Monday, September 03, 2007

Should We Negotiate with Terrorists?

Although we can rejoice that the South Korean missionaries who were being held hostage were finally released last week and returned home yesterday, there is some sobering discussion on whether the S. Korean government did the right thing in negotiating with the Taliban for their release. Has the government set a dangerous precedent for future relations with the Taliban regarding hostages and meeting unreasonable demands from an unreasonable terrorist group? CBC reports that (Canadian) Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier expressed regret late Wednesday over South Korea's handling of the crisis.

"We do not negotiate with terrorists, for any reason," said a statement from Bernier's office. "Such negotiations, even if unsuccessful, only lead to further acts of terrorism."

It is something to consider, especially when you have the Taliban releasing statements like this on the hostages' release:

"We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful"
- Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi.

I remember back when missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham were kidnapped and held hostage for over a year in the Philippines by the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. The US government stayed out of negotiations, as did the mission agency that the Burnhams were a part of, in order to discourage kidnapping of missionaries and foreign travelers. The Burnham's ordeal ended with Martin's death and Gracia's rescue by the Philippine army. Of course, everyone wondered at the time, did the US government and the mission agency do the right thing by not negotiating their release? Shouldn't they have made every effort to rescue the Burnhams from their captors? Or, should we take the view that even though one life was lost, many more saved as a result?

Should the South Korean government have stayed out of the hostage affair? Should we ever make concessions to terrorists in order to save lives, or will many more lives now be lost as a result?

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