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"Why Don't We Hang Pirates Anymore?"

Piracy appears to be on the rise in the Indian Ocean. Is it because international law and individual nations are too light on pirates? Bret Stephens thinks so.

By the 18th century, pirates knew exactly where they stood in relation to the law. A legal dictionary of the day spelled it out: "A piracy attempted on the Ocean, if the Pirates are overcome, the Takers may immediately inflict a Punishment by hanging them up at the Main-yard End; though this is understood where no legal judgment may be obtained."

Severe as the penalty may now seem (albeit necessary, since captured pirates were too dangerous to keep aboard on lengthy sea voyages), it succeeded in mostly eliminating piracy by the late 19th century — a civilizational achievement no less great than the elimination of smallpox a century later.

Today, by contrast, a Navy captain who takes captured pirates aboard his state-of-the-art warship will have a brig in which to keep them securely detained, and instantaneous communications through which he can obtain higher guidance and observe the rule of law.

Yet what ought to be a triumph for both justice and security has turned out closer to the opposite. Instead of greater security, we get the deteriorating situation described above. And in pursuit of a better form of justice — chiefly defined nowadays as keeping a clear conscience — we get (at best) a Kenyan jail. "We're humane warriors," says one U.S. Navy officer. "When the pirates put down their RPGs and raise their hands, we take them alive. And that's a lot tougher than taking bodies."

Does this mean we should return to 18th Century standards? Not at all. An automatic death sentence for pirates could cause violent escalation of confrontations and increase the loss of innocent life, among other things. But it may be time for the international community to take a more aggressive stance against piracy so as to defend freedom of the seas.

UPDATE: This story illustrates the perils of a shoot-first approach to piracy.

A Thailand-based fishing company has claimed that the pirate 'mother ship' the Indian Navy destroyed in the Gulf of Aden last week was one of its deep sea fishing trawlers and was being hijacked by pirates when it was blown up by INS Tabar.
To be clear, I have no concern for pirates. Piracy is one of the oldest, and most serious, crimes under international law, and should be treated as such. Yet it is important to ensure that anti-piracy actions do not harm innocents -- such as those mistakenly identified as pirates or those victimized by pirates.

Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
We should station ninjas on all warships to kill the pirates.
11.25.2008 6:35pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
With all due respect, fuck your mealy-mouthed talk of "escalated violence." This is in the same family of rhetoric as the gun grabbers and insane pacifists who tell victims not to fight back with deadly violence against rapists and robbers- "give them what they want, don't escalate the violence."

In the real world, violence and killing aren't universally bad. There is good violence and there is bad violence. It depends on context. To paraphrase Dirty Harry- it depends on who is being killed and under what circumstances.

Summary execution is appropriate for pirates because:
-the pirates are typically caught in the act of piracy, making determination of guilt uncomplicated
-the pirates are incapacitated by death more effectively than by any other means
-other pirates are deterred (as 19th century practice indicates) far more effectively by execution than by any other means

Simply put- it's fair and it works and it protects innocent life. Other methods get marginally more fairness but trade away almost all the effectiveness.
11.25.2008 6:40pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Sink the pirate ship on sight. Steam away from the wreckage.

Criminals are doing bad things and it is by doing them that they forfeit a whole slew of rights that they would otherwise have. Killing people who are on their way to steal from you and probably kill you is self-defense and is entirely appropriate.

Arm some merchant marines or put a team of real Marines on board random ships. Once the word gets out of a couple of pirate attacks with no survivors, piracy will be reduced very quickly. The rule of law is supposed to help prevent us from lapsing into lawlessness, not ensure that it happens.
11.25.2008 6:45pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
There's another factor: ship owners are paying ransoms to the pirates to bail out their ships and cargos, which only encourages more piracy.

I've long felt that anyone knowingly involved in paying off a kidnapper should be treated as a co-conspirator to the crime. And this applies to piracy as well.

"Millions for defense but not one penny for tribute".
11.25.2008 6:48pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Criminals should never have the upper hand. If the law prevents us from adequately deterring crime, it is time to change the law, not subject ourselves to rule by the criminals.
11.25.2008 6:51pm
cboldt (mail):
I side with Bret Stephens and Jim@FSU. I'd treat terrorist captures the same way. Stateless-warriors deserve no quarter.
11.25.2008 6:52pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Does this mean we should return to 18th Century standards? Not at all. An automatic death sentence for pirates could cause violent escalation of confrontations and increase the loss of innocent life, among other things.

Bullshit. If you kill all the pirates, there's no "circle of violence."
11.25.2008 6:52pm
some dude:
Too bad most countries did away with Letters of Marque and Reprisal. The US still has them, so they have no excuse for letting their ships be pirated.
11.25.2008 6:57pm
MCM (mail):
"Millions for defense but not one penny for tribute" - I've read this was actually uttered by Robert Goodloe Harper in reference to the XYZ Affair, not the Barbary Pirates.

I think PatHMV and others are underestimating the difficulty of controlling piracy. You're mostly looking for guys in small boats, wielding small arms, across millions of square kilometers. Many countries already have warships in the area, and they are using deadly force on sight. But there just aren't enough warships given how many pirates there are - it's impossible to solve this through enforcement.

The root problem is that there is no real government in Somalia. This won't go away until that is dealt with.

Punishing owners who ransom their ships, crews, and cargoes won't help - someone is going to be willing to buy stolen goods, even if it's not the original owner.
11.25.2008 7:04pm
nvs (mail):
The idea that summary execution of pirates "mostly eliminat[ed] piracy by the late 19th century" sounds fairly ridiculous. First, it's not clear what geographic context of piracy he's talking about. If it's in the Caribbean and in and around the Atlantic, that's probably due to the emerging naval power of the U.S., and the ubiquitous presence of the British navy. If it's off the Eastern coast of Africa, I'd be interested to know what data he's relying on to say that piracy was actually ever eliminated there.

Second, summary execution of pirates is less compelling than the death penalty for domestic offenders, as the deterrence effect seems even more strained. Piracy, especially the type the Somali pirates are doing--in small boats against multiple-football-sized ships--seems extremely dangerous anyway, and the added threat of summary execution, as opposed to detention, possible abuse thereafter, and prosecution seems unlikely to do anything other than satisfy some sort of innate bloodlust.
11.25.2008 7:11pm
Mark E (mail):
Kill them all.

Find the ports that they use and kill everyone there.

There are no innocents there. If they were innocent, law abiding civilians, they would put a stop to the activities of the pirates. Even under islam, a thief is punished.

I haven't seen any pictures of one handed pirates.







Oh wait, I forgot, our lawyerly masters have determined that terrorists are covered by the Geneva Convention and have a right to a trial.






I just wish that these lawyers and judges would put their lives where their mouths are and take these poor, misunderstood wretches into their own homes for Thanksgiving dinner.
11.25.2008 7:13pm
Steve:
I find it ludicrous to think that even a single modern-day pirate is engaging in a life of crime because he knows that, if captured, he will have a comfy brig and a full roster of due process rights. Give me a break.

I don't particularly care if we execute pirates, but pretending that there's some kind of deterrent effect is just laughable.
11.25.2008 7:15pm
wfjag:

But it may be time for the international community to take a more aggressive stance against piracy so as to defend freedom of the seas.

Meaning what? Have the UN pass another resolution condemning piracy?

It has been suggested that the US Navy blockade the Somali coast. The problem with this is that the US Navy has said that to conduct an effective blockade, ships would have to be stationed every 5 to 10 miles -- it's a coast with many small harbors and hiding places. So, a blockade would require about 230 ships on station at all times. The US Navy is about 280 ships now. We could ask other nations to join in the blockade, but the level of cooperation would likely be about the same level as it is now.

I suggest we simply issue Letters of Marque. The government of Liberia is currently doing something similar to catch and discourage illegal fishing in its waters, and has authorized some private groups to do this. At least some of the private groups are former mercenaries. The program seems to be effective. I suspect there are people who'd be willing to deal with Somali pirates for fun and profit. The sale of the ship and cargo of a small freighter full of illegally caught fish can bring a few tens of thousands of dollars in Liberia. The salvage rights for a supertanker full of crude oil or a freighter full of T-72 tanks would be much more profitable, and attract enough people to deal with the problem. Right now, given the fairly small number of naval vessels patroling a very large area, and the restrictions on use of force that result from the domestic politics of the various nations that have sent warships, the risk to the pirates is fairly small. Issuing Letters of Marque would quickly change that.

Still, I have to admit that I don't have a clue as to the due process rights that privateers are required to provide to captured pirates.
11.25.2008 7:20pm
MCM (mail):
Mark E - Yes, that would really be the final solution to the piracy problem, wouldn't it?
11.25.2008 7:20pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
Right now, pirates go out on to the seas and come back fantastically wealthy. Is there a better paying profession in Somalia than piracy?

If they go out on the seas and don't come back, the desire to become a pirate will be greatly diminished.

Also, has it occurred to anyone that the Thai shipping vessel may have been hijacked earlier and turned into the mothership and that the Thais are just raising this "hijacking in progress" story because they want to hassle India for a payout? I don't imagine the Somali pirates have very deep pockets.
11.25.2008 7:21pm
Tom S (mail):
Letters of marque and reprisal have absolutely nothing to do with eliminating piracy. They were used in war and quasi-war situations to attack the shipping of one's enemy, and in the latter case, to provide plausible deniability (for example Queen Elizabeth I and Spain). If anything, letters of marque and reprisal would encourage piracy (Captain Kidd, being a case in point--allegedly).

