chapter
28 Pages

Introduction: negotiating with terrorists – who holds whom hostage? GUY OLIVIeR FAURe AND I . WILLIAM ZARTMAN

Hostage negotiation is not something new under the sun, but modern forms of terrorism have their own specifics. What has dramatically changed is the extension of terrorist practice and of its effectiveness. After almost four decades of experience in the domain of practice, it is time for conceptual reconsideration. A number of attributes make hostage negotiation, especially in its political/ideological version, extremely specific – dramatic stakes, emotional arousal, political anxiety, enormous gap between values systems, denegation of the legitimacy of the other as a negotiation counterpart (Faure, 2003; Taylor and Donohue, 2006). The situation is complex, with hostage-takers holding their captives within an unfriendly environment. Each side may be defined as the hostage of the other. For the victims, the nature of the relation is clear: they are detained by force. But the perpetrators too have made themselves hostages by their action. Be they in an airplane, a building, a ship, even a train, they are surrounded by official authorities and are not free to move. In a formal way, they can be framed as prisoners, or voluntary prisoners with some bargaining leverage for having with their hostages a currency of exchange. Substantively, on the negotiators’ side, the terrorist poses unacceptable demands by unacceptable means. On the terrorist side these two aspects are viewed as perfectly justified even on moral or religious grounds. Thus, there is not much room for negotiation. However, in fact the very situation calls for negotiation, not surrender. What is essential is to understand the process by which what is impossible becomes possible. For that purpose, it is essential to better know this new terrorist culture, the hostage-takers’ profiles, their personality, their view of the world, of the authorities, their values, and their framing of the problem raised by the taking of hostages. Concerning the negotiation process itself, under which conditions can it be carried out, by what logic, with what terms of trade? And when to abandon negotiation and switch to the “tactical option”?