There is a long history of Europeans paying danegeld to keep the barbarians at bay—a long and unhappy history that apparently has been forgotten in some of Europe’s capitals. A very worthwhile piece in the New York Times this morning outlines how several EU countries have been paying al-Qaeda ransoms to the tune of about $125 million, thus becoming the main source of financing for a terror network wreaking havoc across the Middle East and Africa. And apart from that ugly reality, it turns out that buying off terrorists has other perverse consequences: Al-Qaeda has focused on kidnapping the citizens of countries that will reliably pay. NYT:
Of the 53 hostages known to have been taken by Qaeda’s official branches in the past five years, a third were French. And small nations like Austria, Spain and Switzerland, which do not have large expatriate communities in the countries where the kidnappings occur, account for over 20 percent of the victims.
By contrast, only three Americans are known to have been kidnapped by Al Qaeda or its direct affiliates, representing just 5 percent of the total.
“For me, it’s obvious that Al Qaeda is targeting them by nationality,” said Jean-Paul Rouiller, the director of the Geneva Center for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, who helped set up Switzerland’s counterterrorism program. “Hostages are an investment, and you are not going to invest unless you are pretty sure of a payout.”
Mr. Cohen, the United States under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said information gathered by the Treasury Department suggested that Al Qaeda may no longer want to kidnap Americans, a tectonic shift from a decade ago.
Great reporting by the New York Times here, and well worth a read all the way through. As for the Europeans, they really should have studied their Kipling better:
It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”