Saturday, March 25, 2006

Government Responsibility

I'm not sure about the answer to this myself, but it is something to which I've been giving serious thought. I was watching the news this afternoon when I heard about a woman who said she would be going as part of a Christian Peace Team to Iraq, in full knowledge of the risks she was taking. This, however, is against Foreign Office advice.

What should happen if she gets kidnapped, then? After all, the mission to release Norman Kember and his Canadian friends obviously occupied a large amount of resources. It was an SAS team that entered the house; the Canadians had sent kidnapping experts across to Iraq to help in the exercise.

Does governmental responsibility for citizens abroad involve helping them out when they've knowingly taken large risks? Or, if a UK citizen gets kidnapped, having travelled to Iraq against government advice, are the armed forces within their rights to say "they knew what risks they were taking, they can't expect us to act as their safety valve"?

I guess it comes down to a question of agency. The government doesn't deny us the right to travel to Iraq. But it does advise us against it. And if it takes such a measure, I can't say I would disagree with a decision not to assist my countrymen who decide not to follow that advice.