If the US and its allies cared to, they could deploy maritime surveillance air squadrons to Asmara, Djibouti, and Aden (the planes equipped with hellfire missiles, perhaps), along with an increased naval presence.
11.25.2008 7:22pm
Fub:
PatHMV wrote at 11.25.2008 6:45pm:
Sink the pirate ship on sight. Steam away from the wreckage.
Don't forget to spread a good slick of bunker and mackerel chum.
11.25.2008 7:23pm
Oren:
<blockquote>
Sink the pirate ship on sight. Steam away from the wreckage.
</blockquote>
That could turn out to be really embarrassing when you sink a fishing ship that has been commandeered by pirates with innocent lives aboard.

Of course, the pirates should be executed but why exactly do we want to kill the innocent fishermen that had the misfortune to be taken hostage?
11.25.2008 7:30pm
Oren:

Sink the pirate ship on sight. Steam away from the wreckage.

That could turn out to be really embarrassing when you sink a fishing ship that has been commandeered by pirates with innocent lives aboard.

Of course, the pirates should be executed but why exactly do we want to kill the innocent fishermen that had the misfortune to be taken hostage?
11.25.2008 7:30pm
MCM (mail):
Tom S - good point about letters of marque. Is there a legal mechanism for allowing private parties to attack pirates? Or is vigilantism against pirates permitted?

But I think the idea of naval air squadrons patrolling for pirates is unrealistic - again, millions of square kilometers, looking for speed boats from thousands of feet in the air.
11.25.2008 7:31pm
Mark E (mail):


Mark E - Yes, that would really be the final solution to the piracy problem, wouldn't it?



Yes, MCM, it would.


It may take a couple of times, but it will be cheaper than paying these terrorists off.


Or enriching their lawyers since they will probably be able to sue to loss of income in US courts if someone dares to stop them.
11.25.2008 7:31pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
Jim at FSU: indeed. The best deterrent to future piracy is for the expected result of a pirate expedition to be the unexplained disappearance of the entire crew.
11.25.2008 7:33pm
Oren:

Or enriching their lawyers since they will probably be able to sue to loss of income in US courts if someone dares to stop them.

Wow.
11.25.2008 7:33pm
MCM (mail):
Mark E - Cheaper for who? How much has the US spent on pirate ransoms in the past few years? And how much do you think it would cost to wipe out several Somali cities "a couple of times"?

On the other hand, the legal market being what it is, maybe I should just become one of these pirate-lawyers you seem to think actually exist. Corporate departments are on a bit of a downturn, I'm afraid.
11.25.2008 7:37pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
It is not possible to avoid harm to so-called "innocents" because there are so few truly "innocent" Somalis. The problem exists because they are true barbarians whose society makes the Afghans' seem effete sophisticates by comparison. The Afghans have tribes. The Somalis have only clans because a tribal culture is too advanced for them.

The Somali pirate problem is rooted in Somali culture. Their pirates have been a problem before, and only two solutions have been effective in the long-term, ground occupation, and slaughter of the Somali coastal population. The latter has been the far more prevalent solution, though generally only after trying all lesser alternatives first.

The present Somali pirate problem is also due to the emergence of related financing and facilitating organizations in the Arab oil states of the Persian Gulf.

Messing around only at sea gives the pirates and their associates privileged sanctuaries. Letting them have such sanctuaries guarantees the problem will persist, and get worse until eventually the sanctuaries are attacked along with the pirates' lairs, wherever those are. Which will not be limited to Somalia much longer, assuming they are so limited now, and I tend to doubt that.
11.25.2008 7:37pm
CDU (mail) (www):
"One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that 'violence begets violence.' I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure — and in some cases I have — that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy." -Jeff Cooper
11.25.2008 7:37pm
AntonK (mail):

"Yet it is important to ensure that anti-piracy actions do not harm innocents -- such as those mistakenly identified as pirates or those victimized by pirates."
Sort of a stupid, Doh! type of statement, don't you think?

I've heard no one, anywhere, argue that "It is important to ensure that anti-piracy actions harm innocents -- such as those mistakenly identified as pirates and those victimized by pirates."
11.25.2008 7:47pm
Mark E (mail):
MCM -- maybe I should just become one of these pirate-lawyers you seem to think actually exist

Sorry, you missed the election &will have to wait for a couple of years.

/Gilbert &Sullivan reference



Seriously, where in my post do you see that I suggest that the US govt is doing payoffs to the terrorists / pirates or would pay for cleaning out their lairs?

I'd suggest that it is a better free market excercise by the shipping companies, shippers, etc. and whoever their hired.

All I would ask is that the govt's apply their present rules of engagement (= do nothing unless they actually witness a pirate taking offensive action or their naval vessals are fired upon) to the anti-piracy forces.

(On the other hand paying to actually provide for the common defense and ensure freedom of the seas would probably be more constitutionally valid act that the current spending spree by the Pirate King's Band in Washington)
11.25.2008 7:52pm
MCM (mail):
AntonK - I think it obvious that the alternative would be, "It is unimportant to ensure that anti-piracy actions do not harm innocents".
11.25.2008 7:53pm
Oren:
Anton, and yet we have quite a few "shoot on sight and burn down the port" folks posting here that pretty much guarantees the loss of innocent life.

I'm all in favor of hanging pirates summarily. Killing fisherman that had the misfortune of having their trawler hijacked by pirates, on the other hand, seems civilized only in comparison to the utter barbarity of the pirates themselves.
11.25.2008 7:54pm
Ignatius Riley (mail):
Under U.S. Law, there is already authority for Civilian Mariners to defend against pirates and seize pirated vessels:
33 U.S.C. 383: Resistance of pirates by merchant vessels

The commander and crew of any merchant vessel of the United States, owned wholly, or in part, by a citizen thereof, may oppose and defend against any aggression, search, restraint, depredation, or seizure, which shall be attempted upon such vessel, or upon any other vessel so owned, by the commander or crew of any armed vessel whatsoever, not being a public armed vessel of some nation in amity with the United States, and may subdue and capture the same; and may also retake any vessel so owned which may have been captured by the commander or crew of any such armed vessel, and send the same into any port of the United States.



And Letters of Marque are expressly authorized to counter piracy.

33 U.S.C. 386: Commissioning private vessels for seizure of piratical vessels

The President is authorized to instruct the commanders of the public-armed vessels of the United States, and to authorize the commanders of any other armed vessels sailing under the authority of any letters of marque and reprisal granted by Congress, or the commanders of any other suitable vessels, to subdue, seize, take, and, if on the high seas, to send into any port of the United States, any vessel or boat built, purchased, fitted out, or held as mentioned in section 385 [PIRACY] of this title

11.25.2008 7:55pm
Mark E (mail):
MEM -- Or enriching their lawyers since they will probably be able to sue to loss of income in US courts if someone dares to stop them.

Oren -- Wow.

Disagreement that it will / could happen?

If you are epxressing shock that someone would believe that such a law suit would happen? I'd have expressed similar shock a few years ago that a US court would rule that someone who does not follow the letter or spirit of the Geneva Conventions on Warfare; who was taken in an act of terror on foreign lands; is not a US citizen would have standing and would be granted the same Constitutional protections that I have.
11.25.2008 7:58pm
MCM (mail):
Mark E -

"Seriously, where in my post do you see that I suggest that the US govt is doing payoffs to the terrorists / pirates or would pay for cleaning out their lairs?"

We're not. That's exactly the point. We are spending 0 dollars doing that right now. As an alternative, you suggest that we "Find the ports that they use and kill everyone there," which will cost more than the 0 dollars we are currently spending on pirate ransom.

However, you also said, "It may take a couple of times, but it will be cheaper than paying these terrorists off."

In other words, nothing you are saying makes any sense.
11.25.2008 7:58pm
MCM (mail):
Mark E - the idea that pirates could come to the United States and sue for loss of piratical income is not even worth discussing.

Or, in other words, "wow".
11.25.2008 8:00pm
Mark E (mail):
MCM -- you are assumping that gov't is the only group that can do anything. As others in this thread have stated, an alternative is to open up a route such as Letters of Marque.

Unfortunately you are correct in that "we" are doing nothing (or little) now.
11.25.2008 8:06pm
Mark E (mail):
MCM -- the idea that pirates could come to the United States and sue for loss of piratical income is not even worth discussing


Do rhwy have to come to the US to sue. I would think that all they have to do is find a lawyer &a judge who are sympathetic. Do you doubt that there is at least one court that would find that they have standing, at least in the preliminary stages?

However, if they do enter the US legally, what would be the deterent for their case?

I also have lost any faith that if they enter the US illegally, that they would be arrested and deported. After all, we just had the situation of the apparant hands off order on the president elect's aunt.
11.25.2008 8:14pm
Ignatius Riley (mail):
I suppose that I have a slightly different view. To the best of my knowledge, no U.S. flagged vessel has been seized. And I imagine that it would be extremely unlikely that pirates would ever seize a U.S. flagged vessel - due in part to the dearth of U.S. flagged merchants and the likely reprisal.

So, for me, the logical question is: Why should the U.S. do anything? As we order how we will use a limited number of military/governement assets and resources, is there a sufficient national benefit to elevate counter-piracy efforts? I don't think so.

Let nations with a greater interest intervene. Or allow the marketplace to adjust through sailing restrictions or hired security. (E.g. Blackwater).

