One hypothesis about terrorism is that a country should not negotiate with terrorists because such action will incite increased violence and inspire further extremism. Margaret Thatcher promised that she would never negotiate with bombers at the height of terrorist movement from the Irish Republic Army. Similarly, President George Bush swore to never debate with assassins after the 9/11 attack in the US (Kean & Hamilton, 2011). The analysis of the claim is significant because it will direct nations to avoid counterterrorism activities that will backfire. It is also paramount to understand the origin of the assertion, the test of the assumption, and scholarly evidence.
1. Origin of the Claim
The prerogative of non-negotiation with terrorists came from a well-establish policy and influential executives in Europe. No negotiation strategy is common amongst government elites and individual citizens. For example, the UK travel advice to its nationals warns that the British government’s enduring dogma is to refrain from making a substantive concession to assassins (UK Government, 2017). Moreover, Meyer (2013) analysed how the G 8 pact tried to reach a world-wide consensus in 2013 to prohibit negotiation and payoffs to extremists. The G 8 argued that democracies must not pave the way for violence, and terrorists must not get rewards for their actions.
2. Why It is Important to Test the Assumption
It is significant to understand if engaging with terrorists turns the vice into a rewarding business or ceases bloody attacks. While testing the non-negotiation theory, it is necessary to draw the dissimilarity between two negotiation forms. The first one is the deliberation of individuals in return for captured militants or money. The second one is a broad concept of getting a middle ground with the political needs presented by extremist groups. Examining whether negotiating with assassins is a practical approach to curb terrorism is vital, and state resources, for example, finances, human capital, and time, are limited. Therefore, nations should allocate them to counterterrorism dealings with the highest success rate.
3. The Evidence against the Assumption
The claim against negotiating with terrorists is that it seems to approve extremist activities, which weaken a country’s democratic quality. Besides, a group such as al-Qaeda has a loose network of like-minded people and cells. The complexity of applying conflict resolution methods emanates from the lack of key leaders to engage in the conversation (Toros, 2008). Before 9/11, al-Qaida had effectively carried out only three global attacks, particularly the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1988, and the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 (Kean & Hamilton, 2011). Kean and Hamilton (2011) stated that al-Qaida and its affiliates have increased, and they are responsible for more than 12000 deaths globally irrespective of military actions against them.
Jones and Libicki (2008) conducted RAND Corporation research in 2008 and noted that the most effective way of ending extremists from 1968 to 2006 was the transition to the political process. Justifiably, democracies respect diverse political discourse, appreciate cultural identities, and tend to defend minorities; thus, lessening internal grievances. Toros (2008) suggested that a sense of unfairness, dishonor, hindrance, and the perception that there are no peaceful avenues of redress influenced extremism. The main objective is, therefore, to overwhelm the sense of marginalization, inability, and humiliation through democratic engagement. The conversation involves a state accepting that terrorists denote a binding statement even though its means are intolerable.
I would label the supposition that deliberating with terrorists would encourage more violence as false. In my view, a country can strengthen the norm of non-violence if it demands that an insurgent relinquishes attacks to engage in talks. It is also true that Al-Qaeda makes the contemporary strategy of understanding terrorism and visioning terrorists in regards to structural meanings and characteristics no longer applicable. On the other hand, the sophistication and diversity of al-Qaeda’s construction provide more entry and contact points to the group for negotiation purposes. Irrespective of links among the hard-core leadership of Al-Qaeda, peace talks will ensure that local grievances do not form the primary focus of the extremist group.