Foley’s execution is also a chilling wake-up call for American and European policymakers, as well as U.S. news outlets and aid organizations. It is the clearest evidence yet of how vastly different responses to kidnappings by U.S. and European governments save European hostages but can doom the Americans. Hostages and their families realize this fully—even if the public does not.
The cases have taken on a grim pattern: Hostages are abducted, months pass with no news from the captors, and a threatening video or email is then sent to families. In some cases, the militants ask that cases not be made public so ransom can be paid quietly.
Foley believed that his government would help him, according to his family. In a message that was not made public, Foley said that he believed so strongly that Washington would help that he refused to allow his fellow American captives to not believe in their government.
A consistent response to kidnapping by the U.S. and Europe is desperately needed. The current haphazard approach is failing.