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Dancing with the devil

Ever since the split between Fatah and Hamas and the Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip, I've been waiting for someone to come up with a way to blame two groups of Palestinian terrorists killing each other on George W. Bush -- and, thanks to my colleague Larkin at Wizbang Blue, I have it. Shoulda known the Grauniad would come through for me.

I'm not going to go into the particulars of the Grauniad's author's fevre dream, but instead use it as a launching point for a bigger issue: when it is appropriate for the United States to have dealings with terrorist groups.

Almost from the birth of our nation, our policy towards bargaining with terrorists has been the same: "don't." (If you don't understand the reference, go find a Marine and ask them why the Corps' hymn refers to "the shores of Tripoli.") That has been our policy ever since then -- except when it hasn't.

As I grow older, I find myself thinking more and more of my college writing professor and the things he taught me. And I find that what he taught about writing has far more applications than the simple crafting of words.

One of them was how he pounded us mercilessly for breaches of the rules of spelling, of grammar, and other fundamentals. When some ignorant dolt would cite some famous author who did similar things (e.e. cummings was a favorite), the teacher would jump on that and make his case:

"It is essential for you to know the rules, so you will know when -- and how -- to break them when you find you need to do so."

Absolute rules and laws and guidelines are a fact of life. So, too, is that there will be times when those absolutes must be violated. And only those who know the absolutes cold will be certain to know when those times arise, and how best to violate them and still achieve the maximum effect.

Part of that effect is, to be blunt, shock value. Not shock merely for its own sake, but the startling of the reader with something they do not expect to find in that particular forum.

To use a personal example, I tend to not use profanity. Oh, I'll dabble in the minor swears (damn, hell, crap, and the like), but for the most part I avoid the "R-rated" ones. That's a personal choice, because I want to preserve the power of such words for when I really, really need them.

But back to my point: our policy on dealing with terrorists needs exceptions. What we need to do is make it abundantly clear just why we don't deal with terrorists as a general rule, and under what circumstances we set that rule aside.

Two exceptions come to mind immediately for me:

1) When it is to the immediate benefit of the United States.

Two examples spring to mind here. The first was in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, back in the 70's and 80's. The Afghan resistance was made up of many groups, some of them out-and-out terrorists. But we backed them and helped them. The reasoning was partly because they were fighting the Soviets, bleeding them white and keeping them occupied and out of mischief elsewhere. Also, it gave us a chance to see Soviet military hardware in operation, used by actual Soviets -- sometimes against our own equipment. This was a valuable laboratory for us. Finally, the Soviets' goal was an expansion south, towards the Middle East oil fields, the waterways that carry so much of the world's oil, and warm-water ports -- three things we had a serious national interest in keeping them away from.

The other is our relationship with Saddam Hussein during the same decades. Saddam was a brutal thug, but he was -- at the time -- a useful one. He flirted with the Soviet Union, buying their military hardware and accepting their "advisors" and the like, but never let them get the real foothold they craved. And after the fall of the Shah and the reign of the Mullahs in Iran, Saddam provided a check on their expansion of militant Islam. So he was, in the big picture, worth keeping around.

Right up until he decided to try his own expansionism, and became a threat in and of himself to the region. And he chose to remain a threat to the region right up until the day he found himself dancing at the end of a noose.

2) When it is to the direct benefit of innocent people.

This one is a lot grayer (and considering how gray the other one is, that's saying a lot.) There are circumstances when it is not only advisable for a government to negotiate directly with a terrorist group, but absolutely necessary. The best example I can think of from recent history was the Israel-Hezbollah fighting of last year.

There were tens of thousands of Lebanese civilians in the battle zone, stuck there because their own government and military could not and would not protect them, as is their duty. But their plight simply could not be ignored, so international aid groups had to directly talk with Hezbollah (along with Israel) to find ways to protect them from harm as best they could. This didn't work out too well, as a key element of Hezbollah's defensive strategy was the use of human shields (often unwilling), but the theory was laudable.

