Winning a War versus Paying a Ransom


You may have seen the 1996 movie Ransom starring Mel Gibson playing Tom Mullen. Tom’s son is kidnapped and suspecting that even if he pays the ransom his son will be killed he gives the kidnappers two options. Return his son and that will be the end of the matter. Alternatively, if his son is harmed he will offer a very large reward to whoever who will bring the kidnappers to justice. Or something like that. There is no third option where he pays any ransom demand. As you can imagine, no-one, most particularly his wife, agrees with his strategy.

It’s the movies, it works out fine. The taking by Iran of American embassy hostages in November 1979 is a real life example. They were released minutes after President Reagan’s inauguration in January 1981. A coincidence? Republicans don’t think so. Democrats do. Me, I generally don’t believe in coincidences. It couldn’t have done any harm in having a tough-talking President who before his inauguration repudiated paying a ransom to “barbarians.”

Both the movie and the Iranian hostage situation were far simpler in construct than the situation facing Israel. Tom Mullen simply wanted his son freed; and America, the hostages. Israel wants hostages freed and the war won against those who took them. And in circumstances in which Hamas terrorists and the Geneva Convention occupy different solar systems.

Obviously Israel would like to achieve both of its objectives. But, at times, one or other must be given priority? For example, how extensively does Israel flood or bomb tunnels knowing that it might kill hostages? Dilemmas of this kind must arise all of the time. Superman (1978) managed to thwart Lex Luthor’s scheme of coincidentally sending nuclear-armed missiles to two places – distant from each other. But that’s Superman for you.

I have been struck by interviews I’ve seen of family members of the hostages and by some Israeli street demonstrations. The tenor of their view seems to be that the freeing of hostages should be prioritised over winning the war. One family member after meeting with Netanyahu was reported as saying that he had agreed that freeing hostages was the top priority. Netanyahu may have said this for compassionate and political reasons but he can’t afford to act on it.

My children or parents or siblings or wife have not been captured by Hamas barbarians, so I am not judging the attitude of family members whose loved ones are being held hostage or their supporters. However, it is damaging to national security if the national psyche is attuned to prioritising the freeing of hostages. Imagine how easy it would be to win a conflict against such a nation.

The only winning option is to take the position of Tom Mullen and Reagan, war or no war. And maybe behind the scenes that is what Netanyahu and his government are actually doing. Willing to risk the lives of hostages. Giving priority to winning the war. Perhaps, at the same time, making it clear that releasing the hostages unharmed will count in the favour of Hamas terrorists after the war is won (apart from those complicit in the savagery of October 7). And putting Hamas leaders on notice that they will be on a hit list until all hostages are freed. If there’s another viable option, what is it?


17 responses to “Winning a War versus Paying a Ransom”

  1. Bazinga Avatar
    Bazinga

    Never negotiate with terrorists. If one needs practice try it with demanding kids. From the greater good point of view, act as if the hostages are dead and threaten the enemy accordingly. They won’t try it a second time.

  2. Katzenjammer Avatar
    Katzenjammer

    I read once about this – about battles against terrorists. When confronted with an enemy holding a hostage as a sheild, if the ultimate aim is to rid the enemy, it could be best to shoot the hostage so the enemy loses its protection. The alternative could end up with the death of both yourself and the hostage.

  3. Aaron Avatar
    Aaron

    Kidnap the Hamas leaders’ family.

  4. Tintarella di Luna Avatar
    Tintarella di Luna

    Kidnap the Hamas leaders’ family.

    . Doesn’t work with savages

  5. Gerard Barry Avatar
    Gerard Barry

    We need to start ridiculing Hamas and their supporters, which is something the Western world is good at. We do it to ourselves, so why not do it to the religion of pieces and their navel-gazing supporters.

    Let’s start by forever calling Hamas and all their supporters everywhere “hamas-holes”? If people are triggered by hyphens, “Hamasholes” is permitted.

  6. Cassie of Sydney Avatar
    Cassie of Sydney

    I think most of the remaining hostages are dead, and Israel knows this.

  7. Chris Avatar
    Chris

    Doesn’t work with savages

    Kaiser Sorze approach is the only way.

  8. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    Imagine how easy it would be to win a conflict against such a nation.

    I’ve often thought that if the CCP ever intended to invade Taiwan one of its first actions in preparation would be to prevent foreigners from leaving China.

  9. Mantaray Avatar
    Mantaray

    Then there’s the NSW police’s 4th Possibility: F’ck it up and kill the hostages in the Lindt cafe yourself.

    .

