Should the US government pay ransom money for American hostages held overseas?

Background

On October 16, the Haitian gang “400 Mawozo” kidnapped 17 American missionaries and demanded a ransom of $1 million each. The FBI and other US agencies were “part of a coordinated US government effort” to free the missionaries, though officials have been silent about sensitive details.

This case raises a difficult ethical question: the US has long held a policy that “We do not negotiate with terrorists,” but don’t we have a moral obligation to protect Americans who are held hostage overseas?

Discussion Questions

1. If you think the US government should not pay ransom money, do you think it is morally justifiable to kill the kidnappers? Why or why not?

2. The “YES” side has a premise that it is strategically unwise to announce a “no-ransom” policy because this limits the government’s ability to negotiate with kidnappers. Do you agree? If so, why is it important to be able to negotiate?

3. The “NO” side argues that the government has to take the big picture instead of focusing on the specific situations of a few individuals who get kidnapped. Do you agree? Why or why not?

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