will have to pay. That is what is fair.

This would be, as well, a policy that truly involves the exporting of the best of democratic society. If our values are so wonderful (and I believe they are) then they will be assumed by the moslim people.

As it is, we have not played fair with the Arabs. Many of their grievances have substance, but we turn a deaf ear. We have helped create, supported, and justified completely undemocratic principles in the region.

As for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they would fade with time as their base of support declined to near zero.

People do not naturally thrive on war. They adopt violence only when they see no other possible solution to severe life conditions, to unaddressed injustices and to perceived serious threats.

Please no arguements that moslims think differently. Such is the stuff of unadulterated racism.

Posted by: E. Avedisian at July 28, 2003 09:13 PM | PERMALINK

Well his 'final solution' could well be what the hawks in the Knesset have been pushing for some time: assigning each Palestinian living in the occupied territories with 'citizenship' in a neighboring Arab country and deporting him/her there. I doubt Israel would do that wholesale, but might do it to continuously rid themselves of the folks so selfishly keeping them from establishing Greater Israel.

Posted by: Green Boy at July 28, 2003 09:39 PM | PERMALINK

Joe and Michael: I'm not trying to be dense and I'm not deliberately trying to mischaracterize anything. But read the piece I quoted: "Support to the hilt every anti-terror operation by Israelis short of war crimes." What else can I take away from that except that you're talking about a massive, 100% military operation?

For all I know, you're right and that's the only way to proceed. But why pretend it's something it's not?

Posted by: Kevin Drum at July 28, 2003 09:41 PM | PERMALINK

Arash, the attempted hit on Rantisi, although I agree that it wasn't a terribly smart thing to do, didn't cause the suicide bomb that happened the next day. Those terror attacks don't happen when someone wakes up angry, puts together an explosive belt, and just strolls on board a bus in Jerusalem. They take at least a week or two to plan, with several people involved.

And the Palestinians weren't offered 80% at Camp David, they were offered more than 90%. Even Mohammed Dahlan, a high-level Palestinian security official, conceded as much a year ago. He of course claims that this still wasn't a good offer--it's not surprising or unreasonable for any Palestinian to say that--but he didn't misrepresent the number, and neither should you.

Posted by: Haggai at July 28, 2003 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

To summarize some excellent points here:

Sooner or later, you have to look back and see whether or not an approach has worked, and why. Totten's approach has been tried, and has not worked, for what is Totten's approach but a restatement of the very attitudes that we've seen coming from right-wing Israeli and American officials since '67? Kevin certainly has Totten pegged on the "any justification for retaliation" concept. Look at the article in question: it claims that the ceasefire was violated by Islamic Jihad, but conveniently forgets that IJ called them a splinter group, and Totten would know as well as anyone that the cell structure of terrorist organizations makes tight control nearly impossible, even if splinter groups weren't an inevitability. He also links to a National Review article that argues that the only way to end the conflict is to, somehow, kill off all the terrorists. There's no "diplomacy" in that.

Nor, for that matter, is there diplomacy in this:

No future Palestinian state should be geographically larger than the one already offered by Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak in 2000. Even if the Palestinians get only one acre less in the end, the intifada must be shown to have yielded them nothing.

This sort of "punishment" is astonishingly juvenile, and will only ensure that the conflict will never end. There is no way that this would be acceptable to the Palestinians, any more than "Punishment" would have been acceptable in Northern Ireland... or anywhere else that terrorist has taken place. This is certainly not diplomacy, which is about sucking up one's pride and thirst for vengeance and making the sorts of deals necessary for peace.

(And no, trying to check suicide bombing is not a sufficient justification. The tactic will continue to be used regardless of its success or failure by the Palestinians, and the success or failure of that tactic will not affect the overall concept of the use of terrorism, which dates back way farther than any hyperbolic "fast spreading barbarism".)

Totten appears to be doing the same thing that so many other right-wing commentators have been doing: looking for a justification for the same old actions, rather than any sort of new solution. "Defeat terrorism", he says. Would that he could explain how, except by the same sort of real diplomacy and bargaining that he so quickly disdains.

Posted by: Demosthenes at July 28, 2003 09:58 PM | PERMALINK

Some of the extremist groups that send suicide bombers are not in the least bit interested in peace: they wish for the peace process to stop and Israel to occupy and kill. To say continuing the peace process in spite of such sickos is giving in to terrorism is utter tripe. It is, instead, giving them exactly what they want.

Posted by: chris bond at July 28, 2003 10:11 PM | PERMALINK


I advocate a military component to get rid of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. After that, no military force will be necessary by anybody. That does not mean by any stretch that I advocate solely a military solution.

I think the Palestinians need a state, they need democracy, and Israel needs to uproot its settlements.