The other element that can never be forgotten -- but simply can't be accounted for -- is future developments. The judgment of history can be harsh on those who don't have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight to shape their decsions. Our support of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan has been linked by some to the 9/11 attacks. Our backing of Saddam against Iran, likewise, has been cited as a causal factor in the first Gulf War and, eventually the war there now.

So, back to the key point here. Hamas is a terrorist group. They won the election, and took control of the Palestinian Authority. Was that enough of a change to merit an exception to the "no dealings with terrorists" policy?

Let's look at the possible reasons for an exception.

A) Hamas had made strides away from terrorism and towards becoming a more mainstream entity.

Utterly wrong. Hamas had added its political tactics and power to its existing arsenal of tactics. They not only offered no hints of softening their militant stance, but had explicitly reaffirmed them -- as well as their goal of obliterating Israel and replacing it with an Islamist state.

B) Assisting Hamas would prove to be of benefit to the United States.

Again, utterly wrong. Hamas remained solidly against the United States, only wanting our money (to buy weapons) and our food (for their people, relieving them of that pesky burden). Their goals are diametrically opposed to ours, and their methods are repugnant.

C) Assisting Hamas will directly benefit innocent people.

Also utterly wrong. One of Hamas' primary tactics is killing people -- and innocence is no shield. They fire unguided rockets in the general direction of Israel, hoping that they will kill someone, anyone.

So, what is the argument behind supporting a Hamas-led government? Apparently, the only one that seems to come up is "they won the elections."

Elections are, generally, good things. They are the enforcement mechanism behind the rule that says "people tend to get the government they deserve" in democracies.

But winning an election is not a blanket whitewash. William Jefferson Clinton was re-elected, even after his alleged misdeeds were revealed. Richard Nixon was re-elected after the Watergate break-in and coverup. Ted Kennedy has been re-elected to the United States Senate seven times since Chappaquiddick, and he's still a drunken swine who got away with killing a woman. And don't make me bring up the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

On the other hand, there was Fatah. Formerly headed by the despicable Yassir Arafat (Nobel Peace Prize laureate and unreconstructed terrorist and thief), they are the corrupt, venial, kleptocrats who are Hamas' chief rival. Backing them seemed to be the safe move, as it is easier to deal with thieves than Islamist fanatics. But simply being "not as bad as Hamas" is hardly a ringing endorsement.

I was never comfortable with the rush to embrace Fatah in the face of the threat from Hamas. Harry Truman once famously said that "if you give the people a choice between a Republican and a Republican, they'll choose the Republican every time." In this case, the choice was between terrorists and terrorists, and we saw Fatah as "the lesser evil." Some, however, chose to look beyond the fact that a 'lesser evil" is still evil.

So, as many others have noted, we might actually have a "two-state solution" to the Palestinian situation, with a Hamas-run quasi-state in Gaza and Fatah dominion on the West Bank. With which should we deal?

My recommendation is simple. We tell them both that when they want to talk peace, we'll pick up the phone. Until that time, however, we simply let them fester in the fetid cesspool of their own makings. The Palestinian people have, with their votes, given a ringing endorsement to terrorists; we should feel no great moral compunction to shelter them from the logical (and forewarned) consequences of that choice.

And if they start getting hungry after international aid is cut off, let them go to the remains of the greenhouses that were left fully intact by the departing Israelis and dine on Qassam rockets and suicide belts, then wash them down with some AK-47s.


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Comments (26)

Trackbacked by The Thunder ... (Below threshold)

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/23/2007
A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention updated throughout the day...so check back often. This is a weekend edition so updates are as time and family permits.

Last week I posed a questio... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

Last week I posed a question to the libs: Should we deal with Hamas, Fatah or neither?

There were no answers except that Larkin thought that we should "recognize" that Hamas won the election and so we should deal with them (Carter says).

First, it is not a question of recognition. They won, we admit it.

The issue is that Hamas reneges on the right of Israel to exist and that terrorism should be reduced as much as possible. Abbas and Fatah will agree to these conditions, real or not, and to the continuance of past deals for which Israel has given land and the US money.

Hamas will not.

