2014 ISIS – is negotiation possible?

Posted: October 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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A question I was asked “…. how does one negotiate with a terrorist? How? I would love to see a practical, responsible reply to that question.” Perhaps the answer is not about a solution to the question, but a response to an intractable question.  Certainly what we are seeking is a response that is reasonable and reflects Canadian values.  I believe that we have to begin with the objective of “peacemaking” and what that means in creating the space for the insurgents to come to the table when they are ready and willing to do so. They will come when they “hurt enough or love enough” or they will fight to the end.  This may be sooner, later or never; but as the adage goes “we may be one and only one but will not refuse to do what one can do.”

What we can do is adopt peacemaking as a response, and change our thinking and approach to conflict zones.  This may mean setting the question of “winning the war” aside for a moment and considering possibilities that surround the question. How can we care for civilians, and alleviate suffering?  How can we reduce or stop the violence?  There are enough people and countries willing to fight, and what is needed is not more fighters, but some level of peacemakers.

Peacemakers that can find ways to communicate to the insurgents where they may be open to dialogue and have interests. To be able to talk with all parties, means adopting a posture of impartiality, being present, having a bias for peace and non violence, and a capacity for dialogue or negotiation.  For example, the issue of creating safe havens, human security, refugee routes, or humanitarian aid for refuges or non combatants, may provide opportunities to talk, if they can trust you to be impartial. The alternative of protecting and caring for victims, rather than that of killing of destroying infrastructure, may have more heart and better reflect who we want to be as Canadians.

Dealing with insurgents is another question.  Experience indicates that bombing will not work. This leaves us with treating them as criminals, cutting off their logistics, eliminating their funding, applying sanctions against those countries supplying them, or those buying their oil.  Apprehend and prosecute.  Serve and protect vice search and destroy.  This means driving them away from hiding within the people, away from cities and villages. This means a long and dangerous, constabulary or policing response like happened during the IRA campaign.

One negotiates when they are ready. We create conditions so that when they are ready, it happens.  Not easy, and a real test of who we are.  Your choice.


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