Take it Easy on Algeria and France

Hostage situations are not easy to resolve. When the hostage-takers go in ready and even eager to die, then they are nearly impossible to end without a bloodbath. It’s been done, but not easily.

Some commentators were a little too eager to mock France for its failed rescue attempt of a prisoner. The operation was botched, but such failures are not uncommon in the early stages of a conflict on a new terrain. The United States similarly suffered several disasters in the early days of the war in Afghanistan. Operation Gecko and the Battle of Roberts Ridge come to mind.

Russia has similarly gotten a lot of flak for the Moscow Theater Siege and Beslan, and there were things that they did wrong, but overall the results were about what you might expect. There have been successful hostage rescues on a large scale, including the Japanese embassy hostage rescue in ’96, the Air France Flight 8969 hijacking and the Iranian embassy siege in ’80, but those all took place in known and “friendly” territory.

A hostage rescue in hostile territory involving heavily armed terrorists who are familiar with the terrain and have practiced the operation is risky and the odds of success are never good. The death of Linda Norgrove comes to mind. Such operations involve a great deal of risk for an extremely uncertain outcome and even when they fail, they should be seen as heroic efforts, rather than blunders.

  • Indio Viejo

    Daniel, we need to accept collateral damage in these operations as an inevitable risk. We can not accept terrorist demands, but we should make it extremely painful for the terrorist. Lets keep in mind the operation conducted by the Israelis to eliminate the terrorist involved in the Munich massacre. This should be a starting point in this war.

  • Larry

    And anybody with a bit of functional grey matter will know why the US wasn't sent a warning notice that it was about to happen.

    That's because if said note had been sent the MB would have known immediately.

  • Edgar Davidson

    What about Entebbe? The Israelis had to fly 2400 miles (requiring inflight refuelling over hostile territory) to what was an enemy country. The 106 hostages were guarded not just by the 9 heavily armed terrorists but by an entire battalion of Ugandan troops. The raid resulted in just 3 hostage fatalities and one Israeli commando fatality. Every terrorist and several Ugandan soldiers were killed. The hostages were all returned to Israel.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Almost all.

      But that's why Entebbe was an amazing and miraculous operation.

  • JacksonPearson

    IMO, what's needed are a large multi-national special forces teams scattered world wide, NOT under UN or NATO command, that can respond ASAP to situations like this, that will take NO prisoners. Violence must be met with violence. There have to be a price paid. BTW, how about financing a project like this with Arab oil monies?