Obama Okays Negotiations with Hostage-takers

 

Militant Islamist fighter waving a flag, cheers as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa provinceOn Wednesday, President Obama will release an executive order to allow the U.S. government to negotiate with terrorists for the release of American hostages, according to CNN.

The White House claims that the government will not pay ransom or make “substantive concessions” to terror groups, but it will no longer prosecute families who wish to pay them.

The payment of ransoms to terror groups like ISIS and al Qaeda has long been tolerated, though it is technically illegal. The administration has looked the other way when families of Americans held overseas have paid ransoms.

On Wednesday, the White House will explicitly indicate that families should not fear criminal prosecution if they choose to make ransom payments. The new directive will not include a formal change to existing laws. But administration officials will state publicly, for the first time, that ransom payments will be tolerated.

Officials said the administration will offer clear internal guidance to federal agencies on how to discuss the ransom issue with families to avoid confusion or mixed signals from the government.

However, the longstanding administration policy against government concessions to hostage takers, including paying ransoms, will be reiterated and not be altered.

The Obama Administration also will create an FBI office called the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, which will coordinate federal response in these situations.

Obama made these changes following heavy public criticism by the families of journalist James Foley (killed by ISIS) and aid worker Warren Weinstein (killed in a U.S. drone strike). Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who pushed the administration to update their hostage efforts, thinks the White House’s actions are too little, too late.

“The changes offered up by the White House prove that neither the right questions were asked nor were any lessons learned,” Hunter said to CNN. “Wholesale changes are needed, but what’s being put forward is nothing more than window dressing, I fear.”

Any negotiation with terrorists seems like a bad precedent to me, but in this age of rampant Islamic terror, the federal government must do something to improve its response. Constitutionally, the move looks awful since Obama isn’t trying to change the law through a Congressional debate, but has just decided not to enforce the laws on the books.

What do you think: Is this a step in the right direction or should the U.S. refuse to talk to groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda?

Published in Foreign Policy, Military
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  1. Drusus Inactive
    Drusus
    @Drusus

    I prefer the Julius Caesar approach: laugh and joke with kidnappers, pay their ransom, leave after paying, return with an army, take back ransom, crucify kidnappers.

    • #1
  2. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    I cannot imagine the the pain these families and hostages must go through. However, I suspect we will learn a great deal about it, as kidnappings are bound to increase.

    Obama making a unilateral decision without inviting anyone to the table to discuss pros/cons, costs of any decision made or not made….tha doesn’t t surprise me at all.

    Past behavior being one of the best predictors of future behavior applies to both situations.

    • #2
  3. Roberto Inactive
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Officials said the administration will offer clear internal guidance to federal agencies on how to discuss the ransom issue with families to avoid confusion or mixed signals from the government.

    However, the longstanding administration policy against government concessions to hostage takers, including paying ransoms, will be reiterated and not be altered.

    Uhhh,,,

    prisoner-trade-sgt-bowe-bergdahl

    • #3
  4. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Downside: We have one less reason to be proud of America. No longer will news stories about ISIS note that they get funding for capturing Europeans and Arabs for ransom, but that Americans (and often Brits) have principles, so kidnapping them does not enable the murdering of others.

    Upside: January 20, 2017 isn’t so far away, and this should provide us with moral clarity when the new President arrives.

    Downside 2: The people murdered using resources purchased using American ransom money matter in themselves; it’s not just about our pride. Also, the added incentive probably isn’t great for those who get kidnapped as a result.

    • #4
  5. Spin Inactive
    Spin
    @Spin

    Are we livin’ in bizzarro world?   Where up is down?  Where left is right?  Where common sense is traded for madness?

    • #5
  6. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: What do you think: Is this a step in the right direction or should the U.S. refuse to talk to groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda?

    I’m more than willing to hear out arguments to the contrary (because I don’t like this position) but I think the former policy was the best one: paying ransom only encourages more people to be taken hostage (the Caesar option aside). It’s an issue of the commons, and an ugly one.

    • #6
  7. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    This is news? Obama’s been negotiating with Iran for years.

    • #7
  8. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Spin:Are we livin’ in bizzarro world? Where up is down? Where left is right? Where common sense is traded for madness?

    No, the left is not right on this. We’re in America, not Bizzarro World.

