Why the United States Should not Negotiate with Terrorists

Terrorism is one of the major threats to peace in the modern world. There are frequent terrorist attacks that are perpetuated in different parts of the world and they cause huge destruction of property and loss of lives. Terrorists are driven by a certain ideology and they believe in use of fear to perpetuate their cause. Moreover, there are diverse opinions on whether the US government should negotiate with terrorists, and especially those with religious objectives (Burleigh, 2016). Those in support of negotiation argue that it will be an effective strategy to resolve differences between the government and terrorist groups, in peace and without loss of lives or damage to property. However, those opposed to negotiations argue that it would increase legitimacy to terrorist groups and encourage them to launch further attacks. This paper holds the view that the US government should not negotiate with terrorists, irrespective of their ideology, since it would legitimize their cause, undermine the rule of law, and give power and influence to terrorist organizations over the US government.

Reasons Why the U.S. Government Should Not Negotiate with Terrorists

The first reason why the United States should not negotiate with terrorists, regardless of their objectives, is that it would encourage them to perpetuate terrorism to achieve their goals (Kurylo, 2016).  When the government negotiates with a terrorist organization, it legitimizes the terrorists’ cause and empowers them to continue performing terrorist actions. In a negotiation process, both parties cede ground to attain a mutually-acceptable solution. This means that if the US government negotiates with terrorists, then it will agree to satisfy some of the conditions or demands that have been placed by the terrorists. If this happens, then the terrorists can use the power and influence they have over the government to validate their ideology and mobilize followers and sympathizers to embrace their message and activities. However, if the US government declines to negotiate with terrorists, it will send a clear message that terrorism is not acceptable and it cannot be used to achieve the goals of the terrorists (Tyner, 2018). Moreover, the terrorists cannot seek support from sympathizers since they will have failed to achieve their goals and demands. The US government should therefore not negotiate with terrorists in order to discourage and defeat the terrorist ideology, ideals and activities. 

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The second reason why the US government should not negotiate with terrorists, irrespective of their cause, is that it undermines the rule of law. The US is founded on democratic ideals that include the rule of law. Adherence to the law ensures that there is order in society, and people coexist in peace and harmony. Terrorists are criminals who perform actions that subvert the law. They main and kill innocent civilians in their quest to pursue their ideologies. Terrorist activities are criminalized under law and if the US government negotiates with terrorists, it will be in essence negotiating with criminals (Miller, 2013). Democratic governments do not negotiate with criminals as they are mandated to enforce the law regardless of the social, political, and economic status of a criminal convicted of an offence. If the US government negotiates with terrorists, it will be subverting the law and it will create a negative precedence under law where the government can negotiate with criminals at will (Tyner, 2018). This will result in disharmony and chaos in the American society. For this reason, the government should not negotiate with terrorists. 

The third reason why the US government should not negotiate with terrorists is that it would allow terrorists to control and influence government decisions and policies in their favor.  If the government cedes ground and negotiates with terrorists, they are likely to use their influence to control government actions, through creating new objectives and shifting goalposts, to ensure they always attain their goals (Burleigh, 2016). In essence, the government would subvert power granted to it by Americans, and shift it in the hands of terrorists. Most terrorist organizations undergo a metamorphosis and change with the times, to suit their narrative and propagate their ideology. Even if the government gave in to the terrorist demands, the terrorists would issue new demands that are consistent with their ideology, and issue new threats of attacks. The US government would be powerless against the terror groups, as they would have control of the government. It is therefore not acceptable for the US government to negotiate with terrorists. 

Counterarguments in Support of the US Government Negotiating with Terrorists

There are certain arguments that have been advanced in support of negotiations between the US government and terrorists, as a means of ending terror attacks. The first argument is that negotiating with terrorists will provide a peaceful means of settling differences between terrorists and governments, while avoiding loss of life and damage to property (Burleigh, 2016).  This argument is inaccurate since terrorist groups have continued to launch terror attacks even in instances where governments negotiated with them. For instance, Israel negotiated with the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993 under Yitzhak Rabin the Prime Minister, but attacks continued until as late as 2004 where thousands of people lost lives (Kurylo, 2016). History has shown that negotiating with terrorists only halts attacks at the time of negotiations but they resume afterwards under the guise of unmet conditions. Negotiating with terrorists therefore emboldens them by giving them legitimacy, and as a consequence, terrorist activities are likely to increase.

Another argument in support of negotiations between the US government and terrorists is that it is an effective strategy to end conflict in instances where terrorist organizations have large community support (Tyner, 2018). In this situation, negotiations are seen as effective tools that the government can use in instances where the community supports the terrorist group, and government is unlikely to win. However, this argument is flawed since the US government has also been mandated by Americans to enforce laws without favor.  Conceding to terrorist groups because they have support would be giving up the responsibility of governance and enforcement of the law. The government has fought many internal wars, including drug wars, against communities that support and protect the drug traffickers. It did not give up its responsibility due to pressure or coercion from criminals. The government should not therefore negotiate with terrorists as they are criminals who break the rule of law. 


In summary, the US government should not negotiate with terrorist organizations since this would undermine the rule of law and provide legitimacy to terrorists, while encouraging them to launch more attacks. If the terrorists are aware that they can use threats to manipulate the government into giving in to their demands, they will be motivated to increase terror attacks.  Counterarguments in support of negotiations include the arguments that negotiation will prevent loss of lives through terrorist attacks, and that the government may be forced to negotiate when terrorists have community support. However, both arguments are flawed since negotiations in the past have not ended terror activities, and if the government negotiates, it will be abdicating its responsibility to enforce the law. Based on these reasons, the US government should not negotiate with terrorists. 


Burleigh, M. (2016). Blood and rage: a cultural history of terrorism. New York: Harper

Jones, S.  (2017). Terrorism: myths and facts. Jakarta: International Crisis Group

Kurylo, B. (2016). “Should Governments Negotiate With Terrorists?” Journal of 

International Affairs No. 3. Retrieved from http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1441/should-governments-negotiate-with-terrorists 

Miller, M. A. (2013). The foundations of modern terrorism: State, society and the dynamics 

of political violence. Cambridge University Press

Tyner, E. (2018). Negotiating with Terrorists? Retrieved from http://eip.org/en/news-


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