Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Talking to Terrorists. Why America Must Engage with Its Enemies

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Talking to Terrorists. Why America Must Engage with Its Enemies

Article excerpt

Talking to Terrorists. Why America Must Engage with Its Enemies. By Mark Perry. New York: Basic Books, 2010. 253 pp. $26.95.

Should the U.S. government talk to terrorist groups? Freelance foreign affairs analyst Perry offers a resounding "yes." His argument, however, is based on a specious reading of recent events in Iraq, which he then extrapolates to other violent players in the Middle East.

Perry contends that it was dialogue rather than the military surge that ultimately ended Iraq's civil war. "The real gamble in Iraq did not actually take place in Iraq," Perry argues, it "took place in Amman" where U.S. officials engaged Sunni insurgents. The assumption that these talks occurred in a vacuum is a consistent flaw throughout the book. To argue that military pressure does not affect terrorists' decision-making is to deny reality.

Denying reality seems to be Perry's strong suit. When he turns his attention to Hamas and Hezbollah, he describes how, after a series of talks with Western interlocutors, both groups abandoned their maximalist positions. Here, he lacks introspection, never considering the possibility that terrorists lie. Hamas, for example, is said to have backtracked on its goal to eradicate Israel and agreed to limit its demands to Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, this despite the fact that Hamas' unrepudiated charter continues to call for the destruction of the Jewish presence in historic Palestine. …

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