Hostages: To pay or not to pay, that is the question

The grotesque assassination of the American journalist James Foley has publicly raised the complex question of whether or not governments, companies or individuals should pay a ransom to free hostages. There are supportable arguments on both sides of the issue and, not surprisingly, there are differences on to how to deal with the problem. There has been no coherent response in the West to demands for ransom.

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Swiss Struggles With Russian Sanctions and Neutrality

A Swiss law professor once bemoaned to me that he had spent 25 years of his career dealing with one word, “neutrality”. We all know that legally neutrality means that a country will not join armed alliances or fight in wars other than for self-defense. But, politically, for Switzerland neutrality can run the gamut from not allowing airplanes to fly over Swiss airspace on their way to attack another country to promoting human rights and the rule of law, what is called “positive neutrality”.

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The U.S. in Iraq: Here We Go Again?

Getting old has its positive and negative aspects. Positively, there is a growing sense of wisdom because of having been witness to many events over time. Negatively, in contradiction to the growing wisdom, there is the realization that certain things keep repeating themselves, such as the United States trying to save the world or trying to impose its vision in faraway places that may not be open to the same vision.

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Didier Burkhalter’s Way With Words

As President of the Swiss confederation, as Foreign Minister, as Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, Didier Burkhalter is required to give many speeches. He probably has at least one person helping him prepare the texts. Be that as it may, the introduction to his national day August 1 address, although little commented upon, bears particular attention. Much like his “Cher Collègue” greeting to President Putin during a May visit to Moscow (see my blog of May 9), Mr. Burkhalter said a great deal in very few words.

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The Revolution of the Saints Revisited From Geneva

In the West, there is tremendous fear of Islamic fundamentalism taking over the Arab world. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), often described as “extremist” and “militant,” continues its march towards Baghdad; in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood remains an important actor. Surprisingly, there should be a particular understanding of this phenomenon from a Geneva perspective.

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