We Do It Because....
Published on January 29, 2006 By Larry Kuperman In Current Events
...We have to. We pick and choose our battles, looking for the greatest good.

We negotiate with terrorists in the attempt to persuade them not to be terrorists any more. Turn their submachine guns into plowshares and all that.

One of my favorite bloggers (and high on my list of favorite people) is BakerStreet. If you don't read him, well all I can say it that you should. Gentleman and a scholar and all that. I have linked to his blog, in fact.

But this doesn't imply agreement in all things. In fact is has been my pleasure to DISAGREE with him upon occassion for about 5 years now. We do listen to each other and respect eash others opinions, but I have to express my disagreement with two of his recent articles.

If we were to adopt a policy of Zero tolerance toward terrorist nations (Hamas is the elected government of what is, for all intents and purposes a nation) we would need to break off negotiations with both Iran and North Korea to not build nuclear weapons. We would need to add Iran's primary ally, Syria, to this list. And Libya, a former (and maybe currently) terrorist nation. And Hamas financial supporters, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. And nations that harbor and aid terrorists, including Egypt and Jordan. Many of the newly elected officials in Iraq have dubious backgrounds.

Lets cut to the chase. Am I advocating that we might, under the right circumstances, negotiate with Al Quada and the Taliban? (Notice I hedged with the words "right circumstances.) My answer is "Yes." If Al Queda came to the table with a proposal for a lasting cessation of hostilities and renounced Bin Laden and Zawahiri, yeah, I think that we should listen. However morally repugnant, you recognize the reality and deal with it. I think that makes me a realist.

Al Fatah is not a party of innocents that we should bemoan their fall from power. They were terrorists, red-handed murderers, who became the legitimate government. We dealt with them and seemed to gain benefit from that compromise of our values.

Will Hamas change? Maybe. Can we provide the impetus and maybe direction for that change? Possible, but only through negotiation.

Menacheim Begin was a member of the group that bombed the King David Hotel and the Barclay Bank in Jerusalem. He became a respected world leader. Britain has negotiated with the IRA. Heck, they even granted official recogniton to a group of colonists that revolted against King and country.

Change is the only constant in politics and negotiation is a means of guiding that change.


Comments (Page 1)
on Jan 29, 2006
Brilliant!
Thanks for this thread Larry... to date it's the best one on the subject here at JU.
on Jan 29, 2006
Thanks, Kupe, you know that I feel the same about ya.

That said, I have to disagree. Just as negotiating with the IRA, you sit across the table from someone who has a gun pointed at you under it, and who refuses to show if you bring yours. You have to pretend that you are negotiating with Gandhi, and suffer hell if YOU threaten violence, but in reality this supposed Gandhi you negotiate with is by definition threatening. That's what they do with all the cease fires. They show up and with a silent wink say "Well, you don't want things to start blowing up again, do you?"

If NAMBLA tomorrow spun off a babysitting wing that was supposedly totally separate and not involved in the effort to abuse children, well, would you buy it? Nor do I buy a peacefully political wing of a terrorist organization. Arafat was terrorist, and he continued to sponser attacks while he stood grinning by Clinton. The PLO thrived because of its connections with the KGB and the tolerance of those in the West who were willing to forgive as long as they wiped their feet before they walked on the rugs of state.

Now, the next generation of monsters fill their vacuum. How did they become powerful, though? With casualties. They delivered on their Arab support and millions in donations, Arafat's organization didn't. It isn't in their interest to cease delivering, or someone else will and begin the cycle again.

To be blunt, I think you know as well as I do that acceptance of people like Arafat and now Hamas requires a little anti-Israel, or at least anti-zionism to help the medicine go down. You can't balance the equation between the two without having a seriously tarnished view of Israel. If world leaders force us to deal with Hamas, it is because many of them see the two as equals.

That said, I fully recognize that it might go the way you say. Maybe it should. You are always seem to be more able than me to do what is best, and reject what is most simple and satisfying for the common good. To me, it would be most simple and satisfying to wipe Hamas and their kin from the face of the earth. It is NOT satisfying to know that decades of murder will be swept under the rug by one election.

Time will tell. I truly respect your ideals, and I don't believe for a moment that you of all people are soft on terrorism. I hope you didn't think I meant that. I know that you can't keep your hands clean and pretend to excel at international diplomacy, but I just wish that we could at least make the pretense, especially in a situation as black-and-white as this.

on Jan 29, 2006

As always, a great article.  However in this case, I have to side with Baker.  It is not what they have done, but what they continue to do.  That is the difference.

