The Real Bergdahl Error

For more than a decade, starting with a fellowship at the National Institute of Justice and subsequently conducting research in Europe and Israel, I studied hostage negotiations. Some of these were hostage and barricade situations, a tactic widely used in the 1970s and 80s by both nihilistic and irredentist terrorists. Others were hostage exchanges, like the current episode involving Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.  Officially, we never negotiated for hostages. Unofficially, we talked. In a barricade situation, where we controlled the scene, the phones, and the electronics, talk was part of the psychodrama. Talk was the conduit to life over death. And only rarely did anyone in the West, back then, deal with terrorists that actually wanted to die. Even Palestinian terrorists went into the field with elaborate, if not self-deceptive, plans about escaping. In those instances where we had no control, we strived to make a distinction between talk and negotiation. Talk meant...(Read Full Post)