Green Boy: I am not a Nazi. I advocated no "final solution," nor any "Greater Israel" scheme. I advocated a two-state solution. Freedom, democracy, and sovereignty for both Palestinians and Israelis. I do not advocate deporting the Palestinian population. It does not help you to mischaracterize my article so egregiously. Kevin may misunderstand what I'm getting at, but I can see that he is discussing this in good faith. Your slur is the left-wing equivalent of Ann Coulterism.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 28, 2003 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Mubarrak is an enemy of America.

Our CIA and State Department have been involved for 60 years propping up despots around the globe.

And, if you notice Bush with his road map, all his friends are there. The UN. The EU. Blair. (And, the British has a terrible record in the Mideast. And Turkey. And, India. Oh. And, Africa.)

Want to fix things? Make sure Bush never gets elected.

Posted by: Carol Herman at July 28, 2003 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

I'm curious how many people on this thread have read Caleb Carr's book, "The Lessons of Terror." He makes a few points, some of which I disagree with, but which are not easily dismissed out of hand. He argues that:

1) Terrorism is best defined as any military act whose primary target is civilian;
2) It is an ancient practice, dating back to at least the Romans;
3) It is counterproductive in the long run. The side who uses it first and most often historically has always lost eventually, due in large part to hardening opposition; and,
4) It is a military act and the only possible response is military action limited to non-civilian targets.

Though I have doubts about many of his assertions and even stronger doubts about his conclusions, this discussion seems to be happening without any consideration of his ideas. This strikes me as misguided. His voice, lent prestige by his position as a contributing editor (I think; it's been a few weeks since I read the book) of Military History Quarterly, at least ought be heard in any serious discussion about terrorism and the Mid-East.

It is not inconveivable to say that Israel must respond militarily to the Palestinian attacks on civilians, especially if you are convinced that these attacks, however misguided, are military acts. It is not, however, sufficient to say that, either. Israel's response must be measured, must invite Palestinian cooperation by offering the promise and reality of sovereignty (and anything which leaves Israeli settlements or troops in Palestine, as Barak's plan would have, makes a mockery of the word sovereignty), and must ensure civilian safety.

As such, I agree with Kevin that the words, "[s]upport to the hilt every anti-terror operation by Israelis short of war crimes" implies a vision that is too focused on total war, or what Mr. Carr calls "destructive war."

Nonetheless, I am at least moderately persuaded by Mr. Carr that terrorism is essentially a military operation, and that the solutions are not criminal but military and diplomatic.

Now, where are those other fences to straddle?

Posted by: Ron Zucker at July 28, 2003 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

I need to go blog a bit on this as well, but want to leave one thoguht here - this is a proxy war, in which the Arab states - including up to a month or so ago, Iraq - were heavily subsidizing Palestinian terrorism as a tactic. It was ostensibly a good move, relatively cheap, deniable, and cost-free to their own people while maintaining the sense of combat that the totalitian state requires to survive.

Over the next 18 months, for one reason or another, that level of outside cash and logistical support is going to decrease substantially.

Time is on our side, for one.


Posted by: Armed Liberal at July 28, 2003 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

The brutality of the israeli defense force is pretty well documented now (including the escalation of killing Palestinian children)....and now the "fence" is taking away more Palestinian land....and how many times has the US used its veto on UN resolutions condemning Israeli settlements ??? (answer, over a hundred) to keep discussing terrorism means one needs to discuss the state terrorism of Israel....a country that is the least monitored in the world (lets talk about the Israeli nuke program!) the hawk argument you mention kevin is close to genocide.

Posted by: John Steppling at July 29, 2003 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Totten: Both organizations are deeply woven into the fabric of Palestinian society... how do you propose to burn those two threads without damaging the rest of the weaves? Hamas and IJ include the brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of otherwise peaceful Palestinians, and claims that a dead friend or relative were terrorists and thus deserved of their fate is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Of course, IDF members and the victims of the attacks all have friends and relatives as well, which is why Israelis aren't overly thrilled about defenses of said attacks as being against "a brutal occupation". Whether that term is deserved or not, and I don't necessarily believe it is, it pales compared to the horror of a dead relation.

(Northern Ireland, of course, was little different.)

And as for transfer and the like: although you did not advocate it, I believe that it is the inevitable conclusion of your argument. If the Palestinians don't shun the members of Hamas and IJ (as they likely will not, for the reasons I mentioned above), they will be both angered by a fruitless attempt to "root out the terrorist" and mortally insulted by attempts to "punish" them as a deterrent to terrorism in foreign lands that they care nothing about.

They will not accept, and if they do not accept, the only choices are either relocation or brutal repression.

Posted by: Demosthenes at July 29, 2003 01:44 AM | PERMALINK

"....while maintaining the sense of combat that the totalitian state requires to survive."


