Sunday, July 31, 2005

 

Terrorism 'Good and Bad'

Writing in the Observer today Geoffrey Wheatcroft lambasts Blair for hypocrisy in saying he will never 'give an inch' to the terorists while 'preparing to give a mile to another terrotist group', meaning the IRA. He concludes this distinction between 'good and bad terrorists is not only dishonest, cowardly and hypocritical, it is racist.' We know what he means yet is Blair so reprehensible in seeking to settle with the IRA? I would argue he is not. The fact is that terrorism is like no other form of political persuasion as it targets innocent people for the most part and arouses feelings of intense hatred and anger. But it is part of the armoury of many modern political groups, overseas and at home, and governments have always agreed in the final analysis to talk and stop the killing. As they should.

Rather like a Chancellor when the currency is threatened by speculators the PM is forced to defend a particular position. Similarily with terrorism he must say he'll will never negotiate with any people whom use terror as a weapon; if he does not deny any intention of negotiating the danger is that the terrorists will begin to extend their demands and believe they have the enemy on the run. But we all know this position-non negotiation- has always been untenable. Terrorism actually works. Whole swathes of the world have been conquered, liberated or invented through the use of terror tactics.

Governments cannot afford to have citizens being destroyed arbitrarily on a daily basis. While they affect to revile such tactics, they understand them well and will take any chance to bring the killing to a halt. We might - as Wheatcroft here does- point out that a U turn has occurred but most people will understand that governments have to deal with threats to public safety and will do deals if necessary. The history of the 'wind of change' retreat from empire in the fifties and sixties consisted of terrorist groups in Africa as well as Asia using such tactics to advane nationalist causes. At first they were condemned as terrorists, then imprisoned but finally listened to and often helped become leaders of their newly independent countries.

While they affect to revile such tactics, modern democratic understand them well and will take any chance to bring the killing to a halt. We might - as Wheatcroft here does- point out that a U turn has occurred but most people will understand that governments have to deal with threats to public safety and will do deals if necessary. Blair has behaved in no way different from any other premier would have done and history will applaud his actions.

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