As Anne Applebaum's column indicates, it is very easy to assume that other people share your values and goals, and thus that grotesque acts of terrorism are always counterporductive. But the mere fact that terrorist acts set back the political cause of a majority of the people that a terrorist group ostensibly represents does not mean that the cause of the group itself has been set back at all. You can be quite sure that the terrorist organizations don't think so - they believe that they are acting rationally.
In relation to the Chechnyan terrorists, Applebaum claims,
Little is known about their stated aims, which allegedly included independence for the Russian republic of Chechnya, withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, and an end to the nearly 10 years of brutal Russian-Chechen conflict in Chechnya. The only certainty is that they will achieve none of them.What if their primary purpose is to prevent any compromise? That is, they want to interrupt political negotiations that might give "their side" less than they want? What if it's about power (or power and money) - with the terrorist groups recognizing that if a political resolution is achieved they will be frozen out of the peace deal (and resulting government structure)? What if they want to trigger a disproportionate Russian response against Chechen civilians - thereby hardening the attitudes of the Chechen people and helping to recruit new converts to their brand of "resistance"? Which of those ends is not advanced by this type of atrocity? Applebaum herself contends that decreased sympathy for the Chechen cause, resulting from terrorism, will result in less pressure on Russia to reach a political compromise, and that Putin is already discarding the notion that he should be attempting to negotiate:
Notice here that Putin draws no distinction between the terrorists of Beslan and legitimate, independent Chechen leaders, or even the Chechen nation as a whole. When he launched the second invasion of Chechnya in 1999, he called the attack a "counter-terrorist operation in the northern Caucasus." The foreign spokesman of the former Chechen government wrote yesterday that "with hindsight" he now sees that Putin used this kind of language to discredit the idea of Chechen autonomy, and to link the Chechen rebels firmly with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The Beslan terrorists have now helped the Russian president complete that process.Applebaum then proceeds to do pretty much what she criticizes in Putin:
Decades' worth of PLO terrorist attacks on crippled tourists and Olympic athletes achieved far less for the Palestinian people than television pictures of Palestinian children protesting in the streets. Even more was achieved, or almost achieved, when the Palestinians briefly ceased to use terrorism in the 1990s. By contrast, the resumption of Palestinian terrorism, and particularly the suicide bombing campaign, has led to a profound change of heart, a hardening of positions and, as in Russia, a much larger population of Israelis who assume that all Palestinians, whatever their views or background or grievances, are would-be terrorists.Yet the resurgent terrorism was not from the PLO, which was transformed into the "Palestinian National Authority". It was from groups like Hamas, which opposed the political process, and which knew that Israeli "retaliation" for their acts would weaken the political process and the Palestinian Authority in their favor. And now we have a situation where the two parties responsible for ratcheting up the violence to the present appalling levels - Hamas and Sharon's Likud Party - have more power and "street credibility" than ever, while Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have been marginalized.
Can they deliver "peace"? What should make me think that they care? What should make me think they even include "peace" in their organizational goals?