James Forsyth

The Powell doctrine

The Powell doctrine
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Jonathan Powell’s essay on the Northern Ireland peace process in the May Prospect sets out his position on talking to terrorists with complete clarity:

“To argue that al Qaeda and the Taleban are different and that therefore you can’t talk to them is nonsense. Of course they are different, but terrorists are terrorists. What they do is evil, regardless of the cause. But you need to find a way to deal with them.” 

To be fair to Powell, he prefaces this by saying that you should not concede to terrorists’ demands in response to violence or the threat of violence. But Powell does seem to be arguing that you should talk to terrorist because they are terrorists which seems to be a phenomenally dangerous mindset as it suggests that the way for any group with grievance to get government to listen to them is to lose off some bombs.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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