The Hostage-Policy Review, Reviewed

Some hard-won opinion about Obama’s hostage-policy review can be found at the NewsHour, where I was interviewed by Margaret Warner, and at Al-Jazeera America and Deutsche Welle TV. My talk last week at the Wilson Center is also online.

Briefly: Obama’s new policy moves in the right direction, since it clarifies who’s in charge during a hostage case and loosens the flow of information. I suspect the new “fusion cell” will create a new layer of bureaucracy, but the old confusion caused by a 2002 Bush directive about hostage cases, which Obama has replaced, should be gone. America’s ongoing “no concession” policy will not prevent kidnappings, compared with European policy — abduction rates for Americans and Europeans are about the same — but Obama’s review was never going to change that. A no-concession policy without consistent, successful rescue by force, I’m afraid, is no deterrent at all.

In that sense my Politico piece from last March is still relevant. More ideas from Austin Tice’s family can be heard at CBS This Morning. Oh, and flip-flops by Fox News on the whole issue have been traced over here.

Michael Scott Moore is a literary journalist and a novelist, author of a comic novel about L.A., Too Much of Nothing, as well as a travel book about surfing, Sweetness and Blood, which was named a best book of 2010 by The Economist. He was kidnapped in 2012 on a reporting trip to Somalia and held hostage for two and a half years. The Desert and the Sea, a memoir about that ordeal, is out now from HarperCollins.

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October 25, 2018

CIEE Berlin


Gneisenaustraße 27
10961 Berlin

Hinterhof, downstairs lecture room

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My review of Ingrid Betancourt's first novel, The Blue Line, is up at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

While I was in Somalia a man called Geoff Carter wrote about a picture of Indian men surfing on stand-up boards around 1800 off Chennai, which altered the known history of surfing a bit, even though the picture was hiding in plain sight at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The men from the Naham 3 are all friends of mine — a crew of 26 sailors from southeast Asia who worked on a tuna long-liner flagged in Oman but owned by a company in Taiwan, which abandoned them after Somali pirates hijacked the ship in 2012.

A version of what happened in Somalia is available as a Long Read at The Guardian, and, in somewhat shorter form, for German readers, in Der Spiegel. It’s not even near complete. Enormous parts of the story have been left untold.



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