To the Editor:
Re "When It Pays to Talk to Terrorists" (Op-Ed, Sept. 4):
History tells us the very opposite message that Paul Thomas Chamberlin conveys about talking with terrorists. It is only when terrorist groups realize that they cannot win the day through violence that talking works and that the possibility of separating out the would-be moderates from the radicals is possible.
Yesterday's terrorists can indeed become tomorrow's peacemakers, but only when they conclude that there is no other option. In the case of Yasir Arafat, the onetime Palestinian leader, the lesson is not that talk didn't happen soon enough.
Indeed, if Mr. Chamberlin's prescription had been followed — talk in the 1970s and 1980s when terrorism by the Palestine Liberation Organization was rampant — change would have never come.
Instead, America made it clear that there would be no recognition until the P.L.O. accepted Israel's right to exist and rejected terror. Only when it did that during the Oslo process could a productive peace process become possible (there still remain questions as to how far the Palestinians have come in rejecting terrorism and accepting Israel).
If Hamas and other terrorist groups believe that Mr. Chamberlin's views will become American policy, the possibility of change would be remote.
Strength and patience, not appeasement, are the keys to dealing with terrorists. Moderation is the goal, but when it comes to extreme groups committed to destruction and violence, steadfastness and flexibility at the right time are the keys to success.
Deputy National Director