Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah do mean what they say. It's not rhetoric, it's deeply-held, non-negotiable belief:

Maybe it's about time we start taking some Islamist groups seriously and at their word. When Hamas or Hizballah says there is no circumstance under which they would recognize Israel or accept a two-state solution, maybe we should, you know, believe them.
  1. Maybe we shouldn't think about how we are going to pursue our own interests without first seeing whether or not we have partners willing to meet us halfway. Hizballah can put the most enlightened spokesperson in front of the organization -- Ibrahim Mousawi, Hussein Rahal, whoever -- but if it looks as if there is no middle ground on which we can meet, there is really nothing we can talk about.
What if the Obama Administration said, "Hey, Hizballah, if we guarantee Israel will not attack you, will you lay down your arms?" I'm guessing the response would be something along the lines of "a) let us check with Tehran first and b) well, we've been telling our Shia supporters that these crazy Sunnis in Lebanon are a threat as well, so that's really not an option. Plus, they think our hard-won seat at the table in Beirut would go away if we disarmed. So, no."

The bottom line is, we the United States made things easy on Islamist groups from 2001-2009. With hard-liners in Washington, they could always deflect blame onto the United States and our inflexible policies. Now, I suspect, they will have to adjust to the new realities in Washington -- or risk isolating many of the supporters they have gathered in recent years.

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