Acts of terrorism have drastically increased over the past 20 years. More than 100,000 people worldwide have been killed in terrorist attacks since 2001. It seems that terrorists commit such radical and devastating acts in order to draw attention to an issue they feel is pressing in their own country, a violent venting of their frustrations or in response to a growing problem or threat. Terrorists often sacrifice their own lives and disregard the lives of others to prove a point. Terrorists use violence to attract the attention of governments and the civilians. Instead of taking the opportunity for peaceful negotiation, terrorists refuse, likely because they have resorted to violence in order to make their voices heard. What they want is not a peaceful agreement, nor do they want to give up anything in exchange. In their radical minds, they are right; everyone else is wrong. This then poses the question, why should any government attempt to negotiate with terrorists? There will seemingly be no benefit from such negotiation. Could it be seen a sign of weakness and set a precedent that it is okay to negotiate with criminals (Neumann, 2007), or is it a way to maintain peace and potentially give both sides what they want out of a situation before a bad situation takes a turn for the worst?
Some could argue that negotiating with terrorist shows diplomacy during times of chaos and violence. After all, many organized terrorists’ groups are made of individuals who at once spoke out and was not heard in the way they wished. In these times, the individuals grouped together and decided that they would sacrifice their lives, or the lives of others, for the sake of their cause being heard or recognized. Most terrorist groups have some sort of political agenda that they wish to be heard by the government. Depending on the nature of the acts and the views that are had, it could be considered diplomatic to hear out the group and consider negotiating some agreement that could defuse the situation before anything more happens. The problem with this argument is that is ignores the fact that, diplomatically, the issue has to be handle criminally because some act or threat of violence has already been committed. For example, in the United States, there exists a political process for which views and opinions can be heard by government officials and pushed towards Congress.
The issue in many cases is that officials that don’t make attempts to hear out or respond to issues presented to them by frustrated individuals who eventually turn into radical terrorists. However, this does not excuse the harming of innocent civilians. Due to the violent nature of these terrorist groups, the possibility of political negotiation dissolves because it would be similar to negotiating with a criminal that says they have a reason they wanted to commit a crime, when the truth is they really just wanted to rob a bank. While some flexibility should be taken with terrorist hostage situations (and the fact that the U.S. explicitly forgoes negotiating with terrorists), governments must stand firm against buckling down on policy and defense acts of terrorism, greatly due to the lack of trust that can be had for individuals that would sacrifice the lives of innocent people for the sake of their agenda. Another possibility is the weariness of the United States after being involved in war after war and counteracting terrorist attacks that do not seem to stop (Watts, 2015). While possibilities of negotiating depend on the situation and the government in place, the reality is that governments compromise their leadership over the country when they show that things can be achieved by committing harmful acts against themselves and the innocent. Acts of violence innocent should not be rewarded with opportunities of being heard. Once a criminal act is committed, the issue must be handled as a criminal issue, without the attempts of negotiation for the sake of preventing future attacks.
- Neumann, P. R. (2007). Negotiating with terrorists. Foreign Affairs, 128-138.
- U.S. Department of State. (1995). International terrorism—American hostages [Fact sheet]. Retrieved via Evolution of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy.
- Watts, C. (2015, August 15). Should the United States negotiate with terrorists? | Brookings Institution. Retrieved July 03, 2017, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2015/08/17/should-the-united-states-negotiate-with-terrorists/