Terrorism is a global threat that each country has to deal with. Every continent has been affected by terrorists. As a result, many countries have developed “terrorism preparedness strategies” that assist their countries in detecting, preventing, and counterattacking terrorism. However, terrorists can conduct their attacks successfully sometimes. As a result, the attacked countries have to either negotiate or fight back the terrorists. Countries that have currently been hit by terrorists include the Middle East countries, such as Iraq, Palestine, and Israel. Russia and Ukraine have also been recently affected by terrorist attacks. According to Jixian (2013), the choice of government on whether to negotiate with the terrorists or not depends on the type of terrorists in question and the guiding policies of the attacked nation. The aim of this paper is to examine the pros and cons of each option; that is, negotiating with terrorists and fighting back the terrorists.
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The Non-Negotiation Approach
Several countries have adopted the non-negotiation policy, where the terrorists are fought without prior negotiations in case of an attack. Jixian (2013) reveals that this policy originated in the United States when President Reagan categorically declared that it was the high time for the civilized countries all over the world to declare that they would not negotiate with terrorists at any cost. Singapore has since adopted the same non-negotiation policy, with Israel following suit.
According to Jixian (2013), there are three main reasons the non-negotiation policy is being adopted by several countries. One of the reasons is the argument that negotiating with the terrorists depicts that a country is glorifying the actions and ideologies of the terrorist group. In other words, countries that hold the non-negotiation policy argue that negotiation would be rewarding and igniting the pressure of the terrorists to strike again. Another reason some governments do not negotiate with the terrorists is the fear of implying that they have recognized the terrorist group as an equal political partner.
Some terrorists conduct their attacks for political purposes. Therefore, it would be a sign of surrender if governments would negotiate with the terrorists (Jixian, 2013). The other reason for non-negotiation is that if a government committed itself to a negotiation, then it would enter into an agreement that would not necessarily be in favor of the government. Jixian adds that some of the terrorists cannot be entertained for negotiations because of their nature of being “absolute terrorists”, which include suicide bombers.
A good example where the non-negotiation policy has been employed is the fight between the US and Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda. In this case, Al-Qaeda attacked the US on September, 2011 and President Bush had no other option than to fight back (Zalman, 2010). If President Bush would have negotiated with Osama at that time, then there would have been more attacks on the US because the negotiations would have indicated that the US was weak in its military power (Gomez, 2014). Moreover, the US would have been glorifying the killings of innocent lives perpetrated by the Al-Qaeda.
Zalman (2010) points out that negotiations would have given the Al-Qaeda group an ample chance to re-strategize itself for another attack and, probably, demand conditions that would have been detrimental to the US government. However, the counterattack by the Bush administration led to the deaths of many innocent lives in Iraq. Therefore, the non-negotiation policy is not entirely efficient. In other words, it does not put into consideration the long-term effects of counterattacks, which include the destabilization of the economy of the terrorists’ nation and the social impacts that the attack has on the stricken population.
The need for Negotiations
Despite the ever increasing cases of terrorism all over the world, there are cases where negotiations would be more appropriate for handling terrorists as opposed to having a counterattack. Buck (2007) highlights the reasons that would require a negotiation with the terrorists. The first argument is that most terrorist groups, like Al-Qaeda, are networks of terrorists. In other words, they do not have a specific place to call their home. Consequently, they are invisible. In case one of their military bases is attacked, the entire network of terrorists who are devoted to that group will still be at large. Therefore, it is more prudent to have a negotiation with such kind of a terrorist group because doing so may bring long lasting solutions that would contribute to peace.
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The lives of innocent people are put at risk whenever a country retaliates against a terrorist attack. Such attacks cause more deaths of the civilians because terrorists do not necessarily surrender in the event of an attack. Therefore, it is wise to engage the terrorists in some form of negotiations, in an attempt to spare the lives of innocent civilians (Cronin, 2010). According to Jixian (2013), negotiations also aim to change the behavior of the terrorists. If the terrorists are hit back, then they become more aggressive. On the contrary, when subjected to a form of negotiation, they can get enough time to reflect on their actions and, hopefully, change their ideologies to respect human life.
Buck (2007) gives a third reason negotiations are important when dealing with terrorists. Many terrorists are willing to become suicide bombers. It means that the individual is ready to die at any time. In fact, the reason the individual is in the terrorist group is the mere fact that they are willing to sacrifice their life for the group. Buck, therefore, argues that it would not be prudent to fight or threaten the person who is willing to die. The best method that Buck proposes is having a dialogue with the groups, as doing so can save innocent civilian lives and create an avenue where a ceasefire is reached. A good example where negotiations have been successful is in the case of the former Libyan leader; Gaddafi. He posed a threat to the West during his tenure, prompting the Western governments to engage him in negotiations. The result was that none of the two sides opened fire against the other (Gomez, 2014).
Terrorism is a global affair that has affected many countries. Some governments have employed negotiations as a way of dealing with the terrorists, while other nations have adopted the non-negotiation policy. Many lives of innocent civilians are put at risk in case of a non-negotiation approach, with the economy of the attacked country reducing drastically due to the destruction of property and the unfavorable condition of conducting business. Many governments adopt the non-negotiation approach, as they believe that negotiations would glorify the actions of the terrorists. On the other hand, negotiations create an environment where the terrorists involved can reevaluate their actions and possibly change to better individuals. Negotiations do not put the lives of innocent civilians in danger.
Buck, M. A. (2007). Negotiate with terrorists! Why terrorism cannot be deterred. Review Essay, 1, 156-162. Web.
Cronin K. A. (2010). When should we talk to terrorists? Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace. Web.
Gomez, A. (2014). Is it ever right to negotiate with terrorists? USA Today. Web.
Jixian, K. (2008). Conversations with the enemy: The dilemma of negotiating with Terrorists. Pointer 34 (2) 1-6. Web.
Zalman, A. (2010). Why not negotiate with terrorists: Pros and cons of talking to Al Qaeda. Web.