Diplomacy and Terrorism

David Bernstein quotes Glenn Greenwald as saying:

Terrorism ends when the causes of it are addressed, typically via diplomatic means.

Greenwald has a point. After all we all remember how successfully we used diplomacy to bring an end to causes of terrorism back in….

…well, I mean sometime we must have…

…nope, on second thought, diplomacy has never brought an end to terrorism. 

Greenwald tries to sell the myth that terrorism represents the desperate acts of desperate people. In fact, terrorism is the tool of power-crazed sociopaths who exploit any pretext in order to murder their way to wealth and power. Terrorists stop only when their leadership is directly threatened, killed or stripped of the ability to attack. When terrorist groups show up at the bargaining table it is only after they have been pushed to the brink of extinction.

Many naive observers point to the IRA as an example of terrorists brought to heal by “diplomacy”. However, the IRA only gave diplomacy a chance after it had been pushed to the brink of extinction. The end of the Soviet Union cut off the IRA’s major source of funds, training and weapons. Covert British operations that began in the ’80s to penetrate the IRA finally bore fruit in the early ’90s, leading to the capture of an estimated 75% of IRA effectives. Most telling for Greenwald’s case, the “causes” of the IRA’s terrorism were never “addressed”. Northern Ireland looks substantially as it did when the IRA was fighting. 

There are no “causes” of terrorism against Israel that can be “addressed”. The cause of the conflict lies in the lust for power by the leadership of the various terrorist groups targeting Israel. They gain power and wealth (Arafat died in Paris with a Nobel Prize and a personal fortune estimated in the hundreds of millions) by manufacturing a conflict with Israel. If Israel grants concessions, the terrorist leadership will simply claim that their attacks drove the Israelis to make the concessions and that if they attack some more, they will get more concessions.

We should remember that for nearly three decades people like Greenwald claimed that if Israel merely ended the occupation of the Palestinian territories it would get peace. Instead it got human bombs and rocket attacks. Ditto for the withdrawal from Lebanon. 

Terrorists stop for only two reasons: (1) They win and graduate to despotic rule (Mugabe), or (2) they’re physically prevented from acting. Israel has decided to go for reason (2). The rest of us should hope it succeeds. 

22 thoughts on “Diplomacy and Terrorism”

  1. Strategypage is reporting that the LTTE insurgency may be on its last legs after the Sri Lankan military got serious. Serious about fighting, that is, not “diplomacy.”

  2. Those who push for “peace processes” and constant cease fires are the ones most responsible for unending human misery and war without end. If you want real peace there must be real war. There has to be a true loser, an utterly defeated loser who will be lucky and grateful to have anything left at all. Then you will have real PEACE. At least for two generations anyway.

  3. …or (2) they’re physically prevented from acting. Israel has decided to go for reason (2).

    But have they, really? We know from how the palestinians voted that at least 50% of Gazans support Hamas. That’s around three quarters of a million people who hate Israel enough to essentially kill all Jews in the Middle East. Is the killing of ~300 mid-level Hamas supporters really going to accomplish anything? Israel, as usual, is in a tight place.

    Sure, targeting the leaders will slow them down (although not stop their petulance), but Israel is not targeting leaders. It’s merely embarrassing them by showing how weak they are compared to Israel. The palestinians will see this differently though. They’ll state that Israel is too weak to kill the Hamas leaders, like Nasrallah(sp?) did to great effectiveness.

    Alternately, they could carpet bomb Gaza into submission. It’s so small of an area that this option would quickly end them as a terrorist force. After all, we bombed the cr-p out of Germany in WWII, and they were only 50% Nazi, much like the Gazans are only 50% Hamas. The downside of this option is obvious: You’d have to kill hundreds of thousands of people, and, if this is possible, even more people would be anti-Israel.

    Leaving Greenwald out of the equation (as should always be the case), what can Israel do to put an end to this menace? Of course submitting to Hamas is not an option, and killing a million people is horrible. What options are left?

  4. Kevin,

    “Of course submitting to Hamas is not an option, and killing a million people is horrible. What options are left?”

