No, this isn’t about “climate change.” The temperatures I have in mind measure the warmth of other countries’ regimes toward Americans.
Apparently, Americans who dare to leave the increasingly questionable security of these United States to pursue activities in other nations are in danger of being kidnapped – by those nations’ governments:
The risk of Americans being held on spurious charges by a foreign government is now so widespread that the State Department warns U.S. citizens against traveling to countries accounting for nearly a quarter of the world’s population. In diplomatic parlance, those nine nations are classified “D” for the risk of detention.
Classification D is America’s gathering new reality: an increasingly piratical global system where the taking and trading of foreign citizens—once the preserve of guerrilla bands or fundamentalist insurgencies—has become a tactic deployed by nuclear states.
U.S. corporations that once imagined their futures in mainland China have largely stopped sending executives to the world’s second-largest economy, for fear they’ll get stuck there. American athletes and chess grandmasters whose predecessors competed in Moscow through some of the Cold War’s tensest moments stepped back from that peacemaking tradition after Russia arrested basketball gold medalist Brittney Griner on drug charges. Following Gershkovich’s arrest, even Western news agencies that based foreign correspondents in Moscow under Joseph Stalin pulled out. In a remarkable restriction on American travel freedoms, the U.S. currently bans its passport holders from entering North Korea, to avoid handing supreme leader Kim Jong Un another human pawn.
Now, it’s hardly a secret that there are countries that don’t like us much. However, the kidnapping of foreign nationals was once regarded as a casus belli. That’s how Thomas Jefferson regarded it, anyway. He sent a sizable force into the Mediterranean to put a stop to it. You may recall the phrase “Barbary pirates,” which referred to Berber Muslims’ practice of capturing Americans and American-flagged vessels and holding them for ransom.
It seems we’re more sophisticated today. Private pirates seldom take Americans captive for ransom. Instead, governments do it.
Unfortunately, the Usurper Administration doesn’t seem to grasp the nub of the thing:
The Biden administration, which spent months debating how to bring home Americans while deterring others from being taken, has attempted a pairing of concessions and threats. It has openly and explicitly acknowledged its willingness to make prisoner trades—a signal its predecessors were reluctant to send—while pledging tougher sanctions for offenders. [Emphasis added]
Once a captive’s freedom becomes purchasable for a price, a market has formed. The trade in captives will accelerate. The sole question is at what price the market will stabilize.
A story I’ve used more than once, which dates back to the Seventies, illustrates two contrasting approaches to this atrocity:
“It seems that, back then, Islamic terrorists preferred to ransom infidel captives rather than kill them. They took quite a number of such captives, and for a while they received a great deal of money for them. One group that had made a pile kidnapping and ransoming Westerners decided to try the game on a Soviet agent. But the KGB didn’t respond the way their Western victims’ governments had. Instead it performed a counter-kidnapping of one of the group’s members, and returned him to his confreres in pieces, in a plastic bag. There was a note on the bag, in Russian and Arabic. It said, ‘This is the way we play.’ The kidnapped Soviet agent was back with his comrades within twenty-four hours, alive and whole. No Soviet agent was molested ever again.”
As I say all too often, verbum sat sapienti.
Time was, it was pirates – the masters of privately-owned vessels that ranged the seas – that took captives, ransomed them, and often sold them into slavery. Piracy has been understood to be a heinous crime for many centuries. Pirates are regarded as “enemies of all Mankind,” and thus are deemed outlaw by all the nations of the world…at least, formally. But when governments practice piracy, what then?
It’s a difficult subject. I wrote about it in a fictional setting. Stephen Graham Sumner got away with his brinksmanship, but since Kennedy no American president has been willing to openly threaten nuclear assault on another nuclear power. The downside risk is daunting, to say the least.
But when the government of another nuclear state turns pirate, and seeks to ransom captive American citizens for “concessions” or a “prisoner exchange,” what alternatives to threatening nuclear annihilation exist? Economic sanctions have achieved little. So the horror of international trade in human lives continues as before…and the price sovereign pirates demand for their “goods” continues to escalate.