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Take it Easy on Algeria and France

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On January 21, 2013 @ 12:10 pm In The Point | 5 Comments

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.


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