So here is the deal so that even Larkin can understand:

Larkin, suppose Michael Moore comes down from the mountain with his band of vegan Peta members for supplies. He buys six months supply of wheat germ and tinfoil from your health food store. Later you find out that he has paid you in worthless North Korean counterfeit dollars.

The question is a simple one: Do you deal with him the next time?

We will stipulate that President Carter would. The question is would anyone - with a brain - do so?

In effect, there are many w... (Below threshold)

In effect, there are many who expect us to support the Palestinian government who will later criticize us for the very things they do now. We are told we created the Taliban and we created Hamas by sending aid or support of one form or another and they excoriate us for it. Now they're criticizing us for not sending aid and support to the very people they criticize us for creating. Any effort to remove those like Hamas or the Taliban who rise to power by misappropriating aid or support is met with even more criticism.

The only reason removal of the Taliban was met with less criticism is because they were directly responsible for harboring our attackers. There doesn't seem to be any such willingness to lessen that criticism for their harboring of those who attack Israel.

We did not create the Taliban. They did. We did not create Hamas. They did. When will they be held responsible for what they did?

There is still a glimmer of hope that a government headed by Abbas will try to reach some sort of reconciliation. We should try, even though we are likely to be met with the same criticism now and later. However, There is no such hope for a Hamas led government. They've said so themselves. We have to take them at their word.

One minor nit in a good wri... (Below threshold)
Jess:

One minor nit in a good writeup - it's the Marine's Hymn, not the Corps'. Asking a Marine the posted question will get one corrected, then answered.

J

That Larkin idiot really be... (Below threshold)
Paul:

That Larkin idiot really believes that a "Bush Plot to Overthrow Hamas [was]Foiled" ???

When Kevin asked me what I thought of the name Wizbang Blue I didn't know we should have named it Wizbang Crazy.

That's DU stuff. It gives Wizbang a bad name.

Almost from the birth of... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

Almost from the birth of our nation, our policy towards bargaining with terrorists has been the same: "don't." (If you don't understand the reference, go find a Marine and ask them why the Corps' hymn refers to "the shores of Tripoli.")

Or a few verses of "The Coast of High Barbary"

Larkin, suppose Michael ... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

Larkin, suppose Michael Moore comes down from the mountain with his band of vegan Peta members for supplies. He buys six months supply of wheat germ and tinfoil from your health food store. Later you find out that he has paid you in worthless North Korean counterfeit dollars.
The question is a simple one: Do you deal with him the next time?

Sure, but instead make him pay you in Zimbabwean Dollars instead. They'll collapse from the massive weight of the notes. :)

I'm working on a theory tha... (Below threshold)
kim:

I'm working on a theory that all the destruction and nihilism is a product of the fundamental luxuriousness and superfluity all the 'found' wealth has allowed. Societies which have labored to build wealth are less sanguine about tearing it all up.
====================================

It's foolish to post withou... (Below threshold)
kim:

It's foolish to post without researching but I've a hint that our relationships with the Barbary and Other Pirates have not been quite as straightforward as the Marine's Hymn would have us forever faithful to; who is this Rasuli dude anyway?
=====================

KimPedicaris alive o... (Below threshold)

Kim
Pedicaris alive or Rasuli dead

Right, but I think Rasuli g... (Below threshold)
kim:

Right, but I think Rasuli got paid and this was a century after the Marines had supposedly settled the matter, forever.
===================================

And you note they didn't pr... (Below threshold)
kim:

And you note they didn't pre-emptively chop Pedicaris's head off either. Rasuli was a civilized old Muslim pirate; they've degenerated in the meantime.
===============================

Robert the Original:<... (Below threshold)

Robert the Original:

Last week I posed a question to the libs: Should we deal with Hamas, Fatah or neither?

There were no answers except that Larkin thought that we should "recognize" that Hamas won the election and so we should deal with them (Carter says).

First, it is not a question of recognition. They won, we admit it.

Larkin apparently forgot that he was addressing the uninformed right. Larkin's use of the term "Recognition" was, I suspect, in the context of 'diplomatic recognition' where one government legally "recognizes" another government.