Piracy is merely a crime. And I strain to see the need for our government to volunteer to become the world's coast guard.
11.25.2008 8:15pm
Mark E (mail):
Sorry -- rhwy = they (not using my normal laptop, key spacing is different than on mine)
11.25.2008 8:15pm
loki13 (mail):

It is not possible to avoid harm to so-called "innocents" because there are so few truly "innocent" Somalis. The problem exists because they are true barbarians whose society makes the Afghans' seem effete sophisticates by comparison. The Afghans have tribes. The Somalis have only clans because a tribal culture is too advanced for them.

The Somali pirate problem is rooted in Somali culture. Their pirates have been a problem before, and only two solutions have been effective in the long-term, ground occupation, and slaughter of the Somali coastal population.


Wow. You may want to work out your issues in a less-public forum. There's really nothing that can be added to this.
11.25.2008 8:17pm
MCM (mail):
"MCM -- you are assumping that gov't is the only group that can do anything. As others in this thread have stated, an alternative is to open up a route such as Letters of Marque. "

As Ignatius Riley pointed out, those are apparently not even necessary. Apparently pirates are fair game for everyone.

"Do rhwy have to come to the US to sue. I would think that all they have to do is find a lawyer &a judge who are sympathetic. Do you doubt that there is at least one court that would find that they have standing, at least in the preliminary stages?

However, if they do enter the US legally, what would be the deterent for their case?

I also have lost any faith that if they enter the US illegally, that they would be arrested and deported. After all, we just had the situation of the apparant hands off order on the president elect's aunt."

Yeah... I'm going to stick with "Wow" on this one, too.
11.25.2008 8:20pm
Mark E (mail):
MCM, Oren et al, it been fun. Unfort, I have to sign off to get ready for an early flight to the far east in the morning.
11.25.2008 8:21pm
AntonK (mail):
My point is this: no one wants to kill innocents while trying to control and shutdown piracy. Everyone will surely try their best not to kill innocents while trying to control and shutdown piracy. To the extent that any innocents are killed or injured during anti-piracy operations, well, that's just the way things are. Sad? Yes. Avoidable? Only to the extent that all human pursuits are imperfect.

Statements that warn of the necessity of avoiding the death or injury of innocents in military operations are, at there best juvenile and, at their worst, meant to hamstring the operations. We've seen the "look at the innocent victims" cry used by jackals often enough to know this.
11.25.2008 8:24pm
Steve:
If they go out on the seas and don't come back, the desire to become a pirate will be greatly diminished.

That's obviously correct. But it serves to illustrate that the deterrent effect arises from the certainty of punishment, not the severity of it. The alternative to summary execution is not some sort of catch-and-release program.
11.25.2008 8:24pm
DangerMouse:
Pirates, if seized by any US government ship, would have constitutional rights. They're in the same boat (in a manner of speaking) as terrorists. Hence, any US action against pirates requires them to have the same Constitutional rights that the terrorists now have.

Thank the Supreme Court for turning the military into a bunch of eunuchs.

The pirates wouldn't sue, but their families sure as hell would. And there'd be plenty of lawyers from BIGLAW firms to do pro bono work on the pirates behalf. Of course, not to receive payoffs from their wealthy Arab clients, but just to satisfy their own sense of sanctimonious elitism in defending people who are slime.
11.25.2008 8:24pm
MCM (mail):
AntonK -

"My point is this: no one wants to kill innocents while trying to control and shutdown piracy."

On the contrary, people in this very thread are suggesting:

"Kill them all. Find the ports that they use and kill everyone there."
"Their pirates have been a problem before, and only two solutions have been effective in the long-term, ground occupation, and slaughter of the Somali coastal population."
11.25.2008 8:42pm
MCM (mail):
DangerMouse-

"Pirates, if seized by any US government ship, would have constitutional rights. They're in the same boat (in a manner of speaking) as terrorists. Hence, any US action against pirates requires them to have the same Constitutional rights that the terrorists now have.

Thank the Supreme Court for turning the military into a bunch of eunuchs.

The pirates wouldn't sue, but their families sure as hell would. And there'd be plenty of lawyers from BIGLAW firms to do pro bono work on the pirates behalf. Of course, not to receive payoffs from their wealthy Arab clients, but just to satisfy their own sense of sanctimonious elitism in defending people who are slime."

While pirates are sometimes captured by the United States Navy, I have yet to hear tell of any pro bono pirate defense.

In any case, I think your bigotry is misleading you here: the "wealthy Arabs" are the victims of piracy here, not the pirates - the MV Sirius Star is owned by Saudi-Aramco.
11.25.2008 8:50pm
Jim at FSU (mail):


If they go out on the seas and don't come back, the desire to become a pirate will be greatly diminished.

That's obviously correct. But it serves to illustrate that the deterrent effect arises from the certainty of punishment, not the severity of it. The alternative to summary execution is not some sort of catch-and-release program.


Except that conditions in an american jail are far superior to those found in somalia.

-3 meals a day
-free clothing
-warm bed
-guards
-no malaria
-guaranteed television with cable
-library, including law books

Hell, an ordinary somali pirate could go into prison and come back as quite the statesman.

The bottom line is that these people don't speak the same langauge as prep school fairies that fear a demerit on their permanent record. Having grown up in the harshest and most lawless environment on the planet, they respect overwhelming brutality and little else.

These guys might respect our laws someday, but it won't be the current generation. We are many steps away from that.
11.25.2008 8:56pm
David Weisman (www):
I think we should remember the real history of piracy, from the days when people were 'impressed' as sailors legally by press gangs, which was only a hair better than being kidnapped by pirates. When a war broke out, they were often pardoned so they could help fight. The line between privateer and pirate was very thin.

One relevant lesson we can draw. Pirates usually had a town of civilians, not pirates, but people who would buy their stuff and help them spend their gold.
11.25.2008 9:08pm
TCO:
Kill...kill...kill...pirates.
11.25.2008 9:11pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
DangerMouse,

You left out that the federal courts would order the wrongfully accused pirates be released in the U.S.
11.25.2008 9:12pm
Xenocles:
The US has a vested interest in crushing piracy wherever it exists, as does any other free nation. Piracy raises trade expenses by adding costs due to ransom, lost shipping time, lost hulls and cargo, and higher pay for crews (likely they will demand some form of hazard pay for dealing with the menace). By enforcing free travel on the high seas anywhere, we secure it everywhere.

Also oil. If tankers start getting snapped up we're going to face even more of an energy crisis.

Of course, a relatively low-cost solution has already been mentioned in the form of letters of marque against the pirates. All you have to do is promise to let the privateers sell any pirate vessels they take; you don't even have to pay them. Of course, one must remember also that many of the most notorious pirates in history began as legitimate privateers who either couldn't quit after the war was over or preyed upon the wrong ships. One possible answer to this is to issue bounties - it would be cheaper than using the actual navy to do it (although you would want to involve them as well, I think, for political purposes.)
11.25.2008 9:12pm
Oren:
MCM, no such suit has ever happened in the past and no such suit is likely to succeed anytime in the near future. I'll eat my hat if I'm wrong.
11.25.2008 9:13pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
David Weisman,

The intermediaries are located in the Arab oil states of the Persian Gulf. Who also finance the pirates.

IMO the pirates no longer operate solely from Somali bases. I think they are now operating from Yemen also. The problem has mestaticized and will get far worse before anything effective is done.
11.25.2008 9:14pm
Oren:

Of course, a relatively low-cost solution has already been mentioned in the form of letters of marque against the pirates. All you have to do is promise to let the privateers sell any pirate vessels they take; you don't even have to pay them.

Of course, then the price of shipping hasn't dropped at all. A freight company whose ship is seized by pirates is not benefited at all from it being seized a second time by privateers. Having to buy back your own ship from the privateers is no better than having to buy it back from the pirates.
11.25.2008 9:16pm
Oren:

The intermediaries are located in the Arab oil states of the Persian Gulf. Who also finance the pirates. [citation needed]

IMO the pirates no longer operate solely from Somali bases. I think they are now operating from Yemen also. [citation needed]

Those facts, if true, would indeed change the game. Of course, I have no idea if they are true unless you care to name your sources.
11.25.2008 9:19pm
LenS (mail):
Sink any ship taken by pirates. It kills both the pirates and stops the nonsense of crews surrendering to pirates expecting to be ransomed. Under such conditions, crews would be forced to fight back and shippers would have to arm them if they want their ships and cargoes back.

Pacifist is another word for slave.
11.25.2008 9:19pm
Oren:

Kill...kill...kill...pirates.

Spare...spare...spare...innocents.

[Aside, of course, I agree with your sentiment entirely.]
11.25.2008 9:20pm
DangerMouse:
I think your bigotry is misleading you here: the "wealthy Arabs" are the victims of piracy here, not the pirates - the MV Sirius Star is owned by Saudi-Aramco.

What bigotry? I'm referring to Shearman &Sterling going all pro-bono crazy for the terrorists in Gitmo because they were paid off by their Arab clients. Go read the WSJ for more info on that. That won't be the motivation to defend pirates, instead, the motivation will be your typical left-wing elitism.
11.25.2008 9:20pm
Oren:


Statements that warn of the necessity of avoiding the death or injury of innocents in military operations are, at there best juvenile and, at their worst, meant to hamstring the operations.

Truly you must be some sort of superhuman to be able to discern, at great distances, the exact intent of people on the internet.

I, for one, would like to avoid the loss of innocent life as a general principle of civilized conduct. Concurrently, I'd also recommend that any captured pirates be summarily executed.
11.25.2008 9:22pm
DangerMouse:
Concurrently, I'd also recommend that any captured pirates be summarily executed.

Why do I get the impression that people on this blog think terrorists deserve more rights than pirates?
11.25.2008 9:24pm
Oren:
DM, because piracy is a fairly obvious offense. You are caught on the high seas on a speedboat with an RPG -- no room for error. Meanwhile, dozens of the detainees at GTMO have been shown to be wrongfully apprehended goatherds sold for bounty as "Taliban" by opportunistic warlords or tribal enemies.
11.25.2008 9:28pm
Mister Snitch (mail) (www):
Isn't anyone at all concerned that they could hurt Johnny Depp?
11.25.2008 9:29pm
DangerMouse:
Meanwhile, dozens of the detainees at GTMO have been shown to be wrongfully apprehended goatherds sold for bounty as "Taliban" by opportunistic warlords or tribal enemies.

Sorry, but the people I knew at S&S who were wetting themselves over their pro-bono activities for the terrorists were not there to defend goatherders. They were there to defend people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
11.25.2008 9:31pm
Ignatius Riley (mail):
Sink any ship taken by pirates. It kills both the pirates and stops the nonsense of crews surrendering to pirates expecting to be ransomed. Under such conditions, crews would be forced to fight back and shippers would have to arm them if they want their ships and cargoes back.



I really hope that was a joke. It's hard for me to imagine that anyone would consider this a rational solution.
11.25.2008 9:36pm
MCM (mail):
Dangermouse: And, again, pirates have been captured by the USN on multiple occasions, yet I ask you to provide a single case of working for pirates pro bono. I would be more than willing to be wrong here since it would mean I would get to see Oren eat his hat.
11.25.2008 9:36pm
Jay Guevara (mail):
The idea that summary execution of pirates "mostly eliminat[ed] piracy by the late 19th century" sounds fairly ridiculous.


I'm sure they were morally reformed -- at the end of a hemp rope.

I find it ludicrous to think that even a single modern-day pirate is engaging in a life of crime because he knows that, if captured, he will have a comfy brig and a full roster of due process rights. Give me a break.


Ooh, ooh, Marxist analysis of "root cause" alert!

I'm sure you're right, genius, but the converse is not true: he knows that if he's captured he won't be hanged summarily, and may count on some American pussies to bleat about his fate, as opposed to laughing at his frenzied jerking at the end of a rope.

Put it in context: would you cheat on your income taxes if the penalty was confined to paying the difference?

I don't particularly care if we execute pirates, but pretending that there's some kind of deterrent effect is just laughable.


That's why the crime rate is so high in Malaysia and Singapore. Punishment is no deterrent, obviously.

Or enriching their lawyers since they will probably be able to sue to loss of income in US courts if someone dares to stop them.


As long as we're bringing back hanging …
11.25.2008 9:37pm
Some Sense:
I wonder why the following has not been tried:

Place a fairly large number of soldiers with heavy weapons and tracking gear on several merchant ships plying that route.

If the pirates attack that ship, they will get blown out of the water. Pretty soon it will become apparent to the pirates that they can't tell which ships are armed to the teeth and which aren't. This will at least reduce piracy, since it is in many ways a cowardly sort of crime. The pirates are very willing to attack unarmed merchant ships. How willing will they be to risk a vicious and thorough counterattack which will probably leave them all dead?
11.25.2008 9:37pm
MCM (mail):
Ignatius Riley:

I'm afraid "rational solutions" are in short supply in this thread.
11.25.2008 9:39pm
DangerMouse:
Dangermouse: And, again, pirates have been captured by the USN on multiple occasions, yet I ask you to provide a single case of working for pirates pro bono. I would be more than willing to be wrong here since it would mean I would get to see Oren eat his hat.

MCN, of course it hasn't happened yet. The Court only started down this idiotic line of reasoning with their terrorist decisions. But nothing is stopping anyone from doing the same thing for pirates in the future. Just because there has never been a pro bono case for a pirate doesn't mean there won't. Are you seriously suggesting that the left in this country won't try to defend pirates? Of course they will.
11.25.2008 9:40pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Jonathan Alder
RE: Heh...

Yet it is important to ensure that anti-piracy actions do not harm innocents -- such as those mistakenly identified as pirates or those victimized by pirates. -- Jonathan Alder


May as well put Hussein back in power in Iraq, using your ethic.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
11.25.2008 9:41pm
MCM (mail):
Some Sense:

It's not practical given the numbers of ships in question.
11.25.2008 9:42pm
Ignatius Riley (mail):
Some Sense:

There are a number of issues: Rules of Engagement or Rules for the Use of Force, flag-state and vessel-owner approval, taking the guise of a neutral actor to conduct a military operation, law enforcement and asylum considerations, insurance-bond restrictions.

And that's not even counting the logistical concerns. Or the political question that I asked earlier: Do we have a sufficient national interest to inject ourselves as the world's coast guard?
11.25.2008 9:43pm
MCM (mail):
DangerMouse-

"Are you seriously suggesting that the left in this country won't try to defend pirates? Of course they will."

I'm not even sure how to respond to this because it is the dumbest thing I have read in a long time.

Not only I am seriously suggesting that liberals will not defend pirates, I am absolutely sure of it.
11.25.2008 9:45pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
P.S. My approach?

[1] Kill every pirate where found.
[2] Their ships will be sunk on sight.
[3] No negotiations for ships and/or crews captured.
[4] All ships captured by pirates will have their propellers and/or rudders destroyed, rendering the ship unnavigable.
[5] All harbors known to be sheltering pirate activities will be destroyed.

P.P.S. Fighting piracy is merely what we did in Iraq in '03, but on the water at the water's edge. It's nothing less than open war.
11.25.2008 9:47pm
Jay Guevara (mail):

Not only I am seriously suggesting that liberals will not defend pirates, I am absolutely sure of it.


Me too.
11.25.2008 9:48pm
DangerMouse:
Not only I am seriously suggesting that liberals will not defend pirates, I am absolutely sure of it.

Why? They defend terrorists.

Why are pirates worse than terrorists?
11.25.2008 9:49pm
Oren:

[3] No negotiations for ships and/or crews captured.

I'm fine with that as a policy for your shipping company but it seems awfully presumptuous to start dictating policy for the entire world.
11.25.2008 9:50pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: MCM
RE: That Dumb?

I'm not even sure how to respond to this because it is the dumbest thing I have read in a long time. -- MCM, on whether the Left will try to defend pirates


Not really.

Look at Jonathan Alder's original item. Pay particular attention to the element I pulled out of it and commented on 11.25.2008 9:41pm in this thread (above).

In other words, Left, Right or Middle, defending pirates has already begun.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
11.25.2008 9:51pm
Kevin O'Brien (mail) (www):
Well, we could always split the difference between the pirates and the lawyers.

String 'em both up!
11.25.2008 9:52pm
Jay Guevara (mail):
Bottom line: many, if not all, liberals fail to grasp and/or accept that many world problems can be solved by killing enough of the people responsible for them.

Brutal, atavistic, inhumane, impolite, discourteous, not nice, [fill in your own favorite adjective here], but nevertheless true. Grownups already realize this. Liberals are still working on it.
11.25.2008 9:52pm
Abdul Abulbul Amir (mail):


UPDATE: This story illustrates the perils of a shoot-first approach to piracy.


A Thailand-based fishing company has claimed that the pirate 'mother ship' the Indian Navy destroyed in the Gulf of Aden last week was one of its deep sea fishing trawlers and was being hijacked by pirates when it was blown up by INS Tabar.


Pirates will often be operating pirated ships. If the pirates do not surrender, sinking is called for. Letting them escape is flat wrong. That would be about the same as letting a rabid dog loose.
11.25.2008 9:52pm
MCM (mail):
Did you not read Oren's post? They are questioning whether the people in custody are, in fact, terrorists, and not "goatherds sold for bounty as "Taliban" by opportunistic warlords or tribal enemies". Some guy shows up saying he'll give you cash for "Taliban". Then ibn-hatfield point to ibn-mccoy and says "terrorist".

If someone is actually a terrorist, no one is actually going to defend him (aside from the occasional Bobby Fischer wacko).

No one, liberal or conservative, is going to defend the actions of pirates.
11.25.2008 9:54pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Oren
RE: Okay....

I'm fine with that as a policy for your shipping company but it seems awfully presumptuous to start dictating policy for the entire world. -- Oren


Got a better idea?

And besides, I'm not dictating it to anyone. But when the pirates realize that to take a certain line's or country's ship is a death sentence for themselves, they'll go pick on someone who has deeper pockets and less bloody-mindedness about dealing with pirates.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[If you come out to 'play', remember, we play for keeps and we ALWAYS win.]

P.S. And about that question by someone about do we have the where with all to Coast Guard the world.

We don't need to cover the world. We just need to cover our ships and those of our allies in the vicinity of the Horn of Africa. And show the world pirate-wannabes what it means to take their life into their own hands.

P.P.S. Besides. I think the US Navy would enjoy a little more action.
11.25.2008 9:55pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Just put a .50 cal M2 aboard each vessel, and 3-4 guys trained to use it. One belt of armor-piercing incendiary should do the job, and moot the question of how to treat the prisoners. As they are attacking, their identity as pirates should be 100% clear; it's only before or after the attack that there would be any risk of mistakenly firing on non-pirates.
11.25.2008 9:55pm
Oren:

Look at Jonathan Alder's original item. Pay particular attention to the element I pulled out of it and commented on 11.25.2008 9:41pm in this thread (above).

In other words, Left, Right or Middle, defending pirates has already begun.

Yes, concern for innocent lives is exactly the same as defending pirates. And here I was thinking that it was the pirates that have evinced the most disregard for the value of human life . . .


Pirates will often be operating pirated ships. If the pirates do not surrender, sinking is called for. Letting them escape is flat wrong. That would be about the same as letting a rabid dog loose

Those aren't the only two options.
11.25.2008 9:55pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Hanging pirates is ultimate a no-brainer, but not the real solution (deterrence isnt the point. killing pirates is the point and a noble end in itself. At the moment they are most often set free because nobody wants to try them- chances are theyd get a lawyer and file an asylum claim).

What does a pirate need even more intrinsicly than a bird or an eye patch? A ship. Occams razor suggests rather than hoping to interdict enough pirates to neutralize them, the simplest answer is to assume ever Somali vessel is a pirate and seize and sink them all, down to the smallest rowboat. There are probably enough warships in the region already to blockade the region and systematically tighten the noose down the coastline, scuttling everything that floats. Anybody that doesnt resist can have a nice safe ride to the beach.

Needless to say, this isnt going to happen either. Because not only is modern civilization too civilized to hang pirates, we are too advanced to inflict the kind of massive retaliation that has ended every conflict from Troy to Hiroshima.

I dont have a crystal ball, but history tells us our soft handed approach is going to end up killing more people than a instant, but brief, destruction. My guess is these pricks are eventually going to take something somebody doesnt intend to pay for and they will come get it, and a whole lot more people are gonna end up dead. But at least we'll have nice clean hands until then. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Civilization is based on the simply promise that those acting outside of its rules will be met with violence. That is the underpinning of everything human beings have ever accomplished.
11.25.2008 9:57pm
MCM (mail):
Chuck,

I'm afraid I don't see how you get from:

"The best policy is possibly not automatic death sentences"

to

"I support pirates"
11.25.2008 9:57pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Kevin O'Brien
RE: Heh

Well, we could always split the difference between the pirates and the lawyers. -- Kevin O'Brien


Well, we couldn't expect the sharks to deal with the lawyers the way they would with the pirates we threw overboard with so much chum.

Something to do with 'professional courtesy'.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Lawyer, n., One skilled at circumventing the Law.]
11.25.2008 9:57pm
MCM (mail):
Mark Buehner:

"There are probably enough warships in the region already to blockade the region and systematically tighten the noose down the coastline, scuttling everything that floats."

No, there aren't.
11.25.2008 9:58pm
Oren:

Got a better idea?

And besides, I'm not dictating it to anyone. But when the pirates realize that to take a certain line's or country's ship is a death sentence for themselves, they'll go pick on someone who has deeper pockets and less bloody-mindedness about dealing with pirates.

Well, as a practical matter, you can't stop Aramco (or whatever) from paying ransom as they please. So, the "better idea" in that regard is not to pretend like we have a choice about whether companies pay ransom.

As to deterring pirates, like I said in the previous thread: unmanned drones in the air, navy ships in the water and summary execution for all those caught. A month or two of that and we'd be fine. A few well-target surgical operations on the mainland would probably help as well.
11.25.2008 9:59pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: MCM
RE: I Recommend...

I'm afraid I don't see how you get from:

"The best policy is possibly not automatic death sentences"

to

"I support pirates"
-- MCM


...you switch to a chamomile tea.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[If you're singing Christmas songs on your neighbor's lawn at night with your church group, it's called "caroling." But if you're doing it alone with no pants on, it's called "drunk and disorderly."]
11.25.2008 10:00pm
MCM (mail):
Oren - The MV Sirius Star was hijacked over 500 miles off the coast of Kenya. It's just impossible to actually patrol that much water.
11.25.2008 10:02pm
Oren:

the simplest answer is to assume ever Somali vessel is a pirate and seize and sink them all, down to the smallest rowboat.

Shit, why not just nuke Somalia from orbit?
11.25.2008 10:03pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Oren
RE: Then....

As to deterring pirates, like I said in the previous thread: unmanned drones in the air, navy ships in the water and summary execution for all those caught. A month or two of that and we'd be fine. A few well-target surgical operations on the mainland would probably help as well. -- Oren


It looks to me like we are pretty much in agreement. And if you've got the pockets of Aramco, I'm confident your attorney's and negotiators will cheer their full time employment.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[I would be loath to speak ill of any person who I do not know deserves it, but I am afraid he is an attorney. -- Samuel Johnson]
11.25.2008 10:03pm
MCM (mail):
"Shit, why not just nuke Somalia from orbit?"

It's the only way to be sure.
11.25.2008 10:03pm
Oren:

Oren - The MV Sirius Star was hijacked over 500 miles off the coast of Kenya. It's just impossible to actually patrol that much water.

With unmanned drones, the idea is that you have them loiter around the harbor and follow every little vessel in and out (should only take a few thousand drones, piece of cake). Radio any ship that's got unwelcome guests to steam directly away and you've created enough time to get an escort there.
11.25.2008 10:07pm
Oren:

It looks to me like we are pretty much in agreement. And if you've got the pockets of Aramco, I'm confident your attorney's and negotiators will cheer their full time employment.

No we are not.
11.25.2008 10:07pm
DangerMouse:
If someone is actually a terrorist, no one is actually going to defend him (aside from the occasional Bobby Fischer wacko).

Are you off your meds? Kalid Shiekh Mohommed has a lawyer who is DEFENDING HIM.
11.25.2008 10:07pm
Oren:



Are you off your meds? Kalid Shiekh Mohommed has a lawyer who is DEFENDING HIM.

DID YOU KNOW THEY GAVE TIMOTHTY MCVEIGH A WHOLE TRIAL?!!!!
11.25.2008 10:08pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

Mark Buehner:

"There are probably enough warships in the region already to blockade the region and systematically tighten the noose down the coastline, scuttling everything that floats."

No, there aren't.


But there are enough to protect the shipping lanes in question over a far wider area? S@#t or get off the pot. If we can blockade the coast we certainly cant patrol half the Indian ocean.

How did the British make a living of doing this kind of thing for a couple of centuries btw? This could be done if there was the political will in the allied nations. Even the Russians might like to get in on something like this. Might as well have some good come of all these joint naval drills we waste so much money doing with the navies of the world.

This is far less complicated than people are making it out to be. And like i said, this soft handedness will escalate the killing.
11.25.2008 10:09pm
DangerMouse:
Oren,

I'm not the one who's saying that no one is going to defend terrorists. MCM seems off his rocker. I'm merely asserting that the left will defend pirates like they're defending terrorists. It is totally unobjectionable. Yet for some reason, MCM thinks that is so ridiculous that it's not worth a debate. Really.
11.25.2008 10:10pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Oren,

I may publically identify only one source as to one part of that. Jim Dunnigan of Strategy Page confirmed that the intermediaries who arrange ransom payments are located in Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

And I specifically said that it is my opinion that the pirates are now also operating from Yemen. OTOH, you could stick pins in a map for known pirate attacks and draw the same conclusion. This one is obvious.
11.25.2008 10:10pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: MCM
RE: Heh

The MV Sirius Star was hijacked over 500 miles off the coast of Kenya. It's just impossible to actually patrol that much water. -- MCM


Never heard of a 'Global Hawk'? Or KeyHole satellite?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[We have the tools! We have the skills!]
11.25.2008 10:11pm
MCM (mail):
With unmanned drones, the idea is that you have them loiter around the harbor and follow every little vessel in and out (should only take a few thousand drones, piece of cake). Radio any ship that's got unwelcome guests to steam directly away and you've created enough time to get an escort there.


Pirates are notorious for using all sorts of hidden coves, grottos, etc., as anchorages. And many of these pirates are just riding around in speedboats - they don't all use known harbors.

And thousands of drones? What type of drones are you talking about? Predator drones cost several million US dollars each.
11.25.2008 10:11pm
DangerMouse:
DID YOU KNOW THEY GAVE TIMOTHTY MCVEIGH A WHOLE TRIAL?!!!!

Didn't you say you favored summary execution for pirates? How exactly is that "due process"?

Do you seriously think that summary execution would ever stand up today? Honestly. If Bush said, tomorrow: "We're patrolling off the Somali coast, and any pirates we capture will be summarily executed", the entire left and the courts would go insane. They would demand (even more) Bush be impeached, the officers who obeyed such an action should be jailed, and that the lawyers writing the memos defending such orders be disbarred.
11.25.2008 10:13pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: DangerMouse
RE: MCM

I'm not the one who's saying that no one is going to defend terrorists. MCM seems off his rocker. I'm merely asserting that the left will defend pirates like they're defending terrorists. It is totally unobjectionable. Yet for some reason, MCM thinks that is so ridiculous that it's not worth a debate. -- DangerMouse


Indeed. And that may explain his odd message to me at 11.25.2008 9:57pm. Wherein he may have said I accused him defending pirates.

Perhaps he was a tad overly sensitive about defending them when I had not accused him of such.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[To learn more about paranoids, follow them around....]
11.25.2008 10:16pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

And thousands of drones? What type of drones are you talking about? Predator drones cost several million US dollars each.