  10. duncanm Avatar
    duncanm

    Cassie of Sydney
    Jan 7, 2024 9:22 AM
    I think most of the remaining hostages are dead, and Israel knows this.

    exactly – has there been any proof of life sent from Hamas?

  11. Speedbox Avatar
    Speedbox

    The taking by Iran of American embassy hostages in November 1979 is a real life example. They were released minutes after President Reagan’s inauguration in January 1981. A coincidence? Republicans don’t think so. Democrats do. Me, I generally don’t believe in coincidences. It couldn’t have done any harm in having a tough-talking President who before his inauguration repudiated paying a ransom to “barbarians.”

    Following the disastrous, and utterly humiliating, attempt at rescue the hostages under the Carter Administration, the rumour was that emissaries of Reagan (after he has won the election) made it known to anybody that was listening that Reagan will authorise military action within hours of his inauguration. The USA will attempt rescue but that was secondary. This was about the restoration of American military pride and a salutary ‘lesson’ that the American citizens were not bargaining chips.

    In other words, whether the hostages are rescued or not, the USA will wreak havoc on Tehran and any other site they choose as a lesson to Iran, and anybody else. The USA is in no mood to play ‘games’ any longer.

    This ‘rumour’ received plenty of airplay prior to Reagan being sworn in – I recall hearing about it. Whether it was real or just a few journalists being mischievous, I don’t know.

  12. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Yes I heard that as well Speedbox.

    I’d suggest The Gipper was deadly serious.

  13. Speedbox Avatar
    Speedbox

    Another great story from that era…….

    On 30th September 1985, pro-Iranian Shiites kidnapped four attaches (Arkady Katkov, Valery Myrikov, Oleg Spirin and Nikolai Svirsky) from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut and warned that the hostages would be executed, one by one, unless the then Soviet Union persuaded pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling Hezbollah strongholds in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli.

    On that occasion, the ‘Oppressed of the Earth’ were billing themselves as agents of the (thought folded) “Islamic Liberation Organization,” but the KBG (now the FSB) had no doubts about who they really were.

    Although the Soviets attempted to open channels for quiet negotiations, there was no let-up in the artillery shelling. Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of one of the four hostages (Katkov), was found, shot multiple times, on a Beirut rubbish dump. So much for quiet negotiations. Having gotten the message, the Soviets decided to send one back.

    KGB agents knew the names of the prominent Hezbollah leadership and identified the names and addresses of numerous close blood relatives of those leaders. They then kidnapped one relative, castrated him, and sent his severed organs to a particular Hezbollah leader.

    The package was accompanied by a terse note indicating that the KGB knew the names of other relatives and that the Hezbollah leadership could expect many similar deliveries unless the three remaining hostages were freed forthwith. The Russians also made dark threats about missile attacks on the Iranian capital Tehran and the holy city of Qom. The Soviets were in no mood to play games and wanted their remaining embassy staff returned in good health – now.

    It didn’t take any time for Hezbollah to realize it was dealing with a different breed of “Great Satan.” The three surviving hostages were dropped off only 150 metres from the Soviet Embassy from a late-model BMW that sped away. Hezbollah had obviously concluded that challenging the Russians could lead to more painful and destructive consequences than simply losing face.

    It’s worth noting that this was the last time anyone heard of the “Islamic Liberation Organization.” By a not-so-remarkable coincidence, it was also the last time Hezbollah messed with any Soviets in Lebanon.

  14. DrBeauGan Avatar
    DrBeauGan

    Conclusion:

    Showing you are a nice guy doesn’t work. Showing that you are a nastier bastard than them does.

    Why can’t everybody see this? It’s obvious to me.

  15. JC Avatar
    JC

    Why can’t everybody see this? It’s obvious to me.

    Of course it isn’t just you. I’ve lived with that dictum my entire adult life.

  16. GreyRanga Avatar
    GreyRanga

    I like, well not like the way Saddam Hussein kept power, you mess with me and every relative you have is going to die. Drastic yes, drastic measures are required against scum like hamas, hezbollah and the rest. You cannot reason with filth, treat them like it. I know the bedwetters will think I’m terrible for suggesting such a thing. This bullshit that muzzies get up to has to stop. When it comes to muzzies there are no innocents. Don’t feed me a line about becoming as bad as them. They can’t even live together without fighting as to who’s tge best muzzie. Eff the lot of them. Suppose we could tell mutley they taste like Krispy Kremes.

  17. Simon Morgan Avatar
    Simon Morgan

    The blame for any hostages killed should be placed squarely where it belongs – on Hamas.

    They seem to get a free pass from the media for their medieval barbarity, almost as though we shouldn’t really expect Hamas proponents to behave in a civilized manner, and it’s not their fault.

    Well, it is their fault.

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