“You need to treat them like criminals.”

An interesting, if short, interview in the Guardian’s G2 section today with Justine Rosenthal, director of the Atlantic Monthly Foundation [some of her op-ed articles are linked there]. The interview contains a few comments on how governments should deal with what she describes as for-profit terrorists – which covers such activities as kidnapping, bank robbery and “protection” amongst others. Comments worth highlighting as the NIO continues with their chosen strategy.While the interview, and the ideas involved, are primarily focussed on the global problem of terrorism, our own home-grown variety get an important mention:

“If you ask if I’m more worried about al-Qaida than I am about for-profit terrorism, the answer is yes. But that isn’t to say that we should, or can, ignore the problem. And one of the main aspects of the for-profit terrorists is that they won’t vanish once the cause is defeated. If they have had, during the struggle, some sort of profitable spin-off business, that will carry on afterwards, even after the battle is lost or won, or everyone is just worn out with fighting.”

So is for-profit terrorism a more intractable long-term problem than Iraqi insurgency, for example?

“I would say so, without doubt. You’ve seen it yourselves with the IRA. That group is less of a problem today in terms of old-fashioned terrorism. But they are increasingly involved in criminal enterprises. It is an intractable problem. The cause dissipates, the profitability remains.”

So what, in your analysis, is the best way of dealing with it?

First of all, we should not get snookered by their rhetoric, and the pretence that they’re still bona fide terrorists with a cause. You need to treat them like criminals. That may mean, for example, not cutting peace deals with them. Or territorial deals. It means rounding them up and arresting them as you would any other criminal gangs.“[added emphasis]

It’s a strategy that appears to have been followed.. in some circumstances already, if belatedly, and not always with the arrest element fully in effect.. but perhaps someone at the NIO should put in a call to Ms Rosenthal about that other strategy.