Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why We Can't Negotiate With Al Qaeda

On Question Time on Thursday a member of the audience suggested that it was now time to sit down with Al Qaeda and negotiate with them because otherwise we will "never know what they want". It provoked a round of applause. Even some politicians have begun recently to say the same thing. This viewpoint is unbelievably naive.

Al Qaeda is not like the IRA. It is not an 'organisation' in the conventional sense that. Who would one actually sit down with? There are so many diverse people who say they belong to Al Qaeda, or who support them that it's just not possible to treat them as a body that has any ability to negotiate.

So before this particular hare starts running, and the peaceniks clearly want it to start running, let's be very clear as to why it can't and won't happen.

The phrase 'war on terror' was perhaps ill judged when it was first uttered by George W Bush in 2001 in the sense that it is a war which will never be wholly won. Terrorism has always existed, and in this age of technology and 24 hour media it will always exist in one form or another. It is a war which the forces of good will never win, in the conventional sense. But it a war which must continue to be fought - and fought vigorously if we cherish our hard won democratic freedoms.


Anonymous said...

Iain, you are right.

The IRA had ostensibly political aims: a united Ireland (albeit married to what was basically an organised crime network, as they still are). Even though NI politics was/is drawn largely on religious lines, those are historical legacies. Provos didn't do their murdering in the name of Jesus or the Virgin Mary.

Al-Qaeda just hate non-Muslims. The nutters in Mumbai were going for infidel Westerners mainly - Brits and Yanks were fair game and bonus points were awarded if they got some Jews as well.

If they have a gripe then it goes back before Iraq, before the formation of Israel, back probably to the Crusades.

Anonymous said...

How do you negotiate with someone whose stated aim is that you don't exist. Western rulers have to stop pandering to Islam. The only solution is the parting of the ways. There's no point trying to impose western values on them, they're different and will always be so.
It's depressing to see how the govt panders to Islam and the Tories have also developed Islamo-philia in the shape of Baroness Warsi.

word verification: Papite

strapworld said...


Absolutely spot on. Just WHO do you talk to. In Afghanistan it may well be individual war lords who control certain areas. But these people want the death of all white people it appears to me!

But what a mess we have got ourselves in. Our towns and cities could, quite easily, become warzones. We just have no idea of who, where, when or how those enemies within will reveal themselves.

Mass Immigration can be, and has been, good for the country over many centuries. BUT mass, uncontrolled, immigration has created a problem which causes me much concern.

I have absolutely no doubt that the majority of all Muslims living in this Country are law abiding and peaceful. But, as India has shown us, it only takes a handful of idiots.

You cannot talk to these people.

Old BE said...

Part of this is the government's fault (as usual!) for pretending that AQ was a centrally commanded organisation with set goals and structure. It does not appear to be so, it is more of a "brand" which terrorists attach to themselves in order to look and feel like a "movement".

Raedwald said...

The 'war on terror' has always been a nonsense; terror is a weapon, not an enemy. You might as well have a 'war on spears'.

The asymetrical conflict with a loose alliance of jihadist terrorists cannot, as you say, be won. We can have an army of a million men yet just one jihadist terrorist with a petrol bomb can keep the 'war' going.

Since the only reasonable response on the part of the targets of such terrorism is to keep killing as many terrorists as possible while avoiding 'civilian' deaths as far as possible, both here in the UK and on the warfighting ground where we do the killing, it's going to be a long, hard, bloody slog. Until they get fed up of dying.

We faced the same sort of thing in the Sudan more than a century ago. Omdurman, in which we killed 11,000 of them against them killing a dozen or so of us, caused a surprising conversion from suicidal extremism amongst the remaining Mahdists.

Unknown said...

Iain, you are right but...
(and African Mum is wrong)

The applause at the meeting had a message.
Bush would not talk to what he called the axis of evil. Obama says he will talk.
What Bush did was to close down any sort of comunication. The Damage that Bush and the likes of African Mum do is incredible.

If Govt's set themselves up to listen and to try to understand That does not mean they are agreeing with or pandering to ...anyone.
Refusing to listen /talk makes things worse.
Who said "know your enemy? "

Comunication is the biggest word in the English language.
One can agree to disagree surely.

Ctesibius said...

Negotiate with Al Q'aida, but lock up opposition MPs, I suppose.

Mulligan said...

I am reminded of the exchange between the president and the alien in Independence Day.

"What do you want us to do?"
"Die" is the alien's reply.

