Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Best and Brightest as Bargaining Chips

To two journalists Bill Clinton is trying to free in North Korea, add three idealistic young people "arrested" by Iran for crossing their border with Iraq for apparently no other reason than being American.

“They are definitely Americans," a security official in Iran’s western Kurdistan region tells Arabic TV. "They were detained four days ago. We don’t know whether they are tourists or not. We are questioning them.”

It's becoming standard procedure for repressive regimes to try to distract attention from their own political turmoil by taking as hostage US citizens whose presence in their precincts involves humanitarian or scholarly work rather than sightseeing.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, still awaiting confirmation that Iran was holding the three, has expressed the usual "concern," adding, "“We want this matter brought to a resolution as soon as possible, and we call on the Iranian government to help us determine the whereabouts of the three missing Americans and return them as quickly as possible.”

In this new case, two of the hostages have been identified as a student couple, studying Arabic in Syria and also serving as freelance journalists, writing recent articles about the Middle East. The third had been working in a Pennsylvania "sustainable living research center" until eight months ago.

In the "Death to America" era, it's becoming more and more dangerous for our best and brightest young people to follow their idealistic impulses to the world's hot spots. Is the only alternative intellectual isolationism?

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