One of the lines the U.S. uses is that “we do not negotiate with terrorists.” Under a new executive order, that policy has just come to an end.
The White House will release on Wednesday a presidential directive and an executive order that will allow the government to communicate and negotiate with terrorist groups holding Americans hostage, a source briefed on the matter told CNN.
While the government will maintain its policy of not making “substantive concessions” to captors or paying ransoms, the White House will announce that officials will no longer threaten with criminal prosecution the families of American hostages who do pay ransoms to their relatives’ captors, according to a senior administration official.
Family members of former hostages were meeting at the White House on Tuesday to learn of the administration’s decisions after a months-long review of U.S. policies in dealing with American citizens held captive. The families were set to meet with President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
While everyone feels for the hostages and their families, this policy is absurd. Paying ransoms and negotiating with hostage takers will simply encourage them to take Americans hostage. The terrorists know that the Americans will pay money to get their people back.
Here’s what a USA Today editorial said about the subject of paying ransoms last year.
In practical terms, though, the price demanded by groups such as ISIS has gotten so high that only government can afford it. That’s further proof, if any were needed, that the way to try to save hostages is to send in special forces. And the way to deal with terrorist kidnappers is to kill them, not buy them off.
There is also a lesson from history on this as well. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison sent the U.S. Navy after the Barbary States after they kidnapped and enslaved American sailors and demanded tribute. The first war ended with a ransom payment, but when the Barbary States attacked Americans, the Navy returned in 1815 and this forced a treaty that ended tribute payments.
What foreign terrorists and criminals who take Americans hostage should get is a visit from special forces, not ransom payments arranged by the U.S. government.