Diplomatic recognition is a political act by which one state acknowledges an act or status of another state or government, thereby according it legitimacy and expressing its intent to bring into force the domestic and international legal consequences of recognition. Recognition can be accorded either de facto or de jure, usually by a statement of the recognising government.

My recollection is that so far Bush has refused to "recognize" Hamas in this context.

Sorry it took so long for one of us 'libs' to clear that up for you, Original Bob, but I had to stop laughing first. Experience shows that when we adults are addressing the children we need to use small words and explain things more fully to avoid misunderstandings. Hopefully Larkin will remember that in the future.

This should help jog his memory, the rest of Robert's stunning analyis:

So here is the deal so that even Larkin can understand:

Larkin, suppose Michael Moore comes down from the mountain with his band of vegan Peta members for supplies. He buys six months supply of wheat germ and tinfoil from your health food store. Later you find out that he has paid you in worthless North Korean counterfeit dollars.

The question is a simple one: Do you deal with him the next time?

We will stipulate that President Carter would. The question is would anyone - with a brain - do so?

Anyone 'with a brain' wouldn't resort to setting up a strawman argument as you have, then resort to third-grade level ad hominems attacks to knock it down.

I'm amazed at the downhill trend Wizbang has suffered in the last couple of months since we started up Wizbang Blue. It's really sad when someone like Bob makes a gaffe like that, and none of the other commenters are brave enough (or perhaps smart enough) to correct him.

I'm amazed at the downhi... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

I'm amazed at the downhill trend Wizbang has suffered in the last couple of months since we started up Wizbang Blue.

An Unintentional Truth, I am sure.

I'm amazed at the ... (Below threshold)
John in CA:
I'm amazed at the downhill trend Wizbang has suffered in the last couple of months since we started up Wizbang Blue.

Things are fine until those Wizbang Blues guys escape their sandbox and infiltrate here.

wee wee lee lee wardie from... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

wee wee lee lee wardie from bluie let me do a grammer check on what you just posted. You typed in "we" before adults as if you were in that group. Please change this as it makes the one from bluie look like he (or it) is not capable of handling his overburding job there because of the "overload" of comments. Don't thank me as I gladly help those that are lacking in the mental capacity to help themselves.(yeah I still take my meds that YOU help pay for) snicker snort

This is my first comment he... (Below threshold)

This is my first comment here so if someone posted under my name previously they did so falsely.

Almost from the birth of our nation, our policy towards bargaining with terrorists has been the same: "don't." (If you don't understand the reference, go find a Marine and ask them why the Corps' hymn refers to "the shores of Tripoli.") That has been our policy ever since then -- except when it hasn't.

Interesting Jay that you refer to Tripoli since you must know that the First Barbary War ended with a negotiated settlement that including us paying the terrorists $60,000.

But back to the central point here. You maintain that we should have exceptions to a policy of not negotiating with terrorists which includes:

2) When it is to the direct benefit of innocent people.

If we were to engage with Hamas I would set a short-term initial goal of getting them to agree to and enforce a cessation of all rocket attacks and other terrorist acts (note that it's been quite some time since Hamas sponsored a suicide bombing inside Israel). Wouldn't that be of "direct benefit to innocent people"? The innocent people being of course the Israelis who live in Sederot?

History is replete with examples of countries negotiating with terrorist groups to successfully end long and bloody conflicts. The British negotiated with the IRA. The Nepalese negotiated with the Maoists.

Demanding that Hamas recognize the state of Israel as a pre-condition for negotiations simply guarantees that negotiations will never take place. We can either sit on the sidelines here and do nothing or we can try and play a constructive role to achieve an important first step which would be the cessation of rocket attacks from Gaza. You say let the rockets fly; I say let's try to stop them.

Larkin, I knew that comment... (Below threshold)

Larkin, I knew that comment wasn't from you. That's why it was deleted, and that IP banned.

My problem with your solution is that it takes two (or more) to negotiate and settle. Hamas has said, repeatedly, that it is in no mood to negotiate. It has its clear goal -- the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamist state. In fact, their very charter says:

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

Kind of tough place to start negotiations, wouldn't you agree?

