Before decapitating American photojournalist James Foley in the desert dirt, the insurgents of Islamic State sought – and failed – to persuade the United States to pay a multimillion-dollar ransom for his release. The U.S., in keeping with its long-standing policy, declined to pay.
Now, with Foley’s fellow journalist Steven Sotloff still in the clutches of the fundamentalist group, that harshly practical policy has come under scrutiny. Critics want to know how the U.S. can justify turning its back on an American in trouble.
It’s a good question. But the U.S. policy is the right one.
It takes money to wage war, and in the last six months Islamic State has released at least 10 European hostages after extorting ransoms from their governments and families – as much as $10 million in one reported case. An additional 20 hostages (many of them foreign aid workers) remain in its hands.
Our hearts go out to Foley’s family, and we shudder at Sotloff’s possible fate. To cut a deal, however, would not only put dollars into the hands of the very terrorists the U.S. is trying to stamp out, but, more importantly, would embolden the extremists to kidnap more Americans.