In This Review

Negotiating with Evil
Negotiating with Evil
By Mitchell B. Reiss
Open Road Integrated Media LLC, 2010, 324 pp

Should states negotiate with terrorists? This is one of the most fraught questions of modern diplomacy. Reiss’ important book offers some of the most lucid and sensible reflections yet on the topic. A scholar of international security and a former diplomat, Reiss led American participation in the peace talks over Northern Ireland. He argues against simplistic views that either favor or oppose engagement. Sometimes negotiations work, and sometimes they make the situation worse. Reiss suggests that states need to know whether a terrorist adversary is capable of evolving and abandoning its violence and whether its leadership has the authority to make binding deals. Often, the negotiations need to be secret, and governments need to be willing to walk away. Reiss sifts through the encounters that Western governments have had with some of the most notorious terrorist groups, including the Irish Republican Army, the Basque separatist group ETA, and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers. As in Ireland, successful negotiations can take decades, during which states must continue efforts to degrade the terrorist organization and look for leaders who want to transform it into a more traditional political movement.