The New York Times reported this week that many European nations are paying ransom to Al-Quaeda for return of their kidnapped nationals. While the humanitarian impulse behind such payments is wholly understandable, they pose a clear danger to the security and ultimately to the liberty of the West, including the United States. Ransom payments encourage more kidnapping. And they fund Al-Qaeda. The substantial sums of money raised could be used to launch even more serious plots, including plots to obtain and use weapons of mass destruction. ISIS is also likely to copycat this successful strategy. And remember that Al-Qaeda disaffiliated with ISIS because the latter was too violent and extreme. (Parenthetically, I might mention that 20 years ago, I was able to walk with complete safety in Raqqa, now the de-facto capital of ISIS. That recollection, along with the memory of the old-world charm of the now decimated Aleppo, is a personal measure of the calamity that has befallen the region).
The West had better come to international legal agreements to stop such ransoms–and soon. International coordination is required because ransoming hostages of one nation endangers the security of everyone by making terrorists more powerful. The United States, which has properly refused to pay ransom, must lead the effort for international agreements here.