Humor Magazine

Hostages Are Rarely of Operational Importance - Get Used to It!

By Davidduff

Before I begin I should make clear that my hard-hearted title does not refer to situations in which the hostages are held in territory controlled by us, for example, the Iranian embassy seige in London in 1980.  In those circumstances there is a compelling political imperative to carry out a rescue operation because no government could allow such an affront to its authority.  However, even then the well-being of the hostages is secondary to killing all the perpetrators and regaining command of home territory.

However, when it comes to hostages held prisoner in lands controlled by our enemies then the political imperative changes.  Most hostages in foreign lands are there because they chose to place themselves in areas where such an outcome was a reasonable threat.  They do so for a variety of reasons, some because they allowed their humanitarian instincts to overcome their commonsense, others because of their desire to pick up a scoop story for the media, and some because they are stupid enough to sail their yachts anywhere near the East African coast!

As always - well, it should be always but often I wonder - the political rules the operational.  By 'political', of course, I mean national strategic interest.  Needless to say, most politicians when using the word 'political' mean what's good or bad in it for them!  Thus, President Obama, no doubt encouraged by his very top 'brass' who, as always, were eager for kudos in the media and thus leverage for increased military budgets, was equally eager for a 'happy-clappy' Christmas story that would help burnish his rust-eaten credentials as a president.  And so, a week ago the order was given to attempt the rescue of two hostages held in Syria.

Big Fail!  Both hostages were murdered and the only good news was that the team managed to get in and out without casualties, and that a dozen or so Islamist fighters were killed.  So the question must be asked, why risk the lives of your own servicemen on missions which are doomed to failure before you even begin?  After this fiasco I heard an interview with an old CIA hand who had operated in the Middle East for years and who had been involved in trying to plan similar rescue missions.  In effect, he said they were all a complete waste of time and effort because the chances of success were minimal.  He sounded like a man who knew where-of he spoke!

However, there might be occasions in which hostages might actually be useful as a catalyst for operations.  Of course, they would be, so to speak, 'operations which dare not speak their name'!  Where hostages are gathered means that some enemy forces are also gathered, as guards, if nothing else, and if they are of sufficient size and importance, and even more so if some senior commanders are also present as well, then they might constitute a target worth attacking.  Whether or not the hostages are actually rescued - probably not! - is of very low priority.  The important thing is that their presence demands the presence of enemy fighters as guards who then may be worth attacking and killing.  Apart from anything else, if such attacks were kept up it might make the job of being a hostage guard very unpopular!

Meanwhile, please will our leaders just give up on chasing the cheap headlines! Ah, take that as a 'no', shall I?


Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog