cover image We Want to Negotiate: The Secret World of Kidnapping, Hostages and Ransom

We Want to Negotiate: The Secret World of Kidnapping, Hostages and Ransom

Joel Simon. Columbia Global Reports, $15.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-999-74542-7

This concise, well-reasoned treatise takes as its central question whether governments should make concessions—in particular, ransom payments—when dealing with political kidnappings. To Simon, who has worked for nearly 20 years at the Committee to Protect Journalists, the question is a matter not just of political will or moral philosophy but also of who lives and who dies. Simon notes that, while there are enormous numbers of kidnappings around the world, the seizing of Westerners by terror groups is a relatively rare event. Because of the emotions surrounding these events, the results assume a significance greater than the numbers would suggest. Western governments are divided into two camps: the U.S. and U.K. fall into the “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” camp, and most of continental Europe negotiates and pays ransom. Simon’s statistics show that European hostages are likely to come home alive and American and U.K. hostages are likely to die. He carefully and clearly presents the central arguments for both sides so that all readers will understand how he reaches his conclusion that “no one should have to die for a policy that isn’t working.” General readers will find the material enlightening, and those professionally involved will find it essential. (Jan.)