Sunday, September 03, 2006

Thinking the Impossible

If we talked to the IRA, why not al-Qaeda?

Five years on from 9/11, the "War on Terror" is far from won and Iraq has given Osama bin Laden a jihad he could never have dreamed of, radicalising countless young Muslims in Britain.

It seems that only Downing Street and the White House deny the connection. Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch, told me that the number of Muslims in the UK "we have to be interested in" runs into the "thousands". Last month's alleged plot to blow up planes mid-Atlantic suggests that the threat to the UK is as serious as it has ever been. And still the arrests keep coming, with 14 men detained across London on Friday night, and two more in Manchester yesterday. So, faced with the prospect of indefinite conflict and bloodshed, what are the options?

There are plenty of historical precedents for the most controversial option of all: talking to the terrorists. Successive British governments said they would never talk to the IRA; Mrs Thatcher would never hear of it and John Major said it would "turn my stomach", yet in the end both Conservative and Labour governments did. The conflict is now over.

This is from the Sunday Telegraph 9/3/2006, one of the most conservative and pro-American newspapers in Britain.


Scott Carson said...

It seems like the differences between the al-Qaida situation and the IRA situation are obvious. For starters, the IRA appears not to have had as a goal the utter destruction of all of British society as we know it. Second, while the IRA targeted civilians, they did have a tendency to give advance warnings on occasion. And third, as bizarre as their actions may appear, they were nevertheless rational in a broad sense. I don't see how al-Qaida can be characterized as a group with rational aims and methods. Talking to them would be pointless. The IRA wanted something from the British, but al-Qaida wants only destruction of a culture, something that we can't give them no matter how long we talk to them.

Unless you're suggesting that we should talk to them while somebody else sneaks up behind them and kills them...thatwould be a good idea.

Paul Halsall said...

You may well be right, Scott, but I was pointing to what is being said in one of the most "conservative" papers.

Institutionalising the opposition is one of the most effect ways of coopting it. It happened with the PLO, and is happening in front of our eyes with HAMAS.

jayne said...

I would hesitate whilst their manifesto still reads kill all jews and wipe israel off the map (before - one assumes - starting on the larger problem of the other infidels). The Irish, as I recollect, never advocated a final solution for the English.
Yours, Jayne

Anonymous said...

And I appreciate that you are only reporting ....

Jayne again