PREVENTION and perspective are two keys to dealing with terrorism, including political kidnappings. A substantial degree of physical security ought to be provided those who are at particular risk: The United States is properly moving to beef up the security accorded its government officials overseas. Meeting the legitimate aspirations of the world's downtrodden is an important long-range preventive, so that small groups do not become sufficiently frustrated to seek satisfaction through violence that none should condone.
Nations should also decide on broad guidelines within which media and government should respond to terrorist acts.
When incidents arise, media, government, victims, and their relatives become unwitting participants in the drama, as terrorism expert Robert Kupperman notes. Restraint is required of all parties. Terrorists seek to increase their importance to pressure governments to meet their demands.
The media should cover news developments, but without the excesses that marked reportage on the TWA hostage-taking. For terrorists, media exposure constitutes leverage.
Government officials should also show restraint, refraining from a public refusal to negotiate, which paints the government into a diplomatic corner. Negotiation generally occurs, anyway; it ought to be conducted out of the public view and at a lower level than by top government members. The low-key public response by the United States to the demands of the kidnappers, carried back by the released Rev. Benjamin Weir, is appropriate.
Every American's heart goes out to the six Americans still held in Lebanon, to their families, and to those kidnapped people of other nationalities. Their freedom should be sought unceasingly.
But, as President Reagan has pointed out, it would be counterproductive for the US to confer status and importance on kidnappers who seek both through appalling actions. The correct approach is a continuation of patient, behind-the-scenes negotiations.