In time, perhaps we can.  Not now.  We cannot be the Nevile Chamberlains of the new century.

on Jan 30, 2006
Just as negotiating with the IRA, you sit across the table from someone who has a gun pointed at you under it, and who refuses to show if you bring yours. You have to pretend that you are negotiating with Gandhi, and suffer hell if YOU threaten violence, but in reality this supposed Gandhi you negotiate with is by definition threatening. That's what they do with all the cease fires. They show up and with a silent wink say "Well, you don't want things to start blowing up again, do you?"


It's half PR in my opinion. Noone can claim to be the good guys if they don't give every opportunity to the other side to make peace. And very few people want to be on the same side as the bad guys. So to make sure you appear a good guy, you have to offer the olive branch. Sometimes it might be accepted, but if it's not you still win without committing anything to the table; public perception of 'goodness' will provide you with a vastly improved capacity for action which would not exist were you to not make the offer.

The negotiations themselves are half sham and half real but all necessary to keep supporters onside. Osama bin Laden understands that (or whoever's manipulating Bernie's corpse); his overtures to the west are nowhere near sincere, and yet the fact they were made at all bolsters his support base in his heartlands.
on Jan 30, 2006
"It's half PR in my opinion. Noone can claim to be the good guys if they don't give every opportunity to the other side to make peace. "


Kind of the opposite here, isn't it? Hamas kills more Israelis than the old guard, so the people make them "legitimate". I tend to think that anything they do now as far as PR toward the West is just going to defeat why they got the mandate in the first place. Sorry for seeming jaded, but I tend to doubt the Palestinians chose Hamas because they are skilled negotiators...
on Jan 30, 2006
I can't think of a time when we did negotiate with terrorists that it didn't turn out bad. All it seems to accomplish is empowering the terrorists by showing their followers that national leaders are willing to recognize them as equals.

From the smallest time domestic terrorists (like streetgangs), all the way up to the major terrorist threats, anything we do that allows them to continue is only viewed as weakness on our part and strength on theirs.
on Jan 30, 2006
Menacheim Begin was a member of the group that bombed the King David Hotel and the Barclay Bank in Jerusalem. He became a respected world leader. Britain has negotiated with the IRA. Heck, they even granted official recogniton to a group of colonists that revolted against King and country.


i mentioned our revolutionary colonists elsewhere (i think on one of bakerstreet's posts). i wish i'd recalled the irgun at that time as well; i'm glad you did.

i'm also in total agreement with your take on bakerstreet.

if i had power over such things, hamas, al quaeda, hezbollah, islami jihad, fatah, etc. would immediately and permanently vaporize.

with the exception of situations in which my decisions would have impacted those other than myself, whenever i believed i was being extorted or forcibly coerced in my personal life, i've refused compromise despite imminent risk of death, injury, incarceration and financial loss. if--because of the exception noted above--i felt i had no other choice but to negotiate, it wasn't done gracefully, easily or without at least as much retribution as possible.

the problem i have with this:

I know that you can't keep your hands clean and pretend to excel at international diplomacy, but I just wish that we could at least make the pretense, especially in a situation as black-and-white as this.


is two-fold.


1. so very few international issues are truly black or white.

2. pretense? foreign policy may occasionally succeed in spite of it, but it's an essential component of diplomatic failure.
on Jan 30, 2006
As I understand it, from some readings and conversations, the issue that doomed Fatah for many Palestinians was corruption. Hamas was not the best choice, merely the BETTER choice.

An interesting poll on Al-JAzeera. "Nearly three-quarters of Palestinians want the newly elected Hamas movement to drop its call for the destruction of Israel." Further. "The survey also found that 84% of those surveyed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip want a peace agreement with Israel while 86% want Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian Authority president, to remain in his post." See Link

So, the ball is in Hamas' court. Are they willing to drop demands for the destrution of Israel and turn to the negotiating table, or continue on as terrorists?
on Jan 30, 2006
The corruption thing is hard for me to believe. Palestine isn't a huge area, and has a relatively small population. If half a world away we were aware of Arafat's wife's lifestyle years and years ago, I find it hard to believe they didn't there as well. As for the nepotism, they lived with it every day for decades.

