On November 4, 1979, fifty-two Americans were seized in Tehran. The 444 days they spent in captivity is one of the most notable cases in recent history of a state actor using hostages to advance its interests.
But it is not the only case. This episode of the Irregular Warfare Podcast examines how—and why—states engage in hostage diplomacy. To do so, hosts Ben Jebb and Julia McClenon are joined for a fascinating discussion with Ambassador Roger D. Carstens and Dr. Dani Gilbert. Ambassador Carstens is the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs at the US Department of State, where he previously served as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Dr. Gilbert is an assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University, where her award-winning research explores the causes and consequences of hostage taking and hostage recovery.
Their discussion addresses the incentives for states, as well as nonstate actors, to engage in hostage taking instead of relying on other, more traditional instruments of power. They also describe the means with which the United States and others secure the safety of their citizens against hostage taking, along with how concepts like deterrence apply to the unique challenge of hostage taking.