The news that Basque separatist organisation ETA has announced an allegedly permanent ceasefire in its terrorist campaign doesn’t seem to have attracted much attention outside Spain. Still, it’s worth repeating points that seemingly need to be made again and again.
First, despite costing hundreds of lives and blighting tens of thousands more, ETA has achieved nothing of note. Arguably, the campaign has achieved a modest increase in the autonomy of the provincial government, an achievement of the kind that no one cares much about when it is the result of peaceful democratic processes. Equally arguably, the reaction against ETA has led to stronger central control. Either way, the outcome does not justify the loss of even one life, let alone thirty years of war.
But suppose ETA had been more successful. In this context, success would have meant a bloody civil war leading eventually to the establishment of a separate Basque state. Is there any reasonable calculation on which this would have been a worthwhile outcome? Unless it wanted to be a new North Korea, the Basque state would have had to join the EU, open borders with Spain and France, give full civil rights to Spanish speakers and in general act much like an autonomous Spanish/French province (see Andorra).
Turning to the other side of the war, it does not appear that repeated resort to extralegal repression by the achieved anything more than would have been achieved by patient application of ordinary criminal law.
The general lesson is that wars of choice are almost always disastrous, whether they are launched by states, would-be states or revolutionary movements. When the option of peaceful agitation is available, it is almost always the best choice.