I have it on good authority the ones we have may be otherwise engaged at the moment. How many predators and their expert crews do we want to pull from Afghanistan and Iraq to babysit fishing fleets? For how long? This is getting ridiculous. Sink the stupid ships.
11.25.2008 10:16pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Mark Buehner
RE: Assets

I have it on good authority the ones we have may be otherwise engaged at the moment. How many predators and their expert crews do we want to pull from Afghanistan and Iraq to babysit fishing fleets? -- Mark Buehner


Capabilities of a Global Hawk are classified information. But I suspect one squadron, working off a carrier could do the job. And it need not be 'forever'.

And in the process, we WOULD sink their stupid ships. Afterwards, a simple destroyer or two could do the job.

Which brings to mind an idea I had left off my previous list of techniques....

[6] Blockade the coast where pirates are known to be working from. No vessels will be allowed to put to sea. They can fish the shallows and starve until all the pirates in their midst are identified and disposed of.
11.25.2008 10:21pm
Sarcastro (www):
Sink all ships, everywhere! This kind of liberal Kumbaya coddling of pirates only makes them bolder. The only way to stop the cycle of violence is to use enough of it!

Killing all pirates whenever they seize a ship won't solve the problem - new pirates are born every day, but new boats are not. With nothing to seize, these pirates will have no choice but to turn to more localized stuff, like highway robbery.

Plus, this way no lives are lost, only property damage! And the courts never had to get involved. I expect the liberal SCOTUS would name a pirate President if they are given the opportunity!

Alternate suggestion: Nuke Somalia, and when that doesn't solve the problem, all of Africa! Man, this plan is so practical! Hoowaa!
11.25.2008 10:21pm
Oren:

Blockade the coast where pirates are known to be working from. No vessels will be allowed to put to sea. They can fish the shallows and starve until all the pirates in their midst are identified and disposed of.

Collective punishment? I thought the goal here was not to sink that low.
11.25.2008 10:23pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

Capabilities of a Global Hawk are classified information. But I suspect one squadron, working off a carrier could do the job. And it need not be 'forever'.


I suspect if that was true theyd be at work already. I do agree with your last technique however.
11.25.2008 10:25pm
Oren:


I'm not the one who's saying that no one is going to defend terrorists. MCM seems off his rocker. I'm merely asserting that the left will defend pirates like they're defending terrorists. It is totally unobjectionable. Yet for some reason, MCM thinks that is so ridiculous that it's not worth a debate. Really.

You've asserted without any evidence that an event that has not happened is certain to happen in the future. It's absurd on its face.

Moreover, summary execution of pirates is legal without any new memos. Of course, if I remember my Constitution, Congress has the authority to make rules for captures on the seas -- if they want to deal with it differently, that's their prerogative.
11.25.2008 10:26pm
Oren:
Mark, Predators are a few million each which pales in comparison with the cost of a destroyer and complement.
11.25.2008 10:26pm
MCM (mail):
DM -

"Are you off your meds? Kalid Shiekh Mohommed has a lawyer who is DEFENDING HIM."

Which somehow means the left wing of American politics is "defending" him? Find me a single left-wing or liberal commentator (again, other than a nut like Bobby Fischer) who is defending KSM's actions.

Chuck -

Yes, I too read a Tom Clancy novel once. What you're suggesting is completely impractical.

Mark Buehner -

"But there are enough to protect the shipping lanes in question over a far wider area? S@#t or get off the pot. If we can blockade the coast we certainly cant patrol half the Indian ocean.

How did the British make a living of doing this kind of thing for a couple of centuries btw?"

No, there aren't enough ships to protect shipping lanes - if someone decided to attack them. Somali pirates are somewhat limited in that once they capture a ship, they still have to get it back home before they can do anything with it. As someone else already said above, blockading the coast is prohibitively expensive. And if what Thomas Holsinger says is correct, it wouldn't even solve the problem.

And the British were actually paying tribute to the Barbary pirates before the American intervention. Britain didn't "make a living" fighting pirates, they made a living shipping things around the world. Fighting pirates was nothing but a drain on the cost of trade.
11.25.2008 10:29pm
DangerMouse:
You've asserted without any evidence that an event that has not happened is certain to happen in the future. It's absurd on its face.

Without any evidence? The left scrambled to defend terrorists. They'll scramble to defend pirates.

That's all the evidence I need.

I'm thinking there's something else involved here in your objection. It's like you think terrorists are worthy of being defended for some reason, but pirates aren't. Maybe it's the leftist sympathy for terrorist political goals?
11.25.2008 10:30pm
Oren:

Without any evidence? The left scrambled to defend terrorists. They'll scramble to defend pirates.

Once, I saw a lawyer defending a guy that DUId and hit a little kid. True story.
11.25.2008 10:31pm
Jay Guevara (mail):

If Bush said, tomorrow: "We're patrolling off the Somali coast, and any pirates we capture will be summarily executed", the entire left and the courts would go insane.


As long as we're dealing with foreign enemies...
11.25.2008 10:31pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

Collective punishment? I thought the goal here was not to sink that low.


Mother of god, these are acts of war, or would be if there was a nation-state behind it. How do you think Japanese fisherman and merchants made out in WW2? My god, collective punishment. Yes, it is collective punishment, and the term isnt a dirty one. Find me a war, police action, punitive action, whatever you want to call it that didnt create collective punishment.

The only difference is the collective punishment that will be meeted out once the civilized world gets tired of patrolling the Indian Ocean hopelessly will be a magnitude greater than it would be now.

The good news is every time this kind of utopean nonsense that we can target just the badguys and make them stop with some good ol fashioned law and order (maybe a stern talking to) always ends up in a bloody debacle, and then we stop hearing about it for a few years. There is no such thing as a clean war and the faster you end it the less blood gets spilled. And when thousands of armed men are stealing ships, paralyzing commerce, and kidnapping civilians- you are at war.
11.25.2008 10:32pm
MCM (mail):
"Mark, Predators are a few million each which pales in comparison with the cost of a destroyer and complement."

My point was that thousands of Predator drones at a few million each means you are spending billions of dollars (in hardware costs alone - add in operating costs later).

At that point it's not even worth it. The status quo is cheaper.
11.25.2008 10:33pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

Mark, Predators are a few million each which pales in comparison with the cost of a destroyer and complement.


I dont doubt it but destroyers can't do much about interdicting Taliban terrorists in the Khybar Pass. I'll ask again, how many Predators and their crews do you recommend we divert from service in Afghanistan and Iraq to babysit fishing boats? And for how long?
11.25.2008 10:34pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

As someone else already said above, blockading the coast is prohibitively expensive.


Blockading it indefinately is. Creating a wall of ships and aircraft to herd the Somali ships where they can be seized or destroyed is not. We spent an awful lot of money assuming we could defeat the Soviet navy of several hundred subs and more surface ships before they could break out into the Atlantic. Im thinking the US navy alone wouldnt have too much trouble rounding about a few hundred fishing boats. Otherwise i'm writing my congressman.
11.25.2008 10:39pm
Sarcastro (www):
Dangermouse has ferrited it out from well known liberal MCM (Major Communist Man):

Liberals love Sharia law but hate eye patches!!!!!
11.25.2008 10:41pm
Ignatius Riley (mail):
Mother of god, these are acts of war, or would be if there was a nation-state behind it.



It's hard to argue with that logic.
11.25.2008 10:43pm
DangerMouse:
As long as we're dealing with foreign enemies...


Heh. Well, Adler seems avoiding the obvious in this blog post. Why don't we hang pirates anymore? Because we're not allowed to. The courts and the left won't allow it. It's too late.

Terrorists used to be called unlawful combatants, subject to summary execution. That didn't last long.
11.25.2008 10:43pm
MCM (mail):
Mark Buehner-

Assuming we're talking about just Somalia (and not Kenya or Yemen as well), that's over 3000 kilometers of coastline to blockade.

The comparison to the Soviet Navy is irrelevant. We're talking about guys in speed boats, not thousand-ton ships with nuclear reactors.
11.25.2008 10:44pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
There's not much money in privateering for pirates.
You'd have to combine it with something like Lloyd's open form for salvage where the salvor gets a chunk of the salvaged ship.
11.25.2008 10:44pm
MCM (mail):
Misread your post, but creating a "wall of ships" is no more practical than a coastal blockade.

Not to mention the question of how you determine who is actually a pirate without stopping and searching them all, which is impractical.
11.25.2008 10:46pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
As to the left defending pirates.
It was right that Mumia get a fair trial. But the left has him speaking to graduating seniors by tape, writing books, being the poster child for the mean ol' white guys, and insisting that he's innocent and besides, Faulkner deserved it. And booing Faulkner's widow when she shows up to give a talk.
Nope. No indication at all that the left would defend pirates.
11.25.2008 10:46pm
Tom S (mail):
Many posters here appear to have lost all sense of proportion, or are being excessivley forceful for some vicarious reason. Piracy is a nuisance. It is less of a threat than terrorism. According to the International Maritime Bureau, so far this year, there have been 199 reported incidents with nine confirmed deaths (and 7 people missing and presumed dead). According to the IMB, the number of attacks is unprecedented. Casualties for the year so far are the equivalent of a weekend in Iraq.

Countermeasures to be considered are fairly obvious. Some ships carry weapons, others have used high-pressure hoses, increasing speed, and evasive maneuvers to foil pirate attacks. If the situation in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia becomes worse, warships can escort individual vessels, or they can travel in convoy (with escort). As with street muggings, it is often easier to allow the pirates to take what they can in the short time they typically spend on board, and let them leave with minimal harm to the crew. Most incidents in the past have been of this nature.

