Over 1,000 pirates operate off the Somali coast. In 2009 they attempted 214 attacks on private shipping, well over twice the number tried in 2008. They remind ocean-goers that the world’s great navies cannot ensure safe passage through the Gulf of Aden. And they count on Western publics’ contextualizing their criminality — by adducing poverty, past exploitation, or lack of Western humanitarian aid — rather than demanding punishment for it.
Of course, the classical way of ending piracy — as Pompey demonstrated with the Cilician outlaws — is to combine naval interception with assaults against the criminals’ home ports. But again, given the asymmetry involved in piracy — wealthy Western ship- or boat-owners versus desperate “others” — who wants to risk killing poor Third World civilians just to hit the pirates who live among them? The final scenes of Black Hawk Down give us a taste of what the shooting might look like on CNN.
Many other such incidents could be cited — think of the 1968 capture of the Pueblo by North Korea or the 1975 taking of the Mayaguez by the Khmer Rouge. While the details differ, the general playbook remains the same: Some sort of incident is staged at sea, where witnesses and boundaries are often nonexistent, in order to provoke a response that will work to the provoker’s benefit.
In each of these cases, the instigator dares a powerful Western nation to retaliate and thereby stupidly endanger its collective good life over a small matter of 19th-century-style national pride. And if violence follows, the props almost always ensure that the Western nation is transmogrified in the blink of an eye into a bully, pushing around the Other where it has no business being in the first place. No wonder that the Western nation usually instead sends diplomats to work out some sort of restrained apology, which gives the provocateur stature and pours more humiliation upon the provoked — another milestone on a long road of weakening Western stature and influence.
What might change the rules of seaborne humiliation?
Go read the rest, but the answer has to do with growing a spine.
It is naive to assume that the millions paid annually in ransom to pirates merely enables them to purchase villas and fancy automobiles. Somalia is a country without government, where anarchy is being exploited by terrorist organizations. Although the threat that pirates pose to commercial ships is increasingly known, little is being done to combat it. And we must consider the bigger picture: Terrorists are far more brutal than pirates and can easily force pirates — petty thieves in comparison — to share their ransom money.
We already know that Somalia is an ideal fortress and headquarters for global terrorist activity. The United States has learned the painful lesson that Somalia is not an easy place for our military to establish law and order; two of our interventions there became embarrassing defeats — in 1993 and more recently in support of Ethiopian forces.
So why do we keep rewarding Somali pirates? How is this march of folly possible?
Start by blaming the timorous lawyers who advise the governments attempting to cope with the pirates such as those who had been engaged in a standoff with U.S. hostage negotiators in recent days. These lawyers misinterpret the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Geneva Conventions and fail to apply the powerful international laws that exist against piracy. The right of self-defense — a principle of international law — justifies killing pirates as they try to board a ship.
The international right of self-defense would also justify an inspection and quarantine regime off the coast of Somalia to seize and destroy all vessels that are found to be engaged in piracy. These inspections could reduce the likelihood that any government will find itself engaged in a hostage situation such as the one that played out in recent days. Furthermore, the U.N. Security Council should prohibit all ransom payments. If the crew of an attacked ship were held hostage, the Security Council could authorize a military blockade of Somalia until the hostages were released.
Sadly, the UN Security Council won’t do such thing.
In the meantime, governments will have to employ an unsatisfactory combination of carrots and sticks—mounting expensive patrols that spot and pick off pirates on occasion, while paying ransoms to those pirates who succeed.
The American captain of a cargo ship held hostage by pirates jumped overboard from the lifeboat where he was being held, and U.S. Navy SEALs shot and killed three of his four captors, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the situation.
Capt. Richard Phillips was helped out of the water off the Somali coast and is uninjured and in good condition, the official said. He was taken aboard the USS Bainbridge, a nearby naval warship.
Captain Phillips is now resting on the U.S.S. Bainbridge, named for Commodore William Bainbridge. Not only was Commodore Bainbridge born right here in Princeton, New Jersey, but he fought the Barbary Pirates and was imprisoned by them for 2 1/2 years until freed after William Eaton’s expedition to “the shores of Tripoli.”
There is, however, a troubling part to the story,
At the time of the shootings, the fourth pirate was aboard the Bainbridge negotiating with officials, the source said. That pirate was taken into custody.
Let’s hope the Obama administration is not planning on issuing full civil rights protections to that guy.
That is why there has not been a pirate attack on an American-flagged merchant ship in 200 years. Until now.
John Bolton finds the “it’s an international situation” stance pathetic, and adds,
“It’s not a law enforcement matter, either. The pirates are, and have been for centuries the common enemies of all mankind, and that gives rise to the legitimacy of the use of force by the United States and others who would join with us against the pirates.
“I recognize that the situation in Somalia is complicated, but if you destroy the pirates’ boats and you destroy the pirates’ bases, and truth be told, you kill a number of the pirates, it will have a deterrent effect on others.”
The US Navy missed a chance to rescue the American captain held by Somali pirates on a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean when he tried to escape by jumping into the sea.
Captain Richard Phillips fled through a back door in the covered lifeboat about midnight on Thursday local time and began swimming away, US officials said.