    Your either/or scenario above is just silly. Do you not think there is anything in between?

  5. I am currently reading 1948 by Benny Morris (highly recommended BTW) and what is astonishing is how little has changed in sixty years. The Palestinians did nothing in the runup to partition to create a viable alternative state; whereas the Yishuv (Jewish population of Israel) had a complete set of parallel institutions ready to take over from the British Mandate Authority. They didn’t even prepare for war properly. What strikes me in the current situation is it appears Hamas sleep-walked into this confrontation with Israel. They neither had a peace policy nor a war policy. Gaza was far better run when Israel was the ‘occupying power’. Indeed, most of the current infrastructure dates from that time. The Palestinians are disorganised, corrupt and have very low levels of education. I predict this desultory war to continue for many decades.

  6. Actually, Will, demonstrating that the million will be killed if necessary is pretty much the only proven way to deal with terrorists. The problem the West has is a large Fifth Column who are allowed far too much freedom to endanger the rest of us by giving the enemy ample evidence that he can break our will to win. See Vietnam.

  7. Hi –

    Terrorism as a trans-national phenomenon needs countries that allow it to operate: Irish terrorism needed Soviet support and Tunisian training grounds; Palestinian terrorism needs Iranian money and training grounds; Osama and his lot need Saudi money and Afghanistan/Pakistan tribal area training grounds. The key is always going after the countries supporting the terrorists, and recognizing that what the terrorists claim and reality are two completely different things.

    The problem in exposing this publicly is that the information is based on intelligence work that is then compromised. The press are heavily involved in doing the propaganda work of the terrorists, giving support to their claims of injustice and protest.

    Terrorist activity is nothing but war via covert means. The Irish, Italian, French and German terrorists of the 1970s/1980s were financed by the Soviets; Palestinian terrorism was and is financed by Iran; Taliban and Osama were and are financed by the radical edge of Saudi society; all act to do what their financers want them to do. It really is as simple as that.

    A lasting peace in Gaza will occur when the people living there rise up against Hamas and decide that they do indeed love their children more than they love the idea of destroying Israel. It won’t take 1 mn deaths. It will take more than 1 000, though, and it might well take 10 000.

    The question really is: why now?

    The answer: because the Iranians need it to distract from the fact that they are in desperate straights, with a crippled economy and a rapidly developing demographic nightmare of massive youth unemployment and billions squandered on financing terrorism and trying to build the bomb. This is the threat to Iran that terrifies the mullahs: an attack by Israel and/or the US would serve their ends, not harm them.

    By destroying Hamas, Israel will severely weaken Hezbollah as well. The Iranians, by instigating the missile attacks – and don’t think that this isn’t the case – have overplayed their hand, while at the same time try to test resolve. The Iranians are in danger of defeat in detail: with Hamas destroyed, Hezbollah becomes the next target, but will Hezbollah play on the same card as they see Hamas systematically destroyed and taken apart? Their greatest threat to Israel was to open up a two-front war, and this will be removed.

  8. I thought it was “brought to heel.” You know, like when you teach your dog to “heel” when you’re walking it.

  9. It is worth noting that Mr Bernstein doesn’t disagree that “that, ultimately, the only lasting solution will be achieved through diplomacy” (link). Which is, in spite of the comment’s claim, not quite the same, but very close.

    I would also note that the German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn claims that there are simply too many Palestinians and we will simply have to wait until their “youth bulge” subsides (link). Naturally or militarily.

  10. … geez. Not quite the same as Glenn’s formulation quoted above, but very close. I think a lot of people have an unreasonable faith in the so-called power of diplomacy.

  11. Ralph Peters has usefull distinguished between “practical terrorism,” which is undertaken to achieve a particular political end, and “apocalyptic terrorism,” in which violence is sacralized and becomes its own goal. The first tends to morph into the second, as tigers are said to learn to like the taste of human blood. Palestinian terrorism is in the second category, and has been for a long time if not always. There is no imaginable world in which the leaders of Hamas (for example) would decide to settle down and devote themselves to farming, retailing, engineering, or scholarship.