So, where do you think Bush will go next?

Posted by: Barry at July 29, 2003 04:01 AM | PERMALINK

You can easily distinguish the terrorists (such as the PLA) from the friendly, smiling Palestinians, due to their little devil horns. This makes it hard to see why Totten's proposal has not yet been implemented.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 29, 2003 05:24 AM | PERMALINK

Just a couple of tangential points:

Why is it that the people who talk about having "one democracy" in the region (with the hope that that would lead to mass democratizatoin of the region) never seem to notice Turkey?

Is it because Turkey, though a largely Muslim state, is primarily ethnically Turkish rather than Arab?

Is it because Turkey is an officially secular state?

Is it because the Turkish military is so prominent, and this is understood to be anti-democratic?

Is it because 80 years of Turkish democracy (and general prosperity) have not sufficed to bring democracy to the rest of the region, and this would prima facie weaken the working hypothesis?

Or do people just forget this fact -- or never learn it at all?

As for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I don't feel qualified to say much, other than this:

It seems to me that the strategic challenge (which I will say at the outset may be unsolvable -- but one has to hope) is to create a situation in which terrorism is counterproductive.

I believe that much of the impetus for military solutions to terrorism have this in mind. My suspicion is that this is all wrong, however, and that the military role for dealing with terrorism, though significant, is limited. Military action doesn't seem to end terrorism so much as disperse it.

The current roadmap to peace seems to me actually (inadvertantly -- but no less surely) to support terrorism. Anyone who wishes to derail the roadmap needs only to engage in a terrorist act -- not even necessarily a successful one. Since many on both sides of this conflict would be happy to derail the roadmap...well, how could we make this easier for them?

We have to somehow create a situation in which violence is actually counterproductive to the goals of those who support that violence, and in which there is a productive alternative (some sort of political process), that doesn't depend primarily on violence or the threat of violence (i.e. military responses) to sustain itself.

Sounds like a wonderful project for some game theorists, doesn't it? I wonder what the Rand Corporation is up to these days.

Posted by: Brandonimac at July 29, 2003 05:40 AM | PERMALINK

The whole plan behind terrorism is to provoke a military response, which then (1) motivates more people to join or assist the terrorists, and (2) alienates the supporters of the responding party. Talk about rewarding terrorism!

The idea that we ought to respond to terrorism by toughening up our negotiating positions is similarly foolish. Totten & Co. are still allowing terrorists to manipulate them--they're just allowing themselves to be manipulated in the direction of a hard line position. Again, a very standard terrorist tactic is to provoke the other side into taking a hardline position, with the expectation that in the long run that's going to work to the benefit of the terrorists' side.

Either a Palestinian state is in the US interest, or it is not. If it is in the US interest, then to decline to support one because the Palestinians committed terrorism is cutting off your nose to spite your face. John Brown committed acts of terrorism in support of the abolition of slavery, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have abolished slavery.

Posted by: rea at July 29, 2003 05:51 AM | PERMALINK

oh, by the way:

"The Department of Homeland Security has told airlines and law enforcement agencies that al-Qaida may attempt new suicide hijackings sometime during the next few months. "

AP Story

Posted by: ChrisL at July 29, 2003 06:49 AM | PERMALINK

Damn. And here I was assuming that taking out Saddam would have a positive effect in the War on Terrorism.

Posted by: Barry at July 29, 2003 07:16 AM | PERMALINK

I think that E. Avedisian's post was exactly right.

It was, in part:


Posted by: casadelogo at July 29, 2003 08:11 AM | PERMALINK

If we want to consider more options.... Maybe we could listen to the Israeli and Palestinian peace and human rights activists - people who are committed to and working for equality, peace, justice and security for ALL the people of the region.

Posted by: selise at July 29, 2003 08:14 AM | PERMALINK

People often compare the Palestinian situation to the situation in Northern Ireland. The two aren’t comparable. First of all, the goals of the IRA was not to push the British out of Britain and into the sea. Secondly, terrorism didn’t have the same support among the general public in Ireland as it does among the Palestinians. There was a genuine peace movement in Ireland. Are there genuine Palestinian peace activists? What percentage of the population currently belongs to this group - .02%?

The Irish and the Palestinians do have one thing in common, though – a group of poor, well-educated urbanites demanding ‘their own land’. When the Irish joined the EU, that was the beginning of the end for terrorism. They were able to escape from the British economic domination that had kept them impoverished for hundreds of years. Ireland, and a genuine peace movement, thrived. Appeasing terrorists did not stop the terrorism in Ireland. Improving the lives of the general public did.

