I was watching the Enemy Within, a series on TV and I saw a convoy carrying a high-value prisoner headed for interrogation. Now every time you see that situation in movies or on TV, you just know what is about to happen. The prisoner’s organization is going to rescue her, or him, killing almost everybody in the Convoy in the process. More often than not, the prisoner escapes. If that’s the policy, transporting prisoners by vehicle, it doesn’t matter how heavily guarded or armed the good guys are, the bad guys will almost always be better armed and be able to anticipate the strategy of the good guys. Besides, the bad guys always seem to have bribed someone to give them the route and strategy of the convoy, and always seem to have one of their own as part of the convoy, and their inside bad guy usually kills the rest of the good guys.
There’s only one way to remove the incentive to try to break the prisoner free. And that’s an official policy that goes like this: Any attempt to rescue the prisoner will result in the immediate death of the prisoner even before we defend ourselves. I imagine this idea might encourage a few objections, so I will debate the objections.
Are you serious about this policy? Yes, I believe it’s the only way to discourage breakout attempts, which would save the lives of the good guys.
But what about prisoners who didn’t murder anyone, or aren’t suspected of having information which could prevent deaths? My policy would be very clear about which prisoners are subject to immediate death during a breakout attempt. If the prisoner has been convicted of murder, or there is ample evidence that this prisoner possesses information which could stop an attack or bombing or terrorist act, and thus save many lives, then allowing the prisoner to escape is a worse crime than killing them. Some caveats: if this policy were seriously implemented, breakout attempts would mostly cease, saving both the prisoner’s life and the lives of the guards in the convoy; the philosophy behind my policy is the same as the philosophy of not negotiating with terrorists, because the negotiations or escapes incentivizes more of the unwanted activities.
What if the convicted murderer resides in a state with no death penalty, or has already been sentenced to life in prison? Under my policy, lives of the convoy guards would be saved if breakout attempts ceased or decreased, and a life in prison sentence doesn’t specify how long that life needs to be. It’s very unlikely that the convict’s friends would take a chance on ambushing the convoy if the convict has already been sentenced to something other than death.
There must be another way to prevent breakouts while transporting high value prisoners without killing them. You would have to make sure every one of these boxes are checked: no one in the convoy, or with knowledge of their route, armaments and strategy, could be bribed; the convoy vehicles are impervious to man-carried weapons; a quick reaction force to defend the convoy would have to be able to get to the ambush within seconds of it starting; the entire convoy route would have to be cleared of IEDs within minutes of the convoy starting out, and the entire route would have to be monitored to make sure no IEDs were planted after initial detection; the weaponry of the convoy would have to be superior to anything the bad guys could bring to bear; no criminal or terrorist organization would be able to field a drone with precision missile capabilities. Never gonna happen.
Sure, the Enemy Within is tv, but the convoy ambush went like this. The prisoner was an important lieutenant of the arch terrorist, and if she could be persuaded to talk, hundreds of lives could be saved in preventing a bombing. She was being transported in an armored vehicle similar to what SWAT teams use, with armored Suburbans in front and behind, each carrying four heavily armed contractors. The prisoner in back was guarded by three armed men, with two more in the cab. That’s 13 heavily armed military personnel. Pretty hard to top that. The ambush was perfect: teams using shoulder fired anti-tank missiles took out the Suburbans, killing 8 immediately. The armored vehicle driver got out, after killing his partner, and unlocked the back of the vehicle, then shot the three guards. It was over in about 20 seconds, prisoner liberated. 12 guards killed.
But even if the prisoner was executed right after the Suburbans blew up, the ambush would still have killed eight guards, and the driver still might have killed four. With the prisoner dead, the terrorist mastermind wouldn’t have to worry about his bomb plot being divulged. You’re right. In such a case, the terrorist would have won anyway, especially if his purpose in ambushing the convoy was to silence the prisoner. But if loyalty to a terrorist or their cause is the main incentive for any high value prisoner to remain silent, and the HVPs see terrorists ambushing convoys knowing that the prisoner is certain to be killed, isn’t such experience likely to weaken the loyalty of many, if not most, HVPs, since they realize that the terrorist is just as happy that they are killed as rescued?
My policy would only work, like the policy of not negotiating with terrorists, if applied consistently, regardless of who the hostages or prisoners are. Otherwise, let’s continue to lament the innocent dead.