Piracy typically occurs in areas where there is little law enforcement due to corruption and lack of resources (Lagos), failed states (Somalia), or many opportunities (Phillips strait--Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore). In the latter case some pirates are fishermen who supplement their income with the occasional smash and grab. Outside of Somalia, what is called piracy is primarily a law enforcement issue that occurs within the territorial waters of the littoral countries.
11.25.2008 10:48pm
Ignatius Riley (mail):
Richard, good show! I was starting to think the inmates had taken the assylum


You'd have to combine it with something like Lloyd's open form for salvage where the salvor gets a chunk of the salvaged ship.


Logic and knowledge. Well done!
11.25.2008 10:49pm
DangerMouse:
It was right that Mumia get a fair trial. But the left has him speaking to graduating seniors by tape, writing books, being the poster child for the mean ol' white guys, and insisting that he's innocent and besides, Faulkner deserved it. And booing Faulkner's widow when she shows up to give a talk.

Exactly.
11.25.2008 10:50pm
Tom S (mail):
Aubrey:

"privateers" getting a share of salvage for recovering a ship taken by pirates? Hmmm. Given the level of collusion and corruption that already exists in this area, pirates and local authorities wouldn't have to be rocket scientists to figure out ways of gaming the system to get even more money out of the shipping and insurance sectors. Piracy would actually increase.
11.25.2008 11:02pm
MCM (mail):
In other news, the price of straw is skyrocketing due to heightened demand.
11.25.2008 11:02pm
MCM (mail):
Tom S - the use of privateers and other mercenaries is sometimes cited as a contributing factor to Caribbean piracy. So I think your point is backed up by historical evidence, as well.
11.25.2008 11:03pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Tom S.
What I know about privateering is that it was designed to be a kind of commerce raiding without the sinking. Privateers did not take on opposing naval units, nor pirates. Without money in the game, nothing happens.
It was a way to make good money, or lose your butt.
I suppose a nation or a shipping company could propose a kind of bounty for each pirate ship captured or destroyed, but then we'd have accusations that Joe Schmuck the Fisherman and Mrs. Schmuck and all the little Schmucks were actually fishing, not pirating. You know. Like we got all those guys at Gitmo.
So a letter of marque and reprisal isn't going to get us very far by itself.
11.25.2008 11:09pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Here are some excerpts from Tuesday's article on the subject at Strategy Page:
"... Meanwhile, piracy has been a growing problem off the Somali coast for over a decade. The problem now is that there are hundreds of experienced pirates. And these guys have worked out a system that is very lucrative, and not very risky. For most of the past decade, the pirates preyed on foreign fishing boats and the small, often sail powered, cargo boats the move close (within a hundred kilometers) of the shore. During that time, the pirates developed contacts with businessmen in the Persian Gulf who could be used to negotiate (for a percentage) the ransoms with insurance companies and shipping firms ...

There has always been the option of a military operation to capture the seaside towns and villages the pirates operate from. But this would include sinking hundreds of fishing boats and speedboats. Hundreds of civilians would be killed or injured. Unless the coastal areas were occupied (or until local Somalis could maintain law and order), the pirates would soon be back in business. Pacifying Somalia is an unpopular prospect. Given the opprobrium heaped on the U.S. for doing something about Iraq, no one wants to be on the receiving end of that criticism for pacifying Somalia. The world also knows, from over a century of experience, that the Somalis are violent, persistent and unreliable. That's a combination that has made it impossible for the Somalis to even govern themselves. In the past, what is now Somalia has been ruled, by local and foreign rulers, through the use of violent methods that are no longer politically acceptable. But now the world is caught between accepting a "piracy tax" imposed by the Somalis, or going in and pacifying the unruly country and its multitude of bandits, warlords and pirates.

The piracy "tax" is basically a security surcharge on maritime freight movements. It pays for higher insurance premiums (which in turn pay for the pirate ransoms), danger bonuses for crews and the additional expense of all those warships off the Somali coast. Most consumers would hardly notice this surcharge, as it would increase sea freight charges by less than a percent. Already, many ships are going round the southern tip of Africa, and avoiding Somalia and the Suez canal altogether. Ships would still be taken. Indeed, about a third of the ships seized this year had taken precautions, but the pirates still got them. Warships could attempt an embargo of Somalia, not allowing seagoing ships in or our without a warship escort. Suspicious seagoing ships, and even speedboats, could be sunk in port. That would still produce some videos (real or staged, it doesn't matter) of dead civilians, but probably not so many that the anti-piracy force would be indicted as war criminals.

This sort of bad publicity does not bother the Russians as much as it does other European nations and the United States. Russia got lots of bad press for its brutal, but effective, counter-terror operations in Chechnya. Same with last Augusts invasion of Georgia, which was basically a punitive operation, mainly intended to intimidate the Georgian government. That worked too, despite lots of hostile rhetoric from the U.S. and European nations. If the Russians go old school on the Somali pirates, it will probably work. The Somalis are vicious and clever, but not stupid. Somalis and Russians speak the same language of violence, and the Russians carry a bigger stick. The world will complain, then enjoy the benefits of a piracy free Somali coast."

11.25.2008 11:14pm
Bama 1L:
Misread your post, but creating a "wall of ships" is no more practical than a coastal blockade.

I think the prophecy was about "walls of wood."

According to the International Maritime Bureau, so far this year, there have been 199 reported incidents with nine confirmed deaths (and 7 people missing and presumed dead).

So, unless we get more news, the Indian Navy has managed to kill about as many civilians as the pirates have. And the Indians haven't even put their carriers and nuke subs into the fight!

In the grand scheme of things, this is a nuisance. It is crime and can be dealt with as such. Fundamentally, if it were worthwhile to shipping companies to fix this problem, they could fix it by improving security aboard their vessels. Any vessel could simply carry twenty additional armed men to keep constant lookout and prevent surprise boardings. They don't do this, so it must not be worth it. Unless there is significant cost to third parties I can't see the point in contributing significant public funds and risking additional lives.

(I thought this was a libertarian blog, government can't solve your problems, I can defend myself better than the police, etc., etc.)
11.25.2008 11:19pm
Tom S (mail):
There are a lot of people posting here who wish to use sledgehammers to crush fleas; a strategy that is almost always counterproductive.

Richard Aubrey:

Posting a bounty for killing/capturing pirates will guarantee that people in the wrong place at the wrong time will be taken. See how well it worked in Afghanistan. Or pirates who do not pay off the local authorities will be caught and prosecuted, while those who do pay them off will be ignored. Win-win...for the bad guys.
11.25.2008 11:19pm
SFC B (mail) (www):
Back in September it was announced that Blackwater was preparing to go into the naval security business. They had purchased a ship and refitted it for security operations (heli-pad, launch platforms for Zodiacs). Apparently back in 2006 Blackwater saw the writing on the wall and bought their ship. It's now ready to go and they were looking for clients.

Blackwater's Navy

This will undoubtly accomplish a couple things. 1. It will kill pirates. Woe to the first pirate boat to approach a ship which is under BW's protection. 2. It will make useful idiots defend pirates.
11.25.2008 11:28pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

Misread your post, but creating a "wall of ships" is no more practical than a coastal blockade.


Wall is hardly the idea, and its hardly impractical to form a cordon of ships and planes. What exactly do you think our navy does? We've been training to hunt several hundred Russian subs loose in the Atlantic for generations. Driving them to where we want them is EXACTLY what we train for. And with all due respect, you are right, a fleet of speed boats ISNT a Soviet nuclear submarine with a professional crew tasked to slip through NATO SOSUS pickets. Please. You are making this SO much more complicated than it really is. Speedboats dont carry enough fuel to slip a cordon to the open sea. They will return to their 'mother ships' and we can sink those. Or they will go to ground on the coast where we will either find them, or they will be reduced to extremely short range once their mother ships are dealt with. This is hardly the hunt for red october.

Not to mention the question of how you determine who is actually a pirate without stopping and searching them all, which is impractical


Indeed. Reread my post. I suggesting sinking ever vessel we find on the Somali coast. Obviously a few would slip through our net, 100% success is not the requirement. I suspect this will be somewhat less complicated than, say, winning back the Pacific from the Japanese. Notwithstanding the fearsome speedboat menace.
11.25.2008 11:32pm
Jay Guevara (mail):

It [piracy] is less of a threat than terrorism.


And both are less of a threat than liberalism. What's your point?
11.25.2008 11:38pm
MCM (mail):
If "wall is hardly the idea" then perhaps you should not have said we should create "wall of ships and aircraft to herd the Somali ships where they can be seized or destroyed".

"I suggesting sinking ever vessel we find on the Somali coast."

wow.
11.25.2008 11:39pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
This piracy situation sounds a lot like the predator-prey problem. The more pirates the less shipping, and more shipping leads to more pirates. Too many pirates and the shipping will dry up. So let's make the pirates the prey and the navies the predators giving us two mixed predictor prey systems. It seems to me that we could analyze this problem to determine the effects of having the navies kill the pirates at various rates.

Some of the posters here seem to think that we can't reduce the pirate population no matter how many we kill. That doesn't happen in the animal world, why would this situation be any different?
11.25.2008 11:39pm
MCM (mail):
Zarkov -

Because this situation doesn't involve wild animals?
11.25.2008 11:42pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
So, what is your take on bootie pirates?
11.25.2008 11:45pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

If "wall is hardly the idea" then perhaps you should not have said we should create "wall of ships and aircraft to herd the Somali ships where they can be seized or destroyed".