The Palestinians claim to want land, but anyone can see that they need a viable economy. Encouraging the Palestinian economy to grow does not mean that terrorism, that Hamas’ KKK-style fascist philosophies would be rewarded with political power, or even tolerated. History has shown that appeasing fascism helps it grow. These groups need to be annihilated. The question is, what would be the most efficient way of doing that?

So far our approaches have been all stick and no carrot. A harsh zero-tolerance attitude towards terrorism combined with an serious effort by the west to help the Palestinian economy wouldn’t make the Palestinian people love America – they never will, no matter what we do. But taking steps towards improving their lives and making their economy viable would weaken the influence of the terror groups and their death-cult philosophy

Posted by: mary at July 29, 2003 09:17 AM | PERMALINK

A brief search reveals that there is NO real agreement on the definition of terrorism. I honestly think that the US’s preferred tactic of financial blackmail is a brilliant form of low level, passive-agressive terrorism.,7792,487098,00.html
The definition of terrorism
A new US government report illustrates that any classification of terrorist groups is fundamentally motivated by self-interest, writes Brian Whitaker, Monday May 7, 2001
Decide for yourself whether to believe this, but according to a new report there were only 16 cases of international terrorism in the Middle East last year.
Definitions of Terrorism
The lack of agreement on a definition of terrorism has been a major obstacle to meaningful international countermeasures. Cynics have often commented that one state's "terrorist" is another state's "freedom fighter".

Posted by: berkeley b at July 29, 2003 09:28 AM | PERMALINK

The conflict seems to be resting on the assumption of a maintaining a 'Jewish' State. Refugees, occupation, labyrinthian two-state maps all go away if we reconcile Israel proper and the disputed territories into a single state with equal rights for all- and a constitution which keeps the state secular, a lot of these problems fade over time, at least it seems.
And the implicit goal of maintaining a jewish state seems at least a questionable goal, as are any states that are ethnic or religious in nature.
At the moment this is a non-starter, but that is mostly because the US backs Israel so thoroughly.

It also makes me wonder if a single state solution was imposed on the region by US and UN if the terrorism would be limited to just the one side.

Posted by: theCoach at July 29, 2003 09:33 AM | PERMALINK

Why the hudna?

Because the Jordanians and Egyptians were losing and needed to regroup. Asking for a truce is a sign of weakness. At least that is the Islamic interpretation. Truces may be granted in times of weakness.

That means Israeli policy was working.

We shall see in the next few months if the Jordanians and Egyptians have a stomach for renewed battle. Right now Israel is absorbing attacks and attempted attacks. That won't last forever.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 29, 2003 09:41 AM | PERMALINK

Ethnic or religious tates are out of order?

How about we go afte the Moslem states first. They are worse on human rights.

Also I think we fix Israel once there are Jews in the various Arab Parliaments.

You know like, we fix the most apartheid states first.

The Jews have a religion but they are a nation. One of the longest running on the planet. They deserver their own space as much as the Kurds do. Or the Armenians. Or Tibetians.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 29, 2003 09:51 AM | PERMALINK

tates should be States

Posted by: M. Simon at July 29, 2003 09:55 AM | PERMALINK

"I think that if you look at the Israeli-Palestinian situation, you will see that harsh military reprisals to terrorist bombings, or even occupation, have only increased the frequency of suicide bombings." I think that if you look at the situation you will see that 3 countries in that area had a Palestinian terrorism problem in the past 30 years. They are Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. There is currently a terrorism problem only against Israel. The other two countries brutally repressed their terrorism problem. This offers a substantial critique to the concept that cracking down on terrorism merely breeds more.

"What exactly did the strike on Hamas leader Rantissi lead to? Seventeen innocent Jewish lives. Israeli incitement, such as random raiding of refugee camps and using children as human shields, simply does not help." Are you positing that the bombing following the Rantissi strike would not have happened BUT FOR the strike? That is an interesting position.

Kevin, let me turn it around. You question the hawks who say 'of course they understand that there are important non-military aspects to this fight'. You claim to be moderately hawkish yourself which would indicate that you recognize military aspects to the fight. What are they?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 29, 2003 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Mary, at 09:17 AM

IMO, absolutely the most thoughtful, coherent post of the thread.


Posted by: JMP at July 29, 2003 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

M. Simon,
Let's go after them at the same time. Does anybody disagree with the statement that it is a bad idea to have a state that is based on ethnicity or religion?
For what it is worth, I think Israel is a close approximation of a secular state- much more than many, but the hang ups in a solution do seem to be the demographic concern of the population in the controlled area changing the Jewish nature of the state. Am I wrong? Are there majority issues that pose a bigger problem than the transition frrom Aparthied South Africa?
I really would be interested in hearing the objections other than the delay tactics that the other side must stop first.

Posted by: theCoach at July 29, 2003 10:22 AM | PERMALINK


You are so correct about improving the lives of the Jordanians and Egyptians.

Before the start of the stupidfada unemployment in the disputed territories had declined from about 35% to about 15%. It is now well above 50%.

Politically who does that benefit? He who controls the food supply? Yesno Imafat.

So you are correct that improving economics would change the dynamics. How you gonna do that without Imafat approval?

Posted by: M. Simon at July 29, 2003 10:39 AM | PERMALINK


The worst first.

Given current and past world history re: the Jews, they ought to be the last ethnic state to go.

Besides the Arabs would use their majority status to drive out the Jews. Look what they have done elsewhere. As bad as the Europeans.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 29, 2003 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

mary: it might be wise to not confuse the rhetoric used to advance the cause with the true interests of the people themselves. Yes, the constant calls to "drive them to the sea" are both disturbing and seem like an unsolvable obstacle to the problem, but they may be (and likely are) motivated more by the desire to look resolute than any real hope or desire to get rid of the Israelis. (The Israelis, after all, are enormous economic benefactors to the Palestinians in times of peace.) Even if this is region-wide, it is likely puddle-deep, and thus easily dried up by the light of day.

And yes, there are Palestinian peace activists, as are there Israeli peace activists. LGF-inspired twaddle about Palestinian bloodthirsty subhumanity aside (which is not overly far from the rhetoric of the KKK itself), they certainly exist in numbers that likely meet or exceed the number in Ireland. After all, the Palestinians tasted the fruit of peace during the Oslo agreements. I doubt they wouldn't want more.

In any case, the point about Northern Ireland is valid to the extent that no region is exactly like any other, but I think there's more commonalities than differences.

(I entirely agree with the concept of economic improvement as a "carrot", but believe it's already happened. As I said, Oslo was a time of great prosperity for both the Israelis Palestinians.)

theCoach: the problem with a unified state is that it would be dominated by the Palestinians, and therefore wouldn't be a Jewish state. While that may not bother most, keep in mind that the largest reason for the Jewish state was to ensure that there would be at least one country in the world where Jews would be the majority and, thus, free from oppression.

It's not even simply about those who live there... they are charged with the responsibility of maintaining a kind of "bolt-hole" for Jews facing oppression around the world, preventing a repetition of the events that led up to the Shoah. That's the point of the "right of return", and it's a much more universally supportable reason for Israel's continuing existence and Jewish character than anything in the Torah. They really do have good reason to be paranoid, which is one of the most frustrating aspects of all this.

Posted by: Demosthenes at July 29, 2003 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

"prosperity for both the Israelis and Palestinians".

My kingdom for an "edit" button.

Posted by: Demosthenes at July 29, 2003 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Simon, I can guarantee that the phrase "Yesno Imafat" will do nothing to bolster your argument.

Posted by: Demosthenes at July 29, 2003 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

The other problem with a joint state is that all majority Arab states are HEAVILY repressive to Jews. So Israel would go from a Jewish State to an anti-Jewish State. I can understand why Jews in Israel might find that a bit tough to deal with.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 29, 2003 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with everything you wrote, but still do not see those issues as persuasive/insurmountable.
Guaranteed majorities are IMHO not desirable. Jews have been persecuted--but so have Native Americans, Blacks, Kurds...the list goes on. It is not a legitimate reason to take over land and force the previous inhabitants to be second class citizens.
As far as Jews not being opressed and always having a place to go to, the US works fairly well, and a new state could have as part of its creation the idea that it will always have equal citizenship for Jews, and that the state will not become religious, as decided by the US and the UN, and that these provisions will be protected by the full force of the United States and the world community.

Posted by: theCoach at July 29, 2003 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Tunisia may now be the Arab state with the largest Jewish population. I'm not sure how oppressive they are.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 29, 2003 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Well, find out and get back to me.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 29, 2003 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

"When the Irish joined the EU, that was the beginning of the end for terrorism. They were able to escape from the British economic domination that had kept them impoverished for hundreds of years."

"Ireland, and a genuine peace movement, thrived."

Actually, the "genuine peace movement", the Peace People, who won the Nobel Peace Prize, petered out in the late 1970s-early 1980s. The peace process of the 1990s was a top-down process, driven by the US, UK and Irish governments.

"Appeasing terrorists did not stop the terrorism in Ireland. Improving the lives of the general public did."

I'm originally from Northern Ireland (NI), and your protrayal of the history of the conflict is more wishful thinking than an accurate account.

In the late 1970s, the Provisional IRA were at a very low ebb. They were running out of money, morale was low, and most of their cadre was in the Maze prison. Come 1979, Margaret Thatcher wins the UK elections. A few months later, the INLA (a different terrorist group) assasinate Airey Neave, a Tory MP and close friend of Thatcher's.