J.

Lee,Thank you for ... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

Lee,

Thank you for the nice discourse about the diplomatic recognition of States. Gaza is not a State.

Is was Bush, you might recall, that first brought the proposal for a Palestinian State out in the open. This lead to the roadmap, which led to Gaza in the first place. Land for peace.

Again it is not a question of who won the election or our knowing it. It is a question of: is one stupid enough to deal with double-crossers over and over?

Everyone knew that Arafat was their leader too, back in the day, but Bush refused to deal with him after he lied and tried to bring in a boatload of weapons. Hamas Reneged, Arafat lied. Same same.

Of course Hamas wants to deal with us. They want controls lifted and to get the money they need to have another go at Israel.

Our only conditions are that they renounce terror and recognize the right of Israel to exist. If they are peaceloving this would be easy, particularly since Abass already agreed to this. But they will not, and can not.

Now probably they want more land in exchange for the peace they will not agree to. Carter the mindless wants to send them more stuff so in five years they can elect a new government and say: "Oh no, that agreement is gone we do not agree anymore, we need more land and money."

Carter the mindless would no doubt agree to this.

We can either sit ... (Below threshold)
John in CA:
We can either sit on the sidelines here and do nothing or we can try and play a constructive role to achieve an important first step...

Yes, let's do as Clinton did when he kissed Arafat's ass all over Camp David trying to get a negotiated peace. Arafat never had any intention of agreeing to a peace accord unless it included total capitulation from Israel. Arafat played Clinton like the cheap fiddle he is, knowing that Clinton was desperately seeking a legacy and trying to position himself for his own Nobel Peace Prize.

pffft! What a fool. And a transparent fool at that.

Jay Tea : Hamas 's goal... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay Tea : Hamas 's goal is clear.... the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamist state.

The more popular expression is that they a la President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, want Israel 'wiped off the map' but let's look at who has been 'wiped off the map'

Kind of tough place to s... (Below threshold)

Kind of tough place to start negotiations, wouldn't you agree?

Yes it is, but as I said my initial goal in negotiations would be a very modest one: that of eliminating the rocket fire coming from Gaza towards Israel.

Let's face facts here. Israel and the Palestinians have been in a state of war for decades. Getting from here to a point where we have a sustainable peace with two fully independent states is an extremely tall order. Still, I maintain we should engage both sides and attempt to make progress diplomatically because there's little cost to us in doing so and there's a lot to gain potentially.

Attempting to subvert and undermine the democratically elected Hamas government is a fruitless exercise because they represent the will of the Palestinian people. If we succeed in overthrowing the Hamas government, the Palestinian people will still want to continue their war with Israel. You're not going to change their minds (in fact you will probably harden them) by overthrowing Hamas.

Larkin, I fully support mak... (Below threshold)

Larkin, I fully support making life difficult for terrorists. If a terrorist group takes over a government, then we have a terrorist government. The acquisition of "legitimate" power does NOT make them exempt from being treated like terrorists.

Also, where did the whole "overthrow" and "subvert" and whatnot come from? That Grauniad story was long on accusations, overflowing from the typical paranoid rantings of Hamas, and awful low on facts.

Don't tell me that you're one of those who thinks that anyone who says anything bad about Bush is automatically telling the truth and a saint? That Bush-bashing excuses a ton of otherwise-reprehensible behavior?

J.

Tiresome troll mimic. Howe... (Below threshold)
kim:

Tiresome troll mimic. However, McNulty's a recurrent theme. Someone is very bitter about that whole mess, with Schumer, and Comey, and Fitzgerald. A jury of their peers is about to settle in, the three judge panel hearing Libby's emergency appeal. One of them is Tatel, lied to by Fitzgerald to put Judy Miller in jail.
==========================

OK, OK, there is soon a Tat... (Below threshold)
kim:

OK, OK, there is soon a Tatel Tale to be Told.
===========================

Hello! Good Site! Thanks yo... (Below threshold)

Hello! Good Site! Thanks you! kabjsbdflb




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