Forgive me, i'll avoid metaphor in the future since its becoming overwhelming confusing. I didnt literally mean a wall of ships, i suppose touching bow to stern for hundreds of miles? I agree, that would be prohibitively expensive indeed.

I meant a cordon of ships and planes. Kinda like the navy uses to do things the navy does. Like hunting submarines?


"I suggesting sinking ever vessel we find on the Somali coast."

wow.


I believe war at sea has seen something to this effect in the past from time to time. In this case the ships would be allowed to evacuate and returned to shore, which, i'm told, hasnt always been the case historically.
11.25.2008 11:49pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
And if Strategy Page is right, the Russians are going to do exactly what i've suggested. Only one suspects they will be less picky about offering rides back to shore. Blood now or more blood later.
11.25.2008 11:51pm
MCM (mail):
When I said it was too expensive to be practical, I didn't mean it was impossible. Even what you're describing is prohibitively expensive, relative to the threat.

Creating networks of sonar buoys and tasking groups of warships to stop submarines loaded with dozens of nuclear warheads makes sense, even if it costs billions of dollars.

Using the same means to stop a bunch of guys with AK-47s who have killed 9 people in the past year doesn't make sense. It's stupid.
11.25.2008 11:53pm
MCM (mail):
Mark Buehner -

I suggest you reread it because it says nothing of the sort.
11.25.2008 11:54pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mark B.
One advantage the Russians have, and the Sovs before them, is that they can get away with a good deal of inhuman brutality before the Professionally Incredibly Wonderful in the West notice. And then the PIW will point to Wounded Knee.
11.25.2008 11:57pm
Jay Guevara (mail):

Because this situation doesn't involve wild animals?


Ah, that's your mistake.
11.26.2008 12:01am
Mark Buehner (mail):

When I said it was too expensive to be practical, I didn't mean it was impossible. Even what you're describing is prohibitively expensive, relative to the threat.


Which, of course, depends on how serious you consider the threat. And how much you will spend indefinately dealing with this problem compared to ending it rapidly.


Creating networks of sonar buoys and tasking groups of warships to stop submarines loaded with dozens of nuclear warheads makes sense, even if it costs billions of dollars.


Except that our navy already exists and trains to do this kind of stuff all the time. Billions? Depends how you do the accounting- theyd be doing the same stuff for roughly the same amount of money somewhere else for no purpose but training. Ultimately this would be good training for dealing with the current naval threats like Iran. Newsflash- the US navy has been in the business of keeping sea lanes open to commerce for decades. This isnt a new enterprise and its probably taken longer for me to explain it to you then it would take a carriet task force to rough up a battle plan. Our navy is trained to do this, its not a big deal for them.


Using the same means to stop a bunch of guys with AK-47s who have killed 9 people in the past year doesn't make sense. It's stupid.


Odd the entire world is riveted on the problem then. Odd we've spent so much time talking about it. 200 tanks being hijacked today, what tomorrow? 100 million in oil? Oh, thats right...

This isnt just about pirates any more than stopping a gang of vandals from trashing the town square is about keeping the window to the barber shop clean of graffiti. Law and order is important. Showing impotence to the (as you say) bunch of guys with AK-47s doing a fine job of driving a siginficant portion of world trade scurrying will have consequences elsewhere. None of them good. You think the Iranians might be paying attention a little bit?
11.26.2008 12:01am
Mark Buehner (mail):

I suggest you reread it because it says nothing of the sort.


Warships could attempt an embargo of Somalia, not allowing seagoing ships in or our without a warship escort. Suspicious seagoing ships, and even speedboats, could be sunk in port. That would still produce some videos (real or staged, it doesn't matter) of dead civilians, but probably not so many that the anti-piracy force would be indicted as war criminals.

This sort of bad publicity does not bother the Russians as much as it does other European nations and the United States. Russia got lots of bad press for its brutal, but effective, counter-terror operations in Chechnya. Same with last Augusts invasion of Georgia, which was basically a punitive operation, mainly intended to intimidate the Georgian government. That worked too, despite lots of hostile rhetoric from the U.S. and European nations. If the Russians go old school on the Somali pirates, it will probably work.


MCM, we're clearing living in some sort of alternate universes. Since we can't seem to agree on simple facts, i'm throwing up my hands. Have a good night.
11.26.2008 12:06am
MCM (mail):
"Which, of course, depends on how serious you consider the threat. And how much you will spend indefinately dealing with this problem compared to ending it rapidly."

If you think sinking every ship on the Somali coast is a way of "ending [the problem] rapidly", then you have my sympathy.

"Except that our navy already exists and trains to do this kind of stuff all the time. Billions? Depends how you do the accounting- theyd be doing the same stuff for roughly the same amount of money somewhere else for no purpose but training."

Now you're just being downright silly. SOSUS took years to develop and construct. We actually don't go around laying sonar networks just for training purposes. We couldn't even pursue Somali pirate boats into all their hiding places because they have access to shallower waters than warships. Sinking every ship on the Somali coast would require way more ammo and fuel than training. Not to mention we'd have to actually send hundreds more ships there than the few we have right now. And how do you know the ships don't just hide until we leave? So you want to keep doing this over and over until the pirates get tired of watching us waste money?

Honestly I rarely see something so stupid and ignorant as what you are suggesting.

"ltimately this would be good training for dealing with the current naval threats like Iran. Newsflash- the US navy has been in the business of keeping sea lanes open to commerce for decades. This isnt a new enterprise and its probably taken longer for me to explain it to you then it would take a carriet task force to rough up a battle plan. Our navy is trained to do this, its not a big deal for them. "

What does this have to do with Iran? Nothing. Iran has an actual navy that we are already trained to hunt and destroy easily. This is nothing like that. Of course we could just eliminate the Navy and rename it the "Somali Coast Guard" since that's what you're proposing.

"Odd the entire world is riveted on the problem then. Odd we've spent so much time talking about it. 200 tanks being hijacked today, what tomorrow? 100 million in oil? Oh, thats right..."

Which obviously means the solution is for the United States government to spend billions of dollars combating the threat, instead of having Saudi Aramco spend a few hundred thousand dollars on security personnel. Idiocy.

"Law and order is important. Showing impotence to the (as you say) bunch of guys with AK-47s doing a fine job of driving a siginficant portion of world trade scurrying will have consequences elsewhere. None of them good."

A significant portion of world trade? Wow. When the facts don't fit your position, just feel free to change them at will.
11.26.2008 12:19am
MCM (mail):
Wow Mark. Try reading the first paragraph of the article:

"In other words, the Russians plan to go old school on the Somali pirates, and use force to rescue ships currently held, and act ruthlessly against real or suspected pirates it encounters at sea",

instead of relying on "Warships could attempt an embargo of Somalia" to mean "I'm right! Russia will blockade Somalia!"
11.26.2008 12:23am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Screw it -- the pirates aren't our problem, unless they attack U.S.-flagged ships. If shipowners want the United States to do something about pirates that might menace their property, they can register their ships as American vessels, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. If they decide not to do that, then let them turn to the countries that do flag their ships for a solution. (Lots of luck.)

According to Stephens' piece, the United Nations and Europe won'ttake action:
What about international law? Article 110 of the U.N.'s Law of the Sea Convention -- ratified by most nations, but not by the U.S. -- enjoins naval ships from simply firing on suspected pirates. Instead, they are required first to send over a boarding party to inquire of the pirates whether they are, in fact, pirates. A recent U.N. Security Council resolution allows foreign navies to pursue pirates into Somali waters -- provided Somalia's tottering government agrees -- but the resolution expires next week. As for the idea of laying waste, Stephen Decatur-like, to the pirate's prospering capital port city of Eyl, this too would require U.N. authorization. Yesterday, a shippers' organization asked NATO to blockade the Somali coast. NATO promptly declined.

Then there is the problem of what to do with captured pirates. No international body similar to the old Admiralty Courts is currently empowered to try pirates and imprison them. The British foreign office recently produced a legal opinion warning Royal Navy ships not to take pirates captive, lest they seek asylum in the U.K. or otherwise face repatriation in jurisdictions where they might be dealt with harshly, in violation of the British Human Rights Act. ...

And don't forget, the enlightened nations of the European Union have banned capital punishment, and want us to ban it too.

Other countries could put a stop to piracy if they really wanted to. They don't. Not. Our. Problem.

It is fun, though, to think about the United States granting letters of marque to privateers. Trouble is, the pirates themselves don't own anything that would reimburse the privateers for the costs of their operations, and the seized vessels are not the pirates' property to be claimed by the privateers.
Perhaps American privateers could be chartered by the owners of the seized ships.
11.26.2008 12:27am
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Mark Buehner
RE: Global Hawk Approach

I suspect if that was true theyd be at work already. -- Mark Buehner


Well....

....I suspect that the USAF has a lock on GH's. And that the USN has not seriously considered working them from the deck of one of their precious carriers.

The Navy jet-jockeys would probably pitch them overboard as a prank, they being obvious threats to their future; unmanned aircraft, indeed.

I still think the idea of using UMA from naval vessels would be a great idea. Beats the hell out of sending a 'forlorn hope' helicopter out to pin-point an enemy fleet's exact position in order to launch a Time-On-Target missile strike.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
P.S. I'll bet Iron Man could handle this problem!
11.26.2008 12:38am
autolykos:

There are a lot of people posting here who wish to use sledgehammers to crush fleas; a strategy that is almost always counterproductive.


I don't people generally care what is used to crush the flea, just that the flea gets a crushing rather than a stern talking to.
11.26