Over 300 people were killed -- about half of them children -- by terrorists when they attacked a school in Beslan in southern Russia last week. The tragedy has brought condemnations from all over the world. It has also reminded everyone that the Russian occupation of Chechnya, for whom the terrorists are believed to have struck, remains a problem.
The Chechens have been fighting against Russian rule for a long time, often through terrorist activities. In August alone, three incidents have been linked to them: two involving the explosion of passenger planes, one involving a car bomb.
The Russian government's response has tended to be -- in the words of Jonathan Eyal, Director of Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London -- "ham-fisted", using "brute force against the Chechens without offering a political process".
After the tragedy in Beslan, Israel offered its help with counter-terrorism expertise. However, Israel itself is mired in clashes with the Palestinians, where reprisals follow reprisals in an unending cycle of violence. For a more comprehensive solution to the Chechen problem, the Russians must look elsewhere.
As Eyal wrote in The Straits Times on 3 September, the fight against terrorism "must involve a judicious mix of force and politics". This is one lesson that the world already knows and should not need to have to re-learn.
The cost of the lesson, as in Beslan, is often too painful to bear.