I tend to think dissatisfaction with Arafat started to escalate the moment he became more palatable to the West. Again when he thumbed his nose at Israel and holed up in his offices, his popularity rose. I'm truly afraid that the people who will be the most popular in Palestine will be the people who do the most damage in Israel. If Hamas truly decides to take the diplomatic route, we'll see soon enough.
on Jan 30, 2006
The corruption thing is hard for me to believe. Palestine isn't a huge area, and has a relatively small population. If half a world away we were aware of Arafat's wife's lifestyle years and years ago, I find it hard to believe they didn't there as well. As for the nepotism, they lived with it every day for decades.


They're a strange people then in your eyes. Personally I've yet to see a country whose elections reflect anything except local conditions. Ask any political pundit and they'll tell you that international politics, regardless of how irate people are about it, when it comes to the crunch are less important than the domestics of food, job security and public safety. And Fatah was so incompetent it did practically nothing about any of those issues. It's no wonder it got rolled.
on Jan 30, 2006
"They're a strange people then in your eyes. Personally I've yet to see a country whose elections reflect anything except local conditions. "


Wait, wait, seriously you believe that? You really think that Bush was elected, twice, because of how the rank-and-file American felt about their local economy? Heh, you live in a different world than I do. I knew Democrats that voted for Bush knowing full well he'd attempt to do away with programs they believe beneficial. You think maybe they considered Kerry more suspect in terms of corruption and helping the poor?

Hamas has greased the wheels with aid, no doubt, but the Palestinian people must know that the hard line stance they take always makes the economy there worse. More checkpoints, more closed borders, more difficulty traveling, all destroy the Palestinian economy, not help it. Fatah was corrupt, sure, but do the Palestinian people want to live on aid, or do they want to create a stable economy?

With Hamas, I doubt they'll end up with much of either. Aid from other nations will decrease. If Hamas causes Israel to back off from peace negotiations, or if they opt to keep attacking, Palestine will be totally isolated. You think maybe the Arab nations nearby will open their doors to Palestinian labor?

Lol, that's the hypocrisy here. Palestine needs Israel because their Arab neighbors hate them as much or more. Closing the borders with Israel shouldn't isolate Palestinians, on the contrary, they are the ones basically surrounding Israel. The sad part is that they are as much under seige from other Arabs as they are Israel.
on Jan 30, 2006
This hearkens back to some older articles that I wrote, including The Two Jordans, see Link

There is a corollary to Jewish life. We (Jews) are more inclined to argue over variations in belief when we are not held together by anti-Semitism. Israel by its very existance provides a unifying force for Arabs.

But BakerStreet, this isn't the time of Arafat. Yes, he was corrupt, no question there. But he was also a symbol, larger than life, of Palestinian unity. Fatah survived becasue it was HIS party. Minus Arafat, the party was less meaningful.

on Jan 30, 2006
Wait, wait, seriously you believe that? You really think that Bush was elected, twice, because of how the rank-and-file American felt about their local economy? Heh, you live in a different world than I do. I knew Democrats that voted for Bush knowing full well he'd attempt to do away with programs they believe beneficial. You think maybe they considered Kerry more suspect in terms of corruption and helping the poor?


I don't know for sure, not having the figures, but I always thought Bush's supporters valued his approach to security, not the way he conducts international relations. He has a reputation for keeping America safe, not being internationally popular or acceptable. There is a reason many in the world dislike him, but Americans still vote for him when he's internationally unpopular. Hamas is also internationally unpopular, and yet the Palestinians voted for them; the group's military tactics surely can't be the only reason for their popular support. Their aid programs, Fatah's incompetence and corruption, maybe even sheer patriotness possibly contribute, but I reckon Arafat's death is more important.
on Jan 31, 2006
From CNN today:

"The international community is willing to provide crucial aid to Palestinians if the new Hamas-led government commits to non-violence, recognizes Israel's right to exist and accepts current Mideast peace agreements, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has said."

Link: Link

I guess they read my blog! (Should I ask for a consulting fee? I hear that the UN pays pretty well.)
on Jan 31, 2006
And how easy it will be to spin off a new militant offspring of Hamas, use government funds to supply them, and then act innocent when buses start blowing up. That's what Arafat did, and they'll probably do it too.

There's just no good way out of this at all. =/ ...
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