The Long Spoons of Ulster

Disturbing indications that the habits of veteran terrorists die hard in Northern Ireland.

Issue: Summer 2002

The epochal September 11 attacks have increased the sensitivity and hostility of most governments worldwide to terrorism. Nevertheless, there remains a practical distinction between "new" terrorist outfits like Al-Qaeda, which have no negotiable political objective, and "old" terrorist groups motivated by nationalist or irredentist agendas that may be subject to negotiation. If anything, September 11 has made the leaders of some countries afflicted with "old" terrorist problems want to settle matters quickly, before such groups establish links with or try to imitate the methods of new terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Varieties of such activity have occurred from Sri Lanka to the Andes in the hopes that negotiated solutions are in fact possible. With the FARC in Colombia and the PLO in Palestine, protracted but futile efforts at patient negotiation suggest that in these cases they may not be. With the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and ETA in Spain, it is too soon to say.

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