Friday, June 07, 2002

COLLATERAL DAMAGE: The hostage situation in the Philippines ended horribly, but it ended the right way. It ended horribly because it left two hostages dead and one a widow. But it ended well because it ended with a military assault, not negotiations. Someone once argued, in National Review, I think, that the right way to deal with hostage situations is to treat the hostages as already dead. It's a horrifying thought, condemning fellow countrymen to almost certain death, and I couldn't advocate it if it my loved ones were the hostages. Most people can't approach difficult problems rationally if they're personally and emotionally involved. The government has to act in the best interests of society, and society's interests are served by making hostage-taking a futile, no-return investment. That means denying terrorists what they hope to gain from hostage taking -- publicity, ransom, and government paralysis -- by hunting them down and killing them, even at the risk of killing the hostages. We don't let the risk of collateral damage to the enemy paralyze our military operations. We can't let the risk of collateral damage to our own countrymen paralyze us either.

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