March 17th, 2008 by Rightsideup

One of the ongoing fallacies embraced by the liberal left is that if we just talked to our enemies we could solve a lot of our problems without needing to resort to war. While it had a little more apparent merit in the days of Neville Chamberlain and Hitler (though it obviously failed even then) it seems particularly naive in the days of Islamic terrorism.

Alan Dershowitz, writing in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago, explained the root of the problem as follows:

The two basic premises of conventional warfare have long been that soldiers and civilians prefer living to dying and can thus be deterred from killing by the fear of being killed; and that combatants (soldiers) can easily be distinguished from noncombatants (women, children, the elderly, the infirm and other ordinary citizens).

Both of these, he explains, have been turned on their heads by the modern breed of terrorist and in particular the suicide bomber, especially when she is a woman. When you can no longer assume that your enemy prefers life to death, all bets are off. And the idea that you can reason with someone who is both willing to deliberately die and to erase the line between civilians and soldiers is completely ridiculous. Such people are not going to be bound by the sense of honor which has somewhat perversely characterized military relations for the last several hundred years.

What good does talking to such a person do?  Any perceived concessions wrung from terrorists during a negotiation are worth even less than the “piece of paper” Neville Chamberlain brought back from Munich. And any real concessions are likely to lead to much larger concessions on the part of the Americans doing the neogitation. The only language terrorists understand is the one they themselves speak – violence and death.

The  situation was summed up nicely in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict by this cartoon – I once saw a more sophisticated version, but this one tells the same story:

How do you deal with such an organisation? Unfortunately, the answer is to respond with sufficient force and such a strategy that you are able to overcome the competitive advantage that such asymmetric warfare presents. But the answer definitely isn’t to talk more.

While searching for the above cartoon I also came across this one, which is fitting too.