Any idiots who think that Al Queda's response would be any different should wake up. Sadly our government has been only too pleased to use their hatred to trample all over our civil liberties, as Damian Green found out on Thursday.

Jabba the Cat said...

@ Michael J 12:55 PM

"The Damage that Bush and the likes of African Mum do is incredible."

...and what the likes of useful idiots like yourself, and others in the appeaser class, do is even more dangerous and ultimately ends up in more lives lost as we end up paying twice for the same territory.

neil craig said...

Al Quaeda has no existence except as a military organisation. It cannot exist as anything else except perhaps as pensioners of western governments (like Sinn Fein) or our employees against others (as when they provided almost all the battleworthy troops for the Bosnian Moslems).

Negotiating with them would merely attract recruits. It is the same situation as woth the Somali pirates. Sometimes bugs just have to be squashed.

Unknown said...

Jab the cat

Try re reading what I wrote.
I never mentioned or suggested appeasement.

It is no use just hating... it is better to know what you are fighting against.
Bush did nor know and did not care - they saw it and reacted.

BTW I am as opposed to AQ as you are.

Finally calling someone an idiot does not say a lot for your ability to communicate

Jabba the Cat said...

@ Michael J 1:22 PM

"Try re reading what I wrote.
I never mentioned or suggested appeasement."

" It is no use just hating... it is better to know what you are fighting against.
Bush did nor know and did not care - they saw it and reacted."

I think that you are the one without clarity as to what we are dealing with in AQ. If you did you would not be suggesting dialog with people who only want to kill you. The only conversation that AQ understand emanates from the barrel of a M16 on full auto.

" BTW I am as opposed to AQ as you are."
No your not. You want to talk to them whilst I would merely prefer that they are all killed before they can do the same to me.

" Finally calling someone an idiot does not say a lot for your ability to communicate"
You are obviously unaware what the term "useful idiot" means...

Anonymous said...

I think you and everybody else is missing the point - I believe the remark was made sarcastically as it referenced Obama's avowed intention of talking to Iran without preconceptions.

As for negotiating - this is what has made the 'surge' successful, by 'turning' some of the insurgents. I suspect the same will be tried in Afghanistan.

The point in both Afghanistan and Iraq is that there are many factions. It seems to me inevitable given the nature of the history of these places and their place on the democratic step ladder.

Essentially what we are doing in these places in PREVENTING a true full blooded civil war - leaving us with the messy, still bloody, job of coralling the factions.
There have been many wild accusations about loss of life - mainly from self serving lefties - but if left to their own devices the inevitable loss of life from a real civil war would have been catastrophic. Look at places in Africa. Its been very noble of us and America to hold the ring - not that lefties will give any credit for that.

The by product of it all is that somehow these factions have to be given a buy in to the democratic process rather than the shooting war option.

old and angry said...

Let's just sat it out loud.
Islam is our enemy,that's who we are fighting.
Stop pandering to them,close down the Islamic organisations.
Purge them from our national life.
Appeasement does not work!

Dave H said...

Dear Infidels,
We* demand that you:

1) Pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

2)Remove the infidel military bases from the Holy Land of Saudia Arabia.

3) Force the Russians to stop massacring our Brothers in Chechenya.

4) Force India to recognise Kashmir as an independent Muslim state.

5)Force the Israelis to hand back all the occupied territories and restore the state of Palestine.

6) Stop aiding the forces fighting against Muslims in Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.

7) Release all the Brothers held in your jails.

8) Oh, and you must all convert Islam (that also applies to those Shia scum who think they are Muslims but are not).

6) Er, that's it.

*Me, in this instance. All the demands are subject to infinite modification because there isn't really an organisation, nobody's in overall charge, so you'll get different demands depending on who you talk to.

Best Regards,

Al Qaeda
South-West Cambs Branch.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I have a firm policy not to negotiate with Al Qaeda. It's ten per cent plus expenses, or they can piss off.

Colin said...

Also, never forget, the key reasons for the IRA coming to the table were that we'd basically beaten them. Militarily, they were on their knees, and politically, they were / are nothing more than a bunch of marxists; as a result, dangle a few baubles and ministerial limo's and Bob's your uncle.

We're a long, long way from that with Al-Qaeda.

BrianSJ said...

If people would like to learn more (and it looks like they need to), then the place to go is John Robb, with his book 'Brave New War' and his blog at
It won't be cheering, but forewarned is fore-armed.

Andy said...