In 1980, the government tries to remove political status privileges from the prisoners in the Maze. They go on blanket protest, "dirty" protest, and then hunger strikes. The first hunger strike ended before any died; the second hunger strike, 7 PIRA and 3 INLA prisoners starved themselves to death. Bobby Sands won an election to the UK parliment before his death.

You have no idea what it was like during the hunger strike. If you were a Catholic and opposed the IRA vocally, your life was made miserable. Gerry Fitt, an ex-leader of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and an SDLP MP, got hounded from office by Sinn Fein.

There was extreme polarization; and the PIRA's support soared. Sinn Fein won elections to the UK parliment; NORAID funneled more money to the PIRA. Qaddafi gave the PIRA arms, which later they used to launch attacks in England, including bombing the Tory party conference in Brighton in 1984, and bombing the Baltic Stock Exchange, doing damage of over $1 bn.

Thatcher could have prevented this by backing down and giving the prisoners 'political status'; but she didn't; maybe because of her anger over Airey Neave's murder. Hence no political progress was made (save the largely symbolic Anglo-Irish agreement) under Thatcher; when you consider how much she changed the UK, it is remarkable her lack of achievement there. Before the hunger strike, Sinn Fein didn't have a political footprint; afterwards they did.

You've protrayed the conflict as being due to British economic domination. That isn't the case. The British presence in in NI isn't based on there being an economic reason for being there (NI is a net recipient of funds from the UK; it was running around $6 billion in the mid-1980s). It's there because there are a majority of people in NI who have an allegience to Britain. It's a mistake to use an "imperialist" analysis.

The Republic of Ireland joining the EU is irrelevant to the conflict; there was and is relatively little sympathy for the IRA in the Republic.

The British government did appease terrorists, like it or not. It released prisoners; it devised a power-sharing system for the NI Executive where Sinn Fein where guaranteed a ministry. In the next election, Sinn Fein will probably overtake the SDLP (the moderate nationalist party). Personally, I despise Adams & McGuinness; but there's no solution in NI without them at the table. If Sinn Fein were not so strong politically, it would have been easier to hammer out a compromise more acceptable for the Unionist side, and the situation would be less prone to periodic crisis, as it is now.

It took immense political capital & courage to push forward with the peace process; neither Sinn Fein/PIRA nor the unionist parties had an interest in the status quo changing. If not for Clinton & George Mitchell, the peace process would have died a death.

What's the lesson?

Firstly, that Thatcher, in her confused handling of Northern Ireland pretending that the IRA were "just criminals" and only pursuing the military option, she actually strengthened the IRA.

Secondly, that the military option to terrorism is only feasible if the political support of the terrorists is weak. One should avoid actions which strengthen the political strength of the terrorists, even if it means unpalatable compromises.

Readers may draw parallels with the Middle East situation as they wish.

Posted by: Tom at July 29, 2003 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin is being obtuse.
It's as if he's editing out, in his own mind, the rest of Totten's position and then calling Totten on it.
It must be boring.
WW II, by the way, was 100% military right up until it was over, after which we did the changing of societies.
But you can't do a Marshall Plan in a country which won't let you in and is trying to sink the ships carrying the aid. First, you win the war.
This is a nuance missed by higher-profile missers-of-the-obvious-point than Kevin.
It's difficult to export our values if the folks who are trying to import them are instantly killed.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at July 29, 2003 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

John Isbell: Tunisia is not very oppressive. By Arab standards, it is quite liberal.

The Atlantic Monthly published a very interesting article about Tunisia by Robert Kaplan called Roman Africa. Well worth the read, for everyone on this thread.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 29, 2003 01:44 PM | PERMALINK

WW II, by the way, was 100% military right up until it was over, after which we did the changing of societies.

Is there any situation, in any part of the world, that is not analogous to WWII in the mind of conservatives?

It seems to me that, at least in the last century, WWII has been the exception to most rules: the unmistakable villainy and clear boundaries of the opponents, the clearly drawn alliances, the circumscribed military battlegrounds, the possibility of unqualified surrender, the subsequent acquiesence to total occupation and re-structuring, etc. etc. Virtually every military or "police" action in the world since then has been drastically unlike WWII, with ambiguous lines between combatants and civilians, the uncertainty about when hostilities commence and end, the prevalence of non-state actors, the moral ambiguity, etc. etc.

Conservatives are nostalgic for WWII because it suited their pathological desire for "clarity" (read: simplicity). They try to impose that simplicity on current situations that resist it in every aspect (9/11 and Israel/Palestine being the most obvious). This is one cause, IMO, of the hawks' persistent fondness for military solutions.

It is also a cause, IMO, of people like Aubrey sitting in their basement wearing their Army/Navy store discount fatigues, bludgeoning other people for their moral turpitude, convinced that America the Good and Right would triumph if only it could unleash its full might again.

Posted by: Realish at July 29, 2003 02:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Mr. Simon, I can guarantee that the phrase "Yesno Imafat" will do nothing to bolster your argument.
Posted by: Demosthenes at July 29, 2003 10:59 AM "

I'm sure stupidfada doesn't help either.

None the less Yessir Imafat is no partner for peace. Unless it is another piece of chicken. He gets fat while "his" people are starving. He did it the old fasshioned way though. Armed thugs and public displays of dead bodies.

Of course Imafat deserves just as much respect as that benefactor of the Palaces for Oil Program Sodamn Insane. You have to hand it to the UN. Because if you don't they will be a bit snippy.


Posted by: M. Simon at July 29, 2003 02:34 PM | PERMALINK

As far as I understand the Jewish people the Arabs living among them are second class citizens by choice. They have joined the Stupidstinians in their stupid war. Still there are Arab members of the Israeli Parliament. How come there are no Jewish members of any Arab Parliament? Not enough votes no doubt.

Those who wish to become first class citizens need to do what blacks did in WW2. Fight for the country that opresses them in order to have a post war say in new social directions. This is possible among people with democratic ideals. The fact of Arab MKs proves Israels ideals are put into practice however imperfectly.

In any case why do the Jews need to integrate Arabs in their territories but the Arabs get to expell the Jews?

Oh, I get it. Asymmetrical warfare. Arabs are right Jews are wrong.

BTW Jews didn't steal the land - at first. They bought it. Then the Arabs had progroms to drive the Jews off their land. Once the progroms got to be the size of wars the Arabs lost. And with their losses they lost title to the land. Despite that fact the "settlements" were built on unoccupied land. What would be called in America government lands. What is wrong with that?

Settlement lands were not stolen from any one. The lands previously belonged to Jordan and Egypt both of which have renounced their title.

The UN partition was an attempt to stop the Arab progroms against the Jews. Obviously that has not worked too well. Perhaps if the Arabs can not get along with their neighbors it is time for them to move.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 29, 2003 03:09 PM | PERMALINK

Settlement lands were not stolen from any one.

The worst in a series of whoppers. Virtually all settlement land is directly confiscated from municipalties or private parties, and usually both. Only a few of the original West Bank settlements were built on land that could be considered "Jordanian".

Posted by: Ted at July 29, 2003 03:33 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Michael, very gracious after I was rude about you. That was my feeling about Tunisia (I also enjoyed Sebastian's line).
Tom, you know that England was covered with graffiti saying "Free Bobby Sands", and the hunger strikes had an impact. I'd say that was part of the mix making Thatcher so hated on the UK left. It was unfair.
As a UN fan, I thought this was very funny: "You have to hand it to the UN. Because if you don't they will be a bit snippy."

Posted by: John Isbell at July 29, 2003 05:45 PM | PERMALINK

JMP – thanks!

M. Simon – you said - ‘So you are correct that improving economics would change the dynamics. How you gonna do that without Imafat approval?’

A zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism would mean that Arafat, with his past, would not be recognized as a legitimate ruler.

Tom – I’m originally from New Jersey, and got most of my info about the situation in Northern Ireland from the news and from conversations in Dublin pubs. So your info is probably more complete. I can say, though, that there was sympathy for the IRA in the Republic.

The point I was trying to make is that yes, the British did respond to violent acts of terrorism with appeasement – and that’s not what solved the problem. Many people use the situation in Northern Ireland to claim that appeasement works, when in fact it doesn’t. As you say, giving Sinn Fein political power has not resolved the situation.

For the IRA, violent tactics were counterproductive, but the hunger strikes gave them tremendous popular support.. If the Palestinians had used nonviolent resistance, they would probably have had their own state by now.

The IRA never did achieve their goal of a united Ireland, but the country (north and south) is more prosperous The people didn’t get what they wanted, but they got what they need, and terrorism lost support for that and many other reasons (including the fact that members of all terror groups were greedy thugs)

The peace process is only feasible when the terrorists lose popular support. The military option is only useful when terrorism is a threat, and when the potential victims of violent terror attacks would prefer not to be killed.

Unfortunately, Palestinian terror groups like Hamas are more comparable to the KKK or Hitler’s SS than to the IRA. If the hoods they wear, the axes they carry during parades don’t convince you of that, there's always their racist literature.

Can you picture the plump, healthy and wealthy leaders of Hamas going on a hunger strike? Neither can I.

Posted by: mary at July 29, 2003 07:23 PM | PERMALINK

Arafat fat? LMAO. Says the guy who support heavyweight Ariel Sharon. This is getting funny.

But Mary: Everybody has a background. Should I start with Ariel Sharon or Ben-Gurion? I'm in a dilemma: which one first?

