I want to give credit where credit is due. Our miltary and their commander-in-chief made me proud today when Captain Richard Phillips was rescued by our Navy's special ops forces.
One issue in hostage negotiations is not to confuse delay for indecisiveness. Wearing down the captors is often an effective tactic especially when there is no room for escape. This ended well, with the exception of those thugs stupid enough to screw with the U.S. Navy.
And perhaps there is some interesting juxtaposition, as over Holy Week we saw a man taken away by those wishing him harm, thought likely to die, only to re-emerge safely on Easter Sunday.
While this whole episode ended well, we need to ask deeper questions.
a) Why was an American ship seized?
b) Why did the pirates think we would let them escape with a ransom?
One answer to the first question is that the international maritime community has treated piracy like a vandalism claim. The fear was a freighter defending itself would "escalate the situation". For that reason, freighters were left with unarmed crews....apparently the insurance carriers liked it that way .
One response to this ridiculous state of affairs would be to adopt either unilaterally or by treaty a "castle doctrine" on the high seas, in which merchant sailors would enjoy blanket immunity from civil or criminal liability in the use of deadly force to prevent the boarding of their vessel.
Legislation directing U.S. flag vessels to carry firearms aboard as a condition of service might also dissuade 21st Century Jack Sparrows from seeking to commandeer our ships, seeking unarmed vessels from other nations.
But pirates also operated under the assumption that the U.S. Navy would err on the side of acquisesance instead of action when a crisis occurred, as it has been reported
"U.S. rules of engagement prevent the Americans using their vastly superior fighting power to engage the pirates if there is any danger to civilians."
That doesn't provide much of a deterrent. Nor does the habitual payment of ransom by shipping companies. Once upon a time it was conventional wisdom that "if you subsidize something you get more if it"
The western world should collectively look in the mirror---as the prior subsidization of piracy and kidnapping....hmmmm...encouraged the problem to "escalate"
So our Somali "friends" did not expect the Navy Seals to end this on our terms. That creates the bigger---longer term--problem.
There's a paradigm that works---Pax Brittanica, Pax Americana, "Peace through Strength"---whatever the current iteration happens to be. It can be summed up in one common phrase.
The big dogs enforce the rules.
Anglo-Americans have pretty much done this since Trafalgar. But now we have hints the Obama Administration and its intellectual allies find this an unwanted and unfashionable burden.
Certaintly when your overseas trip is labelled "an apology tour" perhaps one could excuse the Somali thugs for questioning how stiff the present administration's backbone is? (I will note that covertly, Obama seems to be emulating much of what he once denounced on wiretapping and detention; maybe the eight year record of not getting bombed again is looking more important to Obama now that he's in office)
The problem here is that we need a power with some swagger, and yes, maybe even a touch of arrogance to enforce the international order. It's easy to make lots of friends promising to consult everybody, and not impose one's will on those unwilling to go along, and generally make clear it case it wasn;t obvious enough you are not George W. Bush.
That said--"soft power" wasn't what freed Captain Phillips. Or what will prevent Iran from going nuclear. Or deal with an innumerable set of problems where only decisive action by one nation and one military is going to make the difference.
Maybe this minor crisis might cause Obama--whose actual military and foreign policy experience is ,,,hmmm..thin--- to reevaluate what he's trying to accomplish in protecting our interests and that of our allies.
He shouldnt listen to experts who suggest the age of deterrence is over. Indeed, what we have seen off the Horn of Africa is in a multipolar world we will be left with a lawless "tragedy of the commons" devolving into a Hobbesian state of nature.
Maybe this naval vessel might be a better inspiration. now that the President might have a better appreciation of their capabilities.
“One thing is certain. If we’re to continue to advance world peace and human freedom, America must remain strong. If we have learned anything these last eight years, it’s that peace through strength works.”
Now there's an alternative reality popular among college campuses, Hollywood, and various Whole Foods Markets around the country, and which it must be said, many of the Obamatons subscribe to, Movie Director Ron Howard put it best, wanting a "more progressive America" that..
I don't think we'll be, at a certain point I don't think we'll be so consumed with being the pre-eminent super-power and, you know, driven by sort of militarism and this need to export, you know, democracy and so forth.
I doubt very much Captain Phillips was quite so worried about American miltarism when he was floating around the Indian Ocean. American miltarism is why he's alive today. And you know, here's one issue where I really expected more out of Ron Howard.
Remember one of Howard's best movies---ironically titled---Ransom ?
In Ransom Manhattan business tycoon Mel Gibson has his kid seized and a money demand placed on his safe return. En route to a drop point in New Jersey, the kidnapper calls Gibson on a cell phone and makes an observation which is directly relevant to where we are today.
The kidnapper taunts Gibson calling him an "eloi" ...an elitist wimp who thinks he can buy his way out of all forms of trouble. The kidnapper says he is one of the Morlock ...vicious brutes who exost only to prey on the Eloi.
The President might want to dwell upon that for a moment. The world is full of "Morlocks"---individuals who if given a chance will lay waste to civilization for fun, profit, ideology or due to mental illness. If civilization is going to act like the benign and peaceful Eloi, we are in for dark days. And sadly, the "human rights" people seems to think our military is the problem, not the prevention.
The term in law enforcement is "thin blue line". Our nation's military and intelligence services serve the same role in the global community. Are we going to make them stronger or make them weaker?. Are we going to reward action or penalize initiative?
Will we be Seals or will we be Eloi?