At least one pirate jumped in after him and brought him back aboard the boat, which is drifting without fuel, before the nearby US destroyer, USS Bainbridge, could intervene. The incident was captured on video by a US drone overhead. “He didn’t get very far,” one official said.
One of the pirates fired several shots during the escape attempt, and Captain Phillips was seen being helped back into the lifeboat. The US Navy had asked for proof that the skipper was still alive but was not able to talk to him by radio, NBC News said. However, US sailors saw Captain Phillips moving around and talking after his return to the lifeboat, and the Pentagon believes he is unharmed.
I can’t believe what I’m reading. Four punks in a lifeboat floating adrift without fuel in a standoff with a US destroyer, and they get away with it.
The pirates demanded $2 million (£1.4 million) yesterday for the release of Captain Phillips.
The tension at the stand-off was intensifying last night as pirates sent for reinforcements, apparently carrying “human shields”, in an effort to assist those holding Captain Phillips hostage. It is believed they contacted fellow pirates by satellite phone.
Mohamed Samaw, a resident of the pirate stronghold in Eyl, Somalia, who claims to have a “share” in a British-owned cargo ship that was hijacked on Monday, said that four foreign vessels held by pirates were heading towards the lifeboat. The ships include a seized Taiwanese fishing vessel and a German freighter carrying a total of 54 captured crew members from China, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines, Tuvalu, Indonesia and Taiwan.
“The pirates have summoned assistance – skiffs and mother ships are heading towards the area from the coast,” a Nairobi-based diplomat said. A Somali in contact with a pirate leader said that the captors wanted a ransom and were ready to kill Captain Phillips if they were attacked.
Their strategy appears to be to link up with fellow pirates and take Captain Phillips to Somalia, counting on the presence of the other hostages to deter the warships from an attack.
“They had asked us for reinforcement, and we have already sent a good number of well-equipped colleagues who were holding a German cargo ship,” said a man claiming to be a pirate from the lair of Haradhere. “We are not intending to harm the captain, so we hope our colleagues would not be harmed as long as they hold him.”
A French military operation to free a yacht hijacked by Somali pirates backfired yesterday when one of the hostages was killed, highlighting the perils facing US forces trying to free an American seaman being held captive in a parallel pirate standoff.
Despite the rescue of his four fellow hostages, including his three-year-old son, Florent Lemaçon was shot dead on board the Tanit during the raid by elite French forces. Two pirates also died, and three others were taken prisoner, said the French defence minister, Herve Morin.
Standing by the commando-style tactics, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s office confirmed “France’s determination not to give into blackmail, and to defeat the pirates”
Pirates purportedly have no country backing them. Now, seeing how the US continues to hesitate in the American captain’s kidnapping which could be handled with a “blow them off the water” solution, imagine what drug traffickers from states sponsoring terrorism in our hemisphere are learning from this situation.
The Caribbean is going to get a lot more interesting.
Retired U.S. Ambassador Robert Oakley, who was special envoy to Somalia in the 1990s, said U.S. special operations forces have drawn up detailed plans to attack piracy groups where they live on land, but are awaiting orders from the Obama national security team.
“Our special operations people have been itching to clean them up. So far, no one has let them,” Oakley told the Daily News
There is nothing less civilized than rewarding evil and thus guaranteeing more of it. High-minded as it is commonly made to sound, it is not civilized to appease evil, to treat it with “dignity and respect,” to rationalize its root causes, to equivocate about whether evil really is evil, and, when all else fails, to ignore it — to purge the very mention of its name — in the vain hope that it will just go away. Evil doesn’t do nuance. It finds you, it tests you, and you either fight it or you’re part of the problem.
The men who founded our country and crafted our Constitution understood this. They understood that the “rule of law” was not a faux-civilized counterweight to the exhibition of might. Might, instead, is the firm underpinning of law and of our civilization. The Constitution explicitly recognized that the United States would have enemies; it provided Congress with the power to raise military forces that would fight them; it made the chief executive the commander-in-chief, concentrating in the presidency all the power the nation could muster to preserve itself by repelling evil. It did not regard evil as having a point of view, much less a right to counsel.
We don’t see it that way anymore. Evil is now just another negotiation. Pirates and terrorists are better known for their human rights than for their inhuman wrongs. On Thursday, America’s commander-in-chief didn’t want to talk about the pirates — “Guys, we’re talking about housing right now,” he chided a reporter who dared to raise the topic as the Somalis held the American ship’s captain hostage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, was dispatched to assure the public that the world would come together to deal with this “criminal activity” — a relief if you were wondering whether the naval destroyer on the scene was equipped with Miranda-warning cards.
For too long, America has been too dismissive of the proud culture and invaluable contributions of the Pirate Community. Whether it is their pioneering work with prosthetics, husbandry of tropical birds or fanciful fashion sense, America owes a deep debt to Pirates.
The past eight years have shown a failure to appreciate the historic role of these noble seafarers. Instead of celebrating their entreprenuerial spirit and seeking to partner with them to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.
Some of us wonder if our current Overseas Contingency Operation would even be needed had the last administration not been so quick to label Pirates as “thieves,” “terrorists” and worse. Such swashbucklaphobia can lead to tragic results, as we have seen this week.