Northern Ireland: Here, the indispensable guide is Dean Godson, chief editorial writer of the Daily Telegraph of London, and his recently published "Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism." Trimble is the leader of the moderate unionist party (unionists want to keep Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom), who negotiated the 1998 Easter Sunday agreement with republican John Hume and with Bill Clinton and the British and Irish prime ministers. Trimble and Hume were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The basic bargain was simple: The unionists would let the republicans have places in the Northern Ireland government, and the republican paramilitaries would give up their arms. The unionists kept their side of the bargain, but the paramilitaries have not, and have been setting further concessions. Tony Blair has suspended the Northern Ireland Assembly and Trimble's party lost seats to the anti-agreement unionists led by Ian Paisley. The bottom line: Appeasement is failing.
All of which is relevant to this year's presidential election. John Kerry has said that the war against terrorism is primarily a matter for law enforcement and intelligence. He recently ran an ad based on a book he wrote in 1997. But that book never mentioned Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden -- it was primarily about the danger of international organized crime.
And terrorists do turn to crime: The FARC finances its activities by drug trafficking, and one reason the paramilitaries won't give up their arms is that they make money by smuggling and drug trafficking, too.
It's impossible to know exactly what Kerry would do as president or what Bush would do in a second term. But Kerry seems far more inclined toward appeasement, as Clinton was.
Richard Holbrooke, who would like to be Kerry's secretary of state, notes that Clinton was cheered in Ireland for his "peace process," while Bush was greeted with angry demonstrations there. But the British cheered Neville Chamberlain when he returned from Munich with "peace in our time" in 1938. A year later, they thought very differently.
In the short run, appeasement seems the more conciliatory, thoughtful, nuanced way to deal with terrorists. But in the long run, it tends not to work.