The
current terrorist plots are not another 911 or suicide bombing in New York. They’re
an agonizingly simple and effective ploy that better suits their available
resources: they simply behead Westerners. Cheap and effective.

Effective
because it puts them at little risk and either pulls in ransom or, in lieu of
that, produces an unending worldwide press orgy that shows off the power of the
powerless. Cheap because it’s frighteningly easy to grab a foreigner and dangle
his fate before the world. Western media can’t possibly ignore the videos. Pretty
good marketing for an extortion formula such as has never been seen.

This gruesome
recipe is enhanced by the innocence of the victims. Other than the Jordanian
pilot, they are for the most part journalists, workers for NGOs and others who
are well-meaning in an area where meaning well can lose you your head. The
agony of families, pleading for mercy simply keeps the pot boiling. Mercy is
not a player in the game.
Up
until now, America and a few other countries steadfastly refused to pay off in
the belief that paying breeds additional kidnappings. Yet these events keep
happening and refusals haven’t worked either. We desperately need another Good
Idea.
David
McAdams has just such a Good Idea, as he explains in a New York Times article titled The
Right Way to Pay Ransoms to Terrorists
. The title itself is compelling.
David
suggests we use the same framework that has been so productive in Mafia
prosecutions and white-collar crime, where nailing the bad guys was virtually
impossible, no matter the resources thrown at them. Whole divisions of the
Justice Department were put in play and yet Al Capone finally was finally put
away for tax evasion instead of killings and extortion.
McAdams says
pay the big bucks, whatever it takes, but only for informants who are promised
immunity from prosecution, a safe haven (meaning relocation to a Western
nation) and a witness protection program to sweeten the deal. That’s the
solution that finally broke the Mafia and led, if not to prison, at least to
hundreds of billions in penalties for white-collar criminals.
Someone knows who
and where these kidnapped are being held and a growing number of those who know are unhappy about it or
disenchanted with their lives in ISIS, al Qaeda or Boko Haram. But they’re
afraid and logically so. They’ve been in
the game
and now that the game has changed, they’re unable to get out.
Disloyalty doesn’t have much of a life-expectancy among militant
organizations.
We’ve been
doing just this for decades
in the federal fight against major criminals. That’s
not only a Good Idea, but it doesn’t require any weakening of US principles in
the battle—not that principles meant a damn at
Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. But this is a
defensible approach that won’t cause an international backlash.
The
government’s bait has always been to arrest a minor dude and plea-bargain him (or her) into
testifying against the big dudes. In this case, the bait is getting out of an organization
you no longer believe in, making big bucks at it and finding safety elsewhere. Better
yet, no need to go public. Just give over the information, cash in and let Seal Team Six take
care of the details. That’s a pretty shiny bait to cast throughout the terrorist
world.
Somehow
I think kidnappings, beheadings and burning hostages alive may become far less
popular.
You
can read David’s NYT article here.