  12. Two quotes by Will Rogers seem appropriate:

    “Diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock.”

    “The United States have never lost a war or won a conference.” (I’m pretty sure you could say the same about Israel today.)

  13. Will,

    I can think of many options in between, but none that will accomplish the goal. I’m asking you to suggest something that will get Hamas to stop attacking Israel.

  14. For decades, many Americans and Europeans have been “explaining,” excusing, justifying, and even glamorizing the Palestinian terrorists. This has been especially pronounced among entertainers, journalists, writers, and college professors.

    Absent this excuse-making and justification, it’s very likely that the problem would have been substantially solved by now.

  15. Kevin,

    I can think of many options in between, but none that will accomplish the goal. I’m asking you to suggest something that will get Hamas to stop attacking Israel.

    I don’t think the Israeli can do anything to stop Hamas from attacking Israel because (1) Hamas entire reason for being is to attack Israel. If Israel disappeared tomorrow, what claim would the Hamas leadership have on power? (2) As noted above, the primary driver of terrorism is the terrorist groups’ patron states. Since Israel cannot attack Iran directly, Iran will keep resupplying Hamas with money and weapons. (3) The Palestinians have gone insane like German’s after WWI. 60 years of intensive propaganda have created a powerful sense of aggrieved entitlement and a wildly exaggerated sense of the injustice of their fate.

    Israel can only hope to reduce the severity of the attack by destroying the material, personal and command and control Hamas. Israel knows perfectly well it can’t get them all but there is a big difference between 50 rockets landing randomly on your people and 900.

  16. Ignatieff observes that “Terrorism is a form of politics that aims at the death of politics itself.” Diplomacy is its victim – how can diplomacy work when it has been undermined, when no state can enact the policies that have been arrived at by the diplomats? That Israel does repeatedly enter diplomatic talks seems to be a triumph of optimism over experience – or perhaps of the power of Western public opinion over facts (a not uncommon triumph).

    Perhaps the IRA dropped its violence becaue it no longer got external arms (and 9/11 diminished the funds coming from the US as well). But weren’t the Irish getting fed up with it? At some point, surely, a people notices that those inspired by a lust for blood are as likely (more likely) to get that blood from their own – to keep an iron fist on supporters, but also because they are driven by a lust for power – or merely & purely a lust for blood? The question is, how many have been infected by that pure lust for blood to such a degree that they can never return to a humane set of priorities? How many can become human again? That’s the kind of question people like Ignatieff ask – but the answer isn’t in books or diplomacy. We can hope it is in the information the Israelis are apparently (?) getting from those in Palestine (and perhaps the external powers) who want the defeat of Hamas.

  17. “I’m asking you to suggest something that will get Hamas to stop attacking Israel.”

    Relentless attrition.

    Identifying Hamas personnel and equipment and destroying them, relentlessly.

    Eventually, this will wear down Hamas to the point where it is much less effective and reduced to intermittent action against Israel. Dead people can’t fire rockets, and destroyed rockets can’t be fired.

    Relentless attrition may, theoretically, lead people in Gaza to see that Hamas is a dead end and seek a different solution.

    Probably not, though, for the reasons Shannon cites.

    In which case relentless attrition should be the whole program, until further notice.

  18. If Mr. Greenwald will stipulate that the cause of terrorism is terrorists who currently use oxygen, I think we can come to an understanding about ending it.

  19. > …nope, on second thought, diplomacy has never brought an end to terrorism.


    Whenever the dumbshits who support “diplomacy” as a response to terrorism are overthrown by the terrorist faction, the end of the terrorism is generally in site.

    At which point the personal terrorism of a despotic government takes over, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

  20. > I am currently reading 1948 by Benny Morris (highly recommended BTW) and what is astonishing is how little has changed in sixty years.

    LOL. Read P.J. O’Rourke’s “2000 Year Old Middle-East Policy Expert” (“Give War A Chance”, IIRC), and you realize that nothing has changed in over 2000 years, really.

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