This article by Jonathan Powell, former Chief of Staff for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is not an exception. During my fairly long by now time of reading newspapers - even when they were printed on real paper - I have seen a lot of op-eds, calling all kinds of people to talk to all kinds of people. Indeed, "to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war", and when your illustrious countryman had said it, it kind of lends you some wind in your sails, doesn't it?
Of course, seeing as how Mr Powell was one of the people surrounding the Man during the times of the fairly ill-conceived invasion of Iraq, one might want to ask - where exactly was Mr Powell at the time with a similar advice? The idea of negotiating with ISIS didn't come to the author naturally, he arrived to this understanding gradually - as he confesses.
The historical precedents he uses start with Northern Ireland, the long and partly secret negotiations, where he took a significant part. Yes, eventually these negotiations brought a semblance of peace to that long suffering and long occupied territory, where Protestant settlers were busy killing the indigenous Catholics and vice versa. It is a fragile peace, but peace nonetheless, so we can't fault this example. But then Mr Powell mentions Hamas, Taliban and al Qaeda as other potential parties for negotiation.
Hamas, indeed, was involved several times in indirect negotiations with Israel. That much is true. However, every single time the end result was a new round of "arms race" that ended in another conflagration. Bad example.
Taliban: an exceedingly poor reference. So far there have been several overt and covert attempts to negotiate some kind of understanding, if not agreement, with this bunch. We all know where we are today with that murderous outfit.
Al Qaeda now: how exactly does the author propose to negotiate with the myriad of loosely connected cells all over the Islamic world (and probably beyond it) that hardly recognize each other, not to mention some infidel authority they are sworn to destroy?
All in all, these are poor examples to support the main thesis. Which is, to remind you, the need to negotiate with ISIS, so far successfully proving itself to be the most murderous and the most fanatical bunch of them all. But does the fact that ISIS doesn't show any sign of being amenable to any other kind of persuasion but bullets slow Mr Powell at all? Doesn't seem so. Mr Powell is using the best moral artillery West developed, and there wasn't any possibility to avoid reading the much dreaded word:
The ex-Baathists and ex-Iraqi army offices (sic!) [probably Mr Powell meant "officers", and anyway it is unclear how ex-Iraqi army officers differ from ex-Baathists] that make up a major part of the ISIS force have genuine grievances about the way they were treated by the sectarian Maliki government.Here you are - I have a real problem repeating that word, but at least I was able to emphasize it. What can I say: many a warrior of a defeated army can point to some gr... I bet the soldiers of Napoleon and Roman legionnaires and German... anyway, all these folks had their gr... after being soundly defeated, but I hardly remember any enlightened thinkers calling for consideration of their gr... verily, our modern enlightenment is boundless!
Going full steam on his way to prove his point, Mr Powell makes a blood-chilling remark:
Negotiations can only happen when the conditions are right, usually when a mutually hurting stalemate is in place and both sides realize they cannot win by military means.To conceive a stalemate with ISIS means in effect to concede that the daily murder, rape, enslaving and other mayhem by ISIS could be tolerated by the West in the name of some elusive future equilibrium. In short, negotiate this, Mr Powell:
The only way to negotiate something with ISIS and its likes is this:
And re the grievances game played by the author: here comes the best answer:
Interestingly, the article we are discussing here is accompanied by a link at the bottom (you know how Internet sites link related stuff). The "related" link goes to an article: I'm a feminist, and I converted to Islam. Bump...
Update: it looks like Jonathan Powell has more original ideas than it was estimated previously.
Police are examining if former Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell potentially perverted the course of justice by advising a republican terror suspect not to return to the UK.And he done this because:
Had she come back, been arrested feeling she had fallen into a trap by me trapping her into coming back, the peace process would have been dead - it would have been a very bad idea.Check it out, without prejudice, please.