    • #8
  9. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Barfly:This is news? Obama’s been negotiating with Iran for years.

    It’s news. A majority of ISIS funding articles have, in the past, noted the superior American moral position. That was a genuine problem for ISIS. There have been other kinds of negotiations, but the big oil company checks weren’t a thing for us.

    • #9
  10. user_75648 Thatcher
    user_75648
    @JohnHendrix

    Just another ignominy for America under Obama’s leadership. Must be Tuesday.

    • #10
  11. Troy Senik, Ed. Contributor
    Troy Senik, Ed.
    @TroySenik

    As damaging as so many Obama Administration policies are in their particulars, I’m increasingly of the opinion that the biggest consequence from his tenure will be how radically he’s moved the bar on what we consider acceptable in the United States of America. Even with a president this far to the left, I would have told you a month ago that something this outlandish was simply implausible. “Fundamental transformation” indeed.

    • #11
  12. user_1016012 Inactive
    user_1016012
    @Clay

    We mustn’t be exceptional, after all.

    • #12
  13. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    So when Obama calls Republicans hostage takers, he should start negotiating with them?

    • #13
  14. user_536506 Member
    user_536506
    @ScottWilmot

    John Hinderaker is writing about another issue here but his last one word sentence sums up my view of Obama and his position on negotiating with terrorists.

    Unfortunately the Ricochet CoC prohibits me from posting that word but it is the best description of BHO and all he does that I have ever seen.

    • #14
  15. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    Not to worry – Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have vowed not to fund this executive order!

    • #15
  16. BuckeyeSam Inactive
    BuckeyeSam
    @BuckeyeSam

    Traveling overseas?

    Have fun…and watch your back. You could be seen as an attractive target.

    • #16
  17. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    I think Barry’s been wrong all along.  We are an exceptional country.

    An exceptionally stupid country, since we’ve elected this shameless dolt twice.

    • #17
  18. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    This seems to me to be a time of great moral confusion.  While American politicians are criticizing the flag of the Confederacy , the government of the United States appears to be respecting the flag of ISIS.

    • #18
  19. user_278007 Inactive
    user_278007
    @RichardFulmer

    Open season on Americans.

    • #19
  20. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Wouldn’t an intelligent person make this policy change in secret?

    But then an intelligent person wouldn’t make this change to begin with.

    • #20
  21. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    To those of you who are surprised, believe me, I feel your pain.  Felt it long ago.

    This is why the knife in the back from the GOP hurts so much.  So much was lost, and playing pat-a-cake with people who do not get it is only getting us further down the road.

    • #21
  22. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OldBathos

    Great powers with strong, even ruthless leaders don’t have to negotiate with terrorists–they effectively terrorize them back with the threat of overwhelming force projection: vengeance anytime, anywhere. More than two centuries ago, even when the US did not have much military power we still sent Stephen Decatur to take it to the bastards right in their own safe harbor.

    Weak nations with spineless leaders must pay always ransom.  So as long as Obama is in the White House Americans should get used to being bent over by our enemies and keeping the national checkbook at the ready.

    • #22
  23. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    It it’s my kid being held, I’m paying.  You think I shouldn’t because it puts your kid at risk?

    Then don’t pay when yours gets taken.

    Sorry folks but I don’t have a collectivist view and won’t trade that in now just to say I oppose the President.

    I don’t give a rat’s rear about him, his law, or the rest of you if my kid is being held.

    I’m on my own and so are you.

    I’m paying.

    • #23
  24. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Tommy De Seno:It it’s my kid being held, I’m paying. You think I shouldn’t because it puts your kid at risk?

    Then don’t pay when yours gets taken.

    Sorry folks but I don’t have a collectivist view and won’t trade that in now just to say I oppose the President.

    I don’t give a rat’s rear about him, his law, or the rest of you if my kid is being held.

    I’m on my own and so are you.

    I’m paying.

    There are a lot of people who think like you do, Tommy.

    That’s why we need government to work to stop you from engaging in evil acts.

    The law doesn’t just punish you for funding the murder of others (although that can be helpful in deterring such), it also makes it physically harder to do so. Perhaps you could evade the blocks; just like laws against direct murder, even when it would benefit your child, laws against the funding of murder don’t stop it all. They only save some lives.

    • #24
  25. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    James Of England:

    Tommy De Seno:It it’s my kid being held, I’m paying. You think I shouldn’t because it puts your kid at risk?

    Then don’t pay when yours gets taken.

    Sorry folks but I don’t have a collectivist view and won’t trade that in now just to say I oppose the President.

    I don’t give a rat’s rear about him, his law, or the rest of you if my kid is being held.

    I’m on my own and so are you.

    I’m paying.

    There are a lot of people who think like you do, Tommy.

    That’s why we need government to work to stop you from engaging in evil acts.

    The law doesn’t just punish you for funding the murder of others (although that can be helpful in deterring such), it also makes it physically harder to do so. Perhaps you could evade the blocks; just like laws against direct murder, even when it would benefit your child, laws against the funding of murder don’t stop it all. They only save some lives.

    No I like what Drusus said – pay, get the kid back, go back and kill the kidnappers.

    Your “paying for murder of others” analysis is stretched out by the left on all sorts of things, isn’t it?   War, Monsanto, Haliburton, Trade with China.

    • #25
  26. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Tommy De Seno:

    James Of England:

    Tommy De Seno:

    No I like what Drusus said – pay, get the kid back, go back and kill the kidnappers.

    Your “paying for murder of others” analysis is stretched out by the left on all sorts of things, isn’t it? War, Monsanto, Haliburton, Trade with China.

    Wait, you, Tommy, would go into Syria or Iraq and destroy ISIS? You’ll forgive me for not seeing that that was what you meant.

    It’s true that the left often use attenuated examples of the funding of murder, but giving money to ISIS isn’t an attenuated example.

    • #26
  27. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Tommy De Seno:It it’s my kid being held, I’m paying. You think I shouldn’t because it puts your kid at risk?

    Then don’t pay when yours gets taken.

    Sorry folks but I don’t have a collectivist view and won’t trade that in now just to say I oppose the President.

    I don’t give a rat’s rear about him, his law, or the rest of you if my kid is being held.

    I’m on my own and so are you.

    I’m paying.

    What is this, bait?  Is this Obama’s conservative bait for starting fights on conservative sites?  It’s not even good bait.  It just has the quality of being not *at all* effective in the real world.  It’s the kind of thing Obama loons say on TV, no matter how silly, just to avoid criticising Obama at a particular moment.

    • #27
  28. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    [Here was a comment that Jon rightly pointed out was an inappropriate personal attack.]  I voluntarily retracted the comment from Ricochet’s page because it’s their site, not mine, and they don’t like it.  They didn’t even ask me to.

    Now on the one had, I feel that “play the ball, not the man” is a fair enough formulation of a rule of thumb, but a little tight as a universal rule.  There is another saying — shoot the archer, not the arrow.  Yet, it is inappropriate of me to take my generalized, “collective” insulted dignity and fashion the response into a personal attack.

    Attacking the miserable and cowardly stance as such should suffice in this case.  After all, we each harbor a confidence that these are not stances which would be found in our cohort, and calling a thing exactly what it is may be the best hope of remedying any misperceptions of acceptable or welcome behavior within a community, or an individual.

    • #28
  29. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Ball Diamond Ball:What a complete lack of manly virtue. Your stance is the utter absence of the honor that men traditionally rely upon in order to haul civilization up from savagery. It’s a sorry tribe that would have you.

    An inappropriate personal attack. Let’s play the ball, not the man. Thank you.

    • #29
  30. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Tommy De Seno

    It it’s my kid being held, I’m paying.  You think I shouldn’t because it puts your kid at risk?

    Then don’t pay when yours gets taken.

    Sorry folks but I don’t have a collectivist view and won’t trade that in now just to say I oppose the President.

    I don’t give a rat’s rear about him, his law, or the rest of you if my kid is being held.

    I’m on my own and so are you.

    I’m paying.

    I have been struggling to respond to this without being *merely* insulting on the on hand, and without being ridiculously PC on the other — speaking in code that thinly veils an insult just to gain technical compliance with the CoC while being fast-handed with its spirit.

    This comment of Tommy’s is the sort of thumb-to-nose contempt and contravention of norms that is provocative to a high degree.  Think of this as a mutual defense pact in which one party begins by announcing his intent to defect at the first sign of trouble.  The phrase “separate peace” is one of the least offensive terms that can even be mustered to discuss this stance.

    • #30
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