Iain, you don't actually tell me "why" anything in that final paragraph, you just assert that the war on terror is "a war which must continue to be fought" - by no means self evident when the preceding sentence is that we can't ever win. What is the point? A war that by definition we cannot win is a badly conceived war, no? What are the (non-"conventional") objectives of the War on Terror as you see them? (NB. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, just urging a more watertight argument from you.)

And to other commenters, I'm afraid I can't share the view that al-Quaeda members and supporters are all beyond redemption, all want us dead, and are all going to have to be killed if we ever want piece. How do any of you think these people arrived at the state of mind you ascribe to them? Were they born "hating the west"/"wanting us dead"? Is Islam to blame? I'm not saying they're right to harbour the resentments many of them do towards the West, or that those resentments aren't contradictory and illogical. But it is worth thinking about. It is lazy thinking (not to mention borderline racist) to insist that they are just "different" and "hate us", and that the effort to encourage liberal democratic values in Islamic countries is doomed to fail. Why? What's so special about them that means they are beyond reason?

As for my own view, I don't advocate talking to al-Quaeda, for the reasons you mention; they aren't a single organisation, who do you sit down with? What single individual could be said to be the authentic voice of al-Quaeda? Nobody. Even if a figurehead for the organisation could be found to speak to, it's likely that what they would tell us would be mostly fanatic drivel, and unrepresentative of the majority of their sympathisers.

But we don't need to talk to actual terrorists to know that the pool of people they recruit from would dry up considerably if we did a few things. Encouraging a realistic peace settlement in Israel/Palestine, with a *viable* Palestinian state, would be top of that list (hey, I didn't say it was easy, did I?!). Being less "pragmatic" with the regime in Saudi Arabia would also help.

There's no single universal answer or list of demands, but lets not take that to mean there is nothing we can do, and that all of the people who get involved in al-Quaeda are just irrational psychopaths. If we accept that kind of thinking, we will push moderate Islam away from us, and tip ourselves into increasingly polarising antagonism which demands that one side or the other be wiped out.

Jabba the Cat said...

Dear Al Qaeda
South-West Cambs Branch.

That whistling noise you hear in the distance is the napalm bomb released by the drone, that has just triangulated and locked onto your laptop position, is you ticket to heaven with the compliments of the western world.

Have a nice journey.

Richard Gadsden said...

The whole point of negotiating with Sinn Fein/IRA was that when Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness said "stop", the bombing stopped.

No-one can do that for Al-Qaeda. There might be a case for local negotiations with individual local commanders, but there's no peace settlement.

Dad said...

It is good that people ask themselves the question "what do they want?" .. because it may actually lead them to think, and later to identify the injustices in the world .. in particular the apparatus of the mainly western corporatocracy.

I'd encourage conservative minded individuals to read:
Revolution, a Manifesto by Ron Paul
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

The world of geopolitics is not as straightforward as "Western Democracy" == good, "Anyone against it" == evil.

Folks really need to understand what damage western democracy, big corporations, and a Western obsession with perpetually growing GDP* has done and can do to the world, before labelling anyone who wants to understand Al-Qaeda's motives "naive".. because in reality, the opposite is quite true. I'm not wishing to defend Al-Qaeda (if it exists), but would want to discourage an attitude of ignorance.

As Einstein said:
"Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance."

* PS. We are let down by a basic lack of scientific education in this country! Most do not have a full appreciation of the exponential function.. our monetary system is based on an inflationary system of debt, and in order to sustain it our economy must grow.. Damage through the necessity of growth, is therefore built into our monetary system.

James Schneider said...

Too bloody right Iain. Well said. Al Qaeda is not an organized body with a hierarchy, leadership, and delineated goals. In one sense it simple doesn't exist. At least not in the media presented manner. So it can't be negotiated with. Chatting to OBL, even if he did "negotiate" would achieve nothing.

Roger Thornhill said...


The reasons why we cannot sit down with "the Camp" is because their cause has no clearly defined aim, regardless of their structure.

The IRA were fighting for Irish reunification. Even the Palestinian cause has many "hard" aims, though as soon as progress appears to be made either there is a bomb atrocity in Israel or Israel rockets some leader and passers by are carbonised in the process.

Hzb Allah? al Qaeda? No, the reason neither of those could be satisfactorily negotiated with is that they have dreams of a Caliphate, a return of "Muslim lands" - which could end up as meaning the entire globe - and other such ideas all attached to a well-oiled ratchet.