US West alluded to a frustrated call from a British friend that perhaps it is time to negotiate with Al Qaida et al. US West brought up the question of what Al Qaida wants. That question was one of the early subjects of debate among the Citizens that led to the creation of this blog.
I think given the tragic events in London today, it is worth revisiting the subject.
I'll get the ball rolling with my own opinion: I think there are several problems with the idea of negotiating with Al Qaida.
First, it is far from clear that there is anything we could give them - either in terms of material goods or policy changes - that would make them stop. Al Qaida's own statements refer to an existential conflict. They object to the existence of modern Western society itself, not just the policies of particular governments. It is not enough to simply depart the Middle East, they want us to stop being modern at home as well. They see our very example as corrupting their culture.
Second, who is charge? Just from a practical standpoint, who would we actually sit down with? Despite the attempts of the Bush administration to personalize the "war on terror," it is not clear that there is a hierarchy with which we could make deals.
Third, if there is no single hierarchy, perhaps there are multiple demands. For example, the group that attacked Madrid mentioned their desire to restore Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula. That does not seem to be a major concern for Pakistani decent terrorists operating in London or the Saudi terrorists who pulled off the attacks on 9/11/01.
Fourth, what about Israel? Do these groups just want Israel to modify its behavior? Or do they want Israel (and its Jewish citizens) to be exterminated? A casual examination of the fundamentalist rhetoric suggests that some groups at least (again, there is no single monolithic demand here) want the latter. If that is the case, is there any change in policy the U.S.A. could make that would satisfy them? That is, would any U.S. administration be likely to stand by while an Islamic fundamentalist movement attempted genocide in Israel?
So to sum up: I think the negotiation option is not workable. We don't have anyone to talk to. We don't know what they would demand if we could find someone. And there is a good chance that if we did find someone with a credible claim to represent the terrorist movement, we would be uniformly unwilling to concede to their basic demands.
This is not to say I think Bush's approach is correct either. My own preference is more in line with the policy approach commonly used in Europe (at least their international policy). That is, I favor a primary reliance on police work and diplomacy with resort to war in clear cut cases such as Afghanistan (but not Iraq).
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 1:32 PM