In his new book 'Negotiating With Evil: When to Talk to Terrorists,' author Mitchell Reiss claims that every government facing a terrorist or insurgent threat needs a man like Gerry Adams to negotiate with.
In the chapter titled 'In Search Of Gerry Adams' Reiss writes: 'The recent announcement by the Basque terror group, ETA, that it is declaring a unilateral cease fire raises the immediate question of how the Spanish government should respond. After all, this is not the first time ETA has suggested it is willing to abandon its historic mission to create an independent homeland for the Basque people. But all previous efforts to end what is now the longest-running terrorist campaign in Europe have cruelly failed. A major reason is that no single ETA leader can speak for all the members of the organization. This highlights a dilemma that all governments face when determining whether to engage with terrorist or insurgent groups.
For any peace process to take off, a government needs what is euphemistically called a “partner for peace.” But not just any partner. It needs someone who can imagine an end to the armed struggle, who has the physical and moral courage to pursue that path, who has won the respect of his comrades in the movement, who can speak with authority and act with discretion, and perhaps most importantly, who can bring his people along, whether by persuasion, intimidation or force. Without such a person, talks are doomed to fail.
The problem is that people with these qualities are few and are especially rare in terrorist groups. One or two figures may possess some of these attributes, like Arnaldo Otegi in the Basque region or Karuna Amman from the Tamil Tigers. But no such leader with all these qualities has ever existed in either of those organizations, or in Hamas or in Al Qaeda in Iraq for that matter.
Northern Ireland has been the exception. Whatever Gerry Adams’ role in the Troubles or his long, strange journey to become a man of peace, he is an extraordinary figure of world importance because he has led a terrorist group away from the gun and into the corridors of political power.
Today, Adams has become the standard by which terrorist or insurgent leaders are measured, at least those who are engaged in a formal peace process or discussions with a government.
Every government facing a terrorist or insurgent threat needs a Gerry Adams,' Reiss concludes.