Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Let's Talk Dirty to the Terrorists

Could not resist referring to a classic Gilda Radner bit (see below for the video) when I was reading this op-ed by Robert Axelrod, a don in the political science profession, and some other dude.
So we find it disappointing that the Supreme Court, in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project, ruled that any “material support” of a foreign terrorist group, including talking to terrorists or the communication of expert knowledge and scientific information, helps lend “legitimacy” to the organization. Sometimes, undoubtedly, that is the case. But American law has to find a way to make a clear distinction between illegal material support and legal actions that involve talking with terrorists privately in the hopes of reducing global terrorism and promoting national security. 
 The authors point out that today's terrorist may not be one tomorrow, such as, well, Nelson Mandel's African National Congress.  And that private channels are one way to get from a to b.  Plus engagement of some kind can actually improve knowledge:
In our time with Mr. Meshal’s group, we were also able to confirm something that Saudi and Israeli intelligence officers had told us: Hamas has fought to keep Al Qaeda out of its field of influence, and has no demonstrated interest in global jihad. Whether or not the differences among Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other violent groups are fundamental, rather than temporary or tactical, is something only further exploration will reveal. But to assume that it is invariably wrong to engage any of these groups is a grave mistake.
 Not to mention serving the cause of social science.  I have a student who is trying to figure out why some militias are more successful than others.  Not talking to the militias would probably not help (yes, double negatives!).  So, she has talked to the terrorists.

And she is not the only one who wants to, as US Central Command is now thinking the unthinkable out loud.
The report opens with a quote from former U.S. peace negotiator Aaron David Miller's book, The Much Too Promised Land, which notes that both Hizballah and Hamas "have emerged as serious political players respected on the streets, in Arab capitals, and throughout the region. Destroying them was never really an option. Ignoring them may not be either.

The funny thing is that the political scientist, Robert Axelrod, is asking the Congress to do something subtle rather than to engage in grand-standing.  Reminds me how often we political scientists come up with good policy advice that is politically unappealing.

 The video is NSFW as Gilda really talks dirty to the animals.

No comments: