" -- I'm opposed as a matter of both practical calculation and of moral
principle to paying blackmail under any circumstances whatsoever; let the
consequences be what they may."
"Hostages should be rescued by force and hostage-takers killed; if the
hostages die, that's regrettable but unavoidable collateral damage."
"Negotiation with hostage-takers should be pursued, but (and this should be
announced as a principle beforehand) only to set them up for attack; no
promises to hostage-takers will ever be honored and they will always be
killed out of hand at the first opportunity (delayed sometimes by interrogation,
but not for long)."
"War to the knife, and the knife to the throat."
"Best to assume hostages are dead regardless and aim to kill the hostage takers. After a while the practice of taking hostages will cease. Tough on the first few hostages, but lives are saved in the long run."
My friends' comments shock me. So I outline a possible response.
Sounds like a Kaiser Souse' scenario: "You threaten my family? Hah! I kill my family, myself, before you! Now who you threaten, eh?"
If it's your wife or child or sibling or mother (anamchara?) who's being held hostage, you may give up honor, dignity, wealth, country and everything else to retrieve them safely. After they're safe you may or may not kill the bad guys and everyone who looks like them, but first is the safety of your own closest loved ones. Anything else is ego, not love.
There's a hierarchy of abstraction in who or what you love more than yourself. After family there's tribe and country, and more generally there's principle, such as honor, religious belief, justice, science, reputation, etc.
Regardless of what you identify with or love most, it's a toss up as to whether you'll be seen as a person of principle or a monster. Depends on who's looking and what they love most.
At some point Kant sticks his nose in and asks if our identification or love is a hypothetical imperative or a categorical imperative (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative).
If we will so act to defend or rescue what we love most, do others have the right to act similarly to defend what they love most. What if our actions and theirs are in conflict? And does anyone have the right to assume that what they love most trumps what anyone else loves most, whether it's people or principle or thing?
(Those who identify only with material things rather than principle or other persons are generally held to be missing part of their humanity. Those who don't identify with anything or anyone and act only for themselves and their own benefit are considered psychopaths or sociopaths, and are usually excluded from society, or made a leader - perhaps on the theory that if they are the state they will act in the best interest of the state.)
This is one of my favorite mud puddles for wallowing in, but it's all too easy to get upset about each others' positions and declarations. We are each too invested in whatever it is we're invested in. It's the rare person who is unconcerned.
Oddly, I recall that I haven't always had the same priorities. At times I've been principle first, which I now find alien, repellent, adolescent. I've never been nation first though I love my country very much.