Letter: Limits of the law in fighting terrorism

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The Independent Online
Sir: Robert Fisk ('End these states of terror', 16 August) uses the capture of Carlos to argue that acts of terror are a manifestation of justifiable frustration, and that the only way to deal with the perpetrators is to bring them before the courts.

In a democracy, we are all in favour of due process of law, but to suggest that this is the only legitimate arm to combat acts of terror is highly dangerous, particularly for the intended victims. Retaliation may be a blunt instrument, but used with discrimination it is often effective in making one's opponent think again.

In the Arab world, the state has absolute power and, therefore, can freely generate acts of terror beyond its borders, safe in the knowledge that courts of law are not adapted to place governments in the dock. It is open to a democracy to tell the rest of the world, for its own safety, that they should avoid maintaining normal relations with such outcasts.

The peace process engaged in the Middle East has been long awaited and deserves to be encouraged and indeed protected from those who see in its success the signs of their impotence and eventual demise. Peace and eventual withdrawal can also take place in southern Lebanon, if there is a will by its government to enter into the spirit of the peace process and establish its authority over all the country and its various factions. But while a state of belligerency exists, nobody should be surprised that Israel will maintain and defend its buffer zone.

The terror weapon, now on the wane among certain Arab protagonists, has been picked up by a generation of born-again Islamists who see their salvation in the destruction of everything that the Western world has to offer. To attempt to counter such terror purely through the courts would be an act of folly.

Yours faithfully,

ALAN SWARC

London, W13

17 August

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