Sunday, January 25, 2015

Three Points regarding the Hostage Crisis

I was going to refrain from further comment on the ongoing hostage crisis for the time being. However…

First, there are a good number of people in Japan who are indifferent or even hostile to the hostages because one of them went to Syria to build a career as a professional paramilitary and the other, who went to rescue him, did so on his own self-admitted responsibility while fully aware of the risk. The implication for many of the people who hold these views is that the Japanese government should not be expending its resources to recover them. Everyone is free to form his opinions regarding the two men and their actions, but the two men did not do anything illegal when they left Japan, and they are not being detained by lawful authorities. More important, protecting its citizens abroad is one of the basic functions of a sovereign state. Of course the Japanese government must do everything within its power without unduly compromising other foreign policy objectives. A point, incidentally, that the journalist who went on his “own responsibility” will hopefully live to appreciate.

Second, there are people who think that Prime Minister Abe is just going through the motions because there’s nothing that his administration can do. This says more about the people who express this view than about Mr. Abe himself. There is little to be gleaned from the fact that the deadline has come and gone without a word from Islamic State, but the resultant uncertainty is undeniable. I have no idea what the Abe administration is doing/can do, but what outsider does? For example, if Turkey tightened border controls, the IS oil trade and supply lines would be seriously compromised. Would Prime Minister Erdogan deliver a credible threat on behalf of his buddy Mr. Abe? Could face-saving statements (and a discreet, roundabout payment) be crafted that would enable IS to release the hostages? I don’t know. But to claim otherwise and look on the Abe administration’s efforts with disdain is arrogance and/or cynicism. In the meantime, do not be sure that the Japanese government will refrain from paying a ransom, as if that were the international norm. Europe is also committed to refrain from paying ransoms. Yet a Yomiuri search (Jan. 23) showed that IS was known to have taken 16 Europeans excluding British citizens hostage in Syria, of whom only one, a Russian, was killed and the other 15 released. Of the seven U.S. and British hostages taken, five have been killed while the other two remain in custody. Go figure.

Third, RD wondered why there was so little coverage of the crisis in the Western media. My take on that is that other things being equal (emphasis on the word “equal”), the Western media’s priority adheres to the following order of priority:

1.      Citizens of the media outlet’s home country
2.      Other Whites
3.      Middle East locals
4.      Asians
5.      Sub-Saharan locals

Is this racism? Not by my definition, but some will say yes.


Sophie said...

« War is boring » had a piece about Haruna Yukawa a few months ago. His story is bizarre to say the least. Sad to see him meeting such a fate, but hard for a government like Japan to intervene for him.
It’s always seemed to me as if the Japanese government tends to blame hostages for their situations, I remember parents apologizing for their kids being taken hostage and giving trouble to the government.

Jan Moren said...

The largest Swedish daily paper does cover the Japanese hostages, including a piece about one of their mothers plea for his return. They are not front-page news of course - but then, neither is the coverage of European hostages, news of which is covered in much the same way.

I'd rather say the order seems to be 1) own country; 2) other first-world countries; 3) the rest.

Jun Okumura said...

Sophie, Jan: Your samples and views on media coverage are appreciated. This is a subject that an international consortium of political science quants could do justice to.

Sophie: Mr. Yukawa was certainly a troubled man who went a great ways to create his own predicament. But the government of a liberal democracy is nonetheless obligated to protect citizens like him and, of course, Mr. Goto.