SOCIAL SCIENCES

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

Columbia Global Reports. Jan. 2019. 189p. maps. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780999745427. $14.99. POL SCI
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OrangeReviewStarSimon worked at the Committee To Protect Journalists for two decades. A number of journalists were kidnapped during his tenure, and this brief volume attempts to disentangle the debate over how to respond to hostage situations. Examinations into several high-profile kidnappings in the Middle East and South America evaluate different situations (criminal, political, terrorist, state-sponsored), and how Western countries have reacted. The central question surrounds the ethical, legal, and strategic problem involved in paying ransom for hostages. Some governments make it a priority to bring the hostage home; British and U.S. policy is to refuse to negotiate or pay any type of ransom, although this is often observed in the breach. Simon shows there is a business model for insuring high-risk private citizens, such as CEOs, with attendant negotiation and recovery efforts by the insurer. Hostage rescue by military or private organizations is an option, generally after negotiation has failed.
VERDICT This readable and well-argued book is essential for ethics, journalism, and international relations collections, and a valuable rubric for assessing hostage policy, whether by governments, individuals, or businesses.

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