Does "If you attack/sabotage us, we'll kill 10 hostages" ever work?

The Nazis did this all the time, as I remember. Did it ever work, or did the Maquis/saboteurs/Jewish insurgents/Soviet partisans just shrug and do what they would have done anyway, damning the Nazis and writing off the hostages as regrettable casualties of war? Was any attack *ever * averted by such a declaration?

Well, I don’t have any specific references as I’m at work and (as usual) simply working from memory, but I recall that hostages were used extensively by the English during the middle ages (and before) to ensure cooperation to the crown, to ensure that former rebel lords toed the line, etc. I think that even kings or heirs to the thrown were used occationally as hostages for good behavior. From memory sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t. Depends on how ruthless the people involved are…and how much stake they have in their hostages of course.


I don’t think the aim of such a policy is to stop Resistance forces directly but rather to turn the general population against them. If the deaths of three, easily replaced, German soldiers resulted in the deaths of 30 civilians, the remaining citizens might be less willing to help the Resistance. At least, I think that that was the theory the occupying German forces used.

On the other hand, it makes the occupiers look like total tyrants, so may serve to encourage the resistance.

To know which influance is stronger, you’d need a controlled experiment, which I don’t think anyone has ever done.

To answer the OP, though, the answer is yes, it works to appease the command structure that the occupying troops are doing SOMETHING about the resistance.

Well, if instead of hostages, you talk about the death of civilians… and if instead of “attack/sabotage” you talk about continued deployment of troops in the Middle East… then consider how the people of Spain reacted to terrorist attacks in their country right before a certain election. (They voted in the guy who would pull troops out.)

As to the OP, it works if you let it. Case in point, as mentioned, Spain. Spineless.


Spain still has troops in Afganistan, and it killed or captured the perpetrators of the attacks, the so called guy that was going to keep the troops in Iraq lied to the Spanish people regarding who was responsible for the attacks.

Could you explain more. What guy? Lied about what? Are you saying al qaeda was responsible for the attacks?

Oops. Make that:

Could you explain more. What guy? Lied about what? Are you saying al qaeda WASN"T responsible for the attacks?


I should think that GIGObuster is saying that E.T.A. was not responsible for the attacks, despite first being blamed by the then Spanish government.

Correct Celyn, AQ was responsible for the attacks. But Aznar, the former president of Spain blamed ETA, a separatist group in Spain. It was when people saw the evidence that their leaders were trying to use a tragedy for their own agenda that then became a decisive factor in the election.

By then, the Spanish people already knew that Iraq was a distraction on the way to get the Taliban and the leadership of AQ. The evidence still points at the leaders as being still around Afghanistan and northern Pakistan.

Right after the attack there was confusion over who was responsible. But PRIOR to the actual election it was known to be AQ. So, if I understand you (and I’m not sure that I do), the person who was expected to win the election (Aznar) didn’t win because people were angry at him for claiming the attack was by another group, an accusation which they perceived as being politically motivated. Is that your position?

I’m not so sure Aznar was really expected to win.
From what I gathered he hadn’t done too badly before the war against Iraq.
However Spain was one of those that joined the ‘coalition of the willing’ without popular support. The large majority of Spanish was against the war. Aznar joined anyway. They then get hit by AQ and the govt. tries to blame it on ETA for too long. The public saw it as a cowardly move to duck the blame for the attack, which was a response to Spain joining the war.
So they voted out a govt. that joined a war they didn’t want and that weaseled when the consequences came home to Spain.

It is what **Latro **said.

To continue with the threadjack I never saw it as Spain voting in the guy who’d leave Iraq as them voting out the guy who sent them there when they didn’t want to go in the first place.

I don’t know if all of this is correct. I definitley recall more than one report indicating that Aznar was definitely expected to win. When the attack happened, people attributed it to either AQ of ETA. Aznar stated as much. But because it was viewed that the ETA possibility might help his reelection bid, the opposition accused him of using the tragedy for political gain. Prior to the election it became clear it was AQ, and I don’t recall him denying that reality after it was known to be fact.

Attributing the reason for Aznar’s defeat to things other than the bombings might be right, but it seems like a stretch to me. The saddest thing is that even if you are correct, that’s not how it was interpreted by AQ and just encourages their use of such tactics.