Posted by: Arash at July 29, 2003 08:57 PM | PERMALINK

John Isbell,

Tunisia may now be the Arab state with the largest Jewish population. I'm not sure how oppressive they are.

Oh, about this oppressive:

Posted by: angua at July 29, 2003 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

Realish missed the point, again.
The reason I used WW II is that another poster had used it as an example of something or other.
Kevin pretends that any suggestion that we use military power is an insistence that only military power should be used and that nothing else would be necessary.
The record should be clear. We tried a good many things with terrorism. Appeasement. Ignoring them. "Bringing them to justice" by treating it as a criminal matter. Buying them off with aid to various nations and groups.
We came to military power last.
That is not to say that anybody in the whole, entire, US administration has said what Kevin pretends to think they said, that military power is all we need.
It may be necessary to use military power to arrange factors so as to be able to do the other stuff.
And, Realish, as you know (I hope but am not confident) we are not using military power for the benefit of terrorists. We're using it to protect ourselves.
I really go back and forth between wondering if you and others like you are really stupid enough to believe what you say, or don't mind looking really, really stupid to the 99.9% of people because that's the number of people who know what's going on, as long as there is the possibility you'll fool one of the terminally gullible. Is that a net gain for you?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at July 30, 2003 05:39 AM | PERMALINK

"A zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism would mean that Arafat, with his past, would not be recognized as a legitimate ruler."

A zero tolerance policy toward terrorism would make the present administration of the US look a bit different, too.

Posted by: rea at July 30, 2003 07:49 AM | PERMALINK

If it could be determined in a court of law that a politician has deliberately targeted and murdered civilians, then of course they shouldn't hold office.

Deliberately targeting and murdering innocent civilians is what defines terrorism.

Pathetic, Chomskyesque claims that all wars are state terrorism, and statements like "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist" have already been shot down many times, most notably by French Philosopher Andre Glucksman, who said about the nihilistic terror and extremist ideology exemplified by al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. "Nobody wants war – but genocide is worse than war."

Posted by: mary at July 30, 2003 08:28 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Angua, I'll check the link. Some good-tastin' craziness in this thread.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 30, 2003 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I read it, Angua, and I'm confused. So an Al Qaeda attack in Tunisia is evidence about Tunisian tolerance for Jews. Does that mean the 9/11 attack is similar evidence of New York City's tolerance for Jews? Or, is it perhaps evidence that you are talking out of your ass? What a shame that would be. I'd encourage you to stop it.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 30, 2003 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

I think Mr. Totten's comment about Tunisia and its treatment of Jews sums it up well. "By Arab standards, it is quite liberal."

Unfortunately that is quite a bit like saying "For a politician, he is highly ethical"

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 30, 2003 01:14 PM | PERMALINK

Mary wrote:

"Tom – I’m originally from New Jersey, and got most of my info about the situation in Northern Ireland from the news and from conversations in Dublin pubs."

I can imagine your perspective on the IRA is somewhat different than in those days.

"So your info is probably more complete. I can say, though, that there was sympathy for the IRA in the Republic."

During the early 1980s post-hunger strike, yeah, but after the IRA bombed the Enniskillen memorial service, there wasn't much, outside of parts of Monaghan, Louth, & Cavan.

"The point I was trying to make is that yes, the British did respond to violent acts of terrorism with appeasement – and that’s not what solved the problem. Many people use the situation in Northern Ireland to claim that appeasement works, when in fact it doesn’t."

In Northern Ireland, political violence went from ~50-100 killings/year to 5 or less. Despite the usual marching season insanity, that's still progress.

There's still a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back pattern to the peace process there, but they're never going back to the bad old days of the 1970s with 200-300 killings/year.

"As you say, giving Sinn Fein political power has not resolved the situation."

The opportunity for Sinn Fein to get political power wasn't given to them by John Major or Tony Blair. It was given to them by Thatcher. The Good Friday Agreement only acknowledged the facts on the ground. The Sunningdale agreement in the 1970s could exclude the IRA because the IRA had paramilitary, but not political, muscle. When the Good Friday agreement was formed, Sinn Fein/IRA had both.

"For the IRA, violent tactics were counterproductive, but the hunger strikes gave them tremendous popular support.."

And the hunger strikes were successful because Thatcher was short-sighted enough not to back down (granted, this was pre-Falklands or Miners Strike, when her position was very shaky).

If she'd backed down, and given the prisoners what they wanted, then SF/IRA would have won a short-lived propaganda victory, and the prisoners would have got to wear their own clothes & some other privileges, and that would have been it.

But she didn't. And so any progress on Northern Ireland got delayed ten years, and even then progress was complicated by having Sinn Fein with a huge political footprint.

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The words of truth are always paradoxical.

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