This just came over my CNN feed, and I find it totally bizarre:
White House has announced a presidential directive and an executive order that will allow the government to communicate and negotiate with terrorist groups holding American hostages.
Officials will now be allowed to talk to those terror groups and discuss ways to secure the Americans’ release, though the government will maintain its policy of not making concessions to captors.
While the government won’t pay ransom, officials will no longer threaten with criminal prosecution the families of American hostages looking to pay ransom to their relatives’ captors.
And it’s weird for two reasons. First, the White House claims that we will continue our policy of not paying terrorists for hostages. But why else would a group like ISIS release any American hostages except in exchange for money or goods? What on earth does Obama et al. think that “talking to terrorists” to “secure the American’s release” will involve? We’re going to sweet talk them out of their captives?
Further, the notion that the government had a policy of threatening American families with prosecution for trying to pay ransom to secure the return of their relatives is truly odious. Seriously, threatening them? Now I don’t know of any case when the government actually did this, or threatened such actions, but simply having such a policy is inhumane. And to couch the announcement as if rescinding that policy somehow balances the new talk-to-terrorists policy makes no sense at all.
I don’t think the government should pay for hostages, for that’s a road that leads to ever-increasing kidnappings and ever-higher demands, but the government really should tell us what simple talking without ransom is supposed to accomplish.
The fact is that the U.S. simply doesn’t know what to do in the Middle East (neither do I), and this new move seems more like theater than sound policy.