NEW YORK – Although Al Qaeda-linked groups recently executed two kidnapped civilian workers, the United States continues to maintain it will not negotiate with terrorists, whatever the price — even if violence against Americans and their allies gets worse.
"I think there's a likelihood [attacks could escalate in Iraq and Saudi Arabia] and that's certainly the philosophy behind refusing to negotiate with terrorists," said Robert Jordan, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. "I think it's a sound philosophy — one that's proved the test of time … that should be continued."
Jordan's comments came after news broke Tuesday that suspected Al Qaeda terrorists had beheaded hostage Kim Sun-il (search), a South Korean who worked for a U.S. military supplier.
Kim's death came after NKTS — the security firm negotiating for the hostage's release — said the captors asked to deal with company President Choi Sung-gab. The extremists originally threatened to kill the 33-year-old Kim if the South Korean government did not cancel its planned deployment of 3,000 troops to Iraq by early Tuesday.
"The free world cannot be intimidated by the brutal actions of these barbaric people," President Bush said following news of the beheading.
The militants are "trying to shake our will and our confidence. They're trying to get us to withdraw from the world so they can impose their dark vision on people," Bush said. "The United States will not be intimidated by these people. ... I believe [South Korean] President Roh understands that."
The latest beheading came after a similar act of murder was committed against American Paul M. Johnson Jr. (search), a contract worker with Lockheed Martin who had lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for the past 10 years. Al Qaeda-linked militants beheaded him last week after demanding that Saudi Arabia release Al Qaeda suspects in custody in the kingdom.
Both the United States and Saudi Arabia said then — and continue to say — that they will not negotiate with terrorists.
"Every time that you appease terrorism, you only make it pay more and you stimulate more terrorism because they can see that it pays very good returns for them," said Neil Livingstone, a terrorism expert and CEO of GlobalOptions Inc.
Experts say that there's a danger in even appearing soft toward terrorist demands, as seen when Spain decided to pull its troops out of Iraq earlier than scheduled after terrorists bombed several commuter trains in Madrid on March 11, which left 190 people dead. The railway bombings were blamed on Islamic militants with possible links to Al Qaeda.
"Spain is the best example — they cut and ran after the train was bombed," said former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. "The message to the terrorists will be — if you get nasty enough to these people — they'll give in and they'll run."
"They [Spain] showed that terrorism pays and that some countries can be intimidated," Livingstone added. "I think that we have to acknowledge the South Koreans today — they did the right thing, that is to not to capitulate to the terrorists and stand firm" in their commitment to deploy more troops to Iraq.
Fox News foreign affairs analyst Mansoor Ijaz said the terrorists that killed Kim likely thought South Korea would give in to their demands, or, at the very least, barter in some way with them.
"There is no change in the government's spirit and position that it will send troops to Iraq to help establish peace and rebuild Iraq," Choi Young-jin, South Korea's deputy foreign minister, said at a news conference after a video of Kim pleading for his life was released.
The kidnapping came just days after South Korea announced the troop dispatch to aid reconstruction efforts in northern Iraq. The move would make it the largest coalition partner after the United States and Britain.
South Korea was seen by the terrorists as "exactly like the Spaniards — people who, if they intimidated the government enough, the government would back down, either offer to pull troops out or make some sort of conciliatory gesture that would save the life of this man," Ijaz said.
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., a member of the House International Relations Committee, said "the problem's going to get much, much worse" if the threat isn't eliminated.
"The terrorists think that because of what happened in Somalia some time ago … that we'll turn tail and run — the Koreans are not going to do it, the United States is not going to run," he said.
Experts said the kidnapping and beheading of Westerners or those sympathetic to the cause is a scary new trend but one that cannot be used to intimidate the coalition working to reconstruct Iraq or the various global communities working to wipe out terrorism, wherever it may lurk.
"Their mission is really to intimidate the Westerners and they will keep demanding things but the bottom line is they're trying to intimidate us and kill us in any way they can," said Rita Katz, director of the Site Institute, which researches terrorism.
"We can't really believe that the troops will start withdrawing just because they kidnapped an individual and the bottom line, the message that we have to deliver to these terrorists is that we will never, never deal with them," Katz continued. "Terrorism will not be the way to change our policy."