The government has approved a new kidnapping policy that actually clears the government to get involved when US citizens are kidnapped overseas. Before, it only got involved if the kidnapped person was out of the country on government business, or was employed by the government.

I think this policy is still too weak. I think that the government ought to make it clear that the US will respond with force to kidnappings of Americans overseas. One of the favorite fund-raising activities of insurgents around the world is kidnapping Americans and holding them for ransom. If the government responded to these kidnappings by sending in the special forces, then kidnapping for dollars would cease to be profitable and worthwhile for these groups. Can we stop terrorism? I doubt it. Can we stop (or at least slow down) the kidnapping and ransoming of American citizens? Probably.

To get an idea of how common kidnapping has become, check out this snippet of a book review from the New York Times:

As she [Ann Hagedorn Auerbach] reports in ”Ransom,” worldwide kidnappings have soared from a total of 951 in 73 countries between 1968 and 1982 to 6,500 in Latin America alone in 1995. By 1996 there were four kidnappings a day in Colombia, the Fort Knox of ransom proceeds, with $328.9 million forked over by corporations and families from 1991 through 1994.

I think it’s time to put an end to these kidnappings as rapidly as possible. It’s imperative for travellers overseas to use common sense and be as cautious as possible — it’s easy to be a victim when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings and your camera cost you more money than the locals earn in a year. However, personal responsiblity aside, these kidnappings are happening because ransoming foreigners is a sound business strategy for the kidnappers. That has to change.