The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Max Boot on paying ransom, past and present


An interesting Wall Street Journal op-ed by Max Boot (I've provided the Google search because that's not covered by the Journal paywall). Boot notes that America has indeed paid ransom on various occasions in the past:

"No ransom for hostages" is a sound principle but one that has often been violated. The U.S. has paid ransom for hostages, with mixed results, since the early days of the republic.

But he concludes, I think persuasively, that this is not a wise approach:

It is regrettable, indeed infuriating, that so many U.S. allies pay ransom, which encourages more hostage-taking and more terrorism in general. The New York Times estimates that al Qaeda and its various affiliates earned more than $125 million from hostage-taking between 2008 and 2014. That makes kidnapping a major - perhaps the major - revenue stream for many of these groups. Paying ransom subsidizes violent extremists to make war on the rest of us.