[Viewpoint]The military option is not an optionThe country that had crushed hijackers most brutally was Russia. In 2004, when Chechen rebels took 1,100 primary school children and parents hostage, demanding the release of rebel prisoners and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, Russia did not budge an inch from the principle of not negotiating with terrorists.
Russia mounted a military operation two days after the outbreak of the incident, deploying special military forces. In the course of the commando attack, 331 hostages lost their lives, a tragedy.
Even that was a lower number because of the hostages’ wits. They had stealthily cut some of the wires the rebels had connected to explosives.
Though violent, there have been successful rescue operations before. In 1976, a plane flying from Paris to Tel Aviv with 269 passengers and crew was hijacked in midair by a group of Palestinians.
After the plane was forced to land at Entebbe Airport in Uganda, Israeli commando forces flew 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) from Tel Aviv to carry out a rescue mission. As the name Operation Thunderbolt suggests, the six hijackers were defeated within seconds. Only three hostages and one Israeli soldier, Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, who led the raid, were killed.
But it was a preposterous operation.
The military plane flew over the territories of many other countries and landed at the international airport of a sovereign country without permission to perform a military operation. They killed 20 Ugandan airport security forces, which mistook their arrival as that of President Idi Amin from his overseas trip, and destroyed 11 fighter planes. And then they left Uganda with the Israeli hostages. It was more than enough reason for Uganda to declare war against Israel.
The reason I elaborate on the well-known hostage rescue operations is because I have a feeling there are people still fanning the theory that a military operation against the Taliban would save the lives of Korean hostages.
Some say that we could possibly send the Anti-terror Special Force 707 to Afghanistan to rescue the Koreans held there. Others say that we must punish the Taliban by dispatching a large number of combat troops. Their voices are too loud not to notice.
According to an opinion poll, almost half of Koreans, 43 percent to be exact, approve of a military operation.
But that is just not possible in reality. There is nothing we can gain, even if it is made possible by some chance, while there is a lot we can lose.
First of all, we must carry out a clandestine operation like the one Israeli special forces performed in Uganda, because there is no chance that the government of Afghanistan would permit such a mission. It is not possible at all.
Unlike the Entebbe operation, we do not have information on the accurate location of the Koreans in the hands of Taliban.
Since they are held scattered around in civilian houses, it is difficult to carry out raids on multiple targets simultaneously.
It could easily end up in failure, as happened in Russia.
They say it is difficult to discern Taliban from non-Taliban residents. For instance, an elder brother may be a Taliban and the younger one a policeman, but their positions could later be reversed. They say things like this are common in Afghanistan.
Why should Russia pull out troops from that country after all? If a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda intervenes during the military operation, a worst-case scenario would be a suicide bomb attack in the center of Seoul.
We must behave calmly. It is also not right to criticize the government for its helplessness.
We must support the government so it can pursue all possible means, except the military option.
We must persuade the Taliban, the Afghan government or even Pakistan and the United States, if necessary.
If it is necessary, we have to pay a ransom and appeal to Afghanistan’s government to release the Taliban prisoners. We can make money later and the Taliban prisoners can be captured again. We must show our gratitude to the Afghan government in other ways.
But there should be a good cause for Afghanistan and the United States to agree to the release of Taliban prisoners. They cannot simply say, “We will release the prisoners.”
Let’s cool down, give them some room, watch the situation and hope for the safe return of the hostages.
We have already watched the kidnapping of Korean seamen in Somalia for more than 80 days.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom