The Islamic State’s recent actions have put U.S.’s negotiation policy into question

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The Islamic State’s recent actions have put U.S.’s negotiation policy into question

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

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The United States has a clear, unwritten policy: no negotiating with terrorists. However, there have been many exceptions to this policy over the years. For example, the Iran hostage crisis in the 70s, in which President Jimmy Carter agreed to transfer eight billion dollars in Iranian gold and frozen bank assets to Iran for the release of 52 American hostages. Additionally, there was the Iran-Contra affair in the 80s when the Reagan administration sent money and sold arms to Iran when radicals in Lebanon took American hostages. Just earlier this year, President Obama traded five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the release of a prisoner of war, Bowe Bergdahl. Regardless of the muddy lines and unclear territory of the “kidnap-for-ransom” tactic, the murders of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State terrorists are still fresh in the minds of the American people, and have yet again resurfaced the significant debate of “do not negotiate with terrorists” versus “leave no man behind.” But negotiating with terrorists is detrimental because it funds terrorist organizations, gives them the upper hand and encourages them to capture more Americans.

The United States government estimates that terrorist groups have collected nearly $120 million in ransom over the past eight years. The Islamic State demanded a $100 million ransom for Foley’s release alone. Evidently, the demands are only increasing. If the U.S. appeased every ransom demand of terrorist organizations, these groups would not only have the money and resources to use for future attacks, but also to fund their entire operation, persuade new members to join and acquire weapons and technology. Paying ransom is not just paying for the return of that citizen; it is also paying for the terrorist organization itself.

“By negotiating with terrorists, we are basically only meeting their demands,” said senior Jason Nobles. “We only help them achieve their goals.”

Pacifying the demands made by captors gives them the upper hand and the power over the situation. Essentially, it gives them the notion that their tactics are successful and will continue to be obliged in the future, and reinforces the idea that their activities are working. Negotiating with terrorists not only gives attention to their message, but it validates their methods, which they will continue to use and raise the demand every time, like a schoolyard bully.

In addition to funding their organizations and perpetuating kidnap and reward terrorism, cooperating with terrorists encourages them to capture more Americans and subsequently leads to more ransom demands, thus creating a cycle consisting only of captors receiving what they want. If kidnappers fail to receive what they want, there will be no incentive for future captures.

“Of course there are situations where it is questionable whether or not the government should be paying ransoms for kidnapped citizens, because no one wants to see an American citizen lose his or her life,” said senior Aditi Kalia. “But a line has to be drawn at some point, otherwise it will just continue to occur.”

In an educational course on government, students are taught that one of a government’s main duties to its people is to provide security from threats. The U.S. government is not providing its people with security if they are rewarding terrorist actions. The U.S. government’s stance on negotiating with terrorists has always been loose, with exceptions made from time to time. In order to get rid of this trend for good, the government and the American people need to take a firm stance against negotiating with terrorists. Regardless of political views, all American people have at least one common goal: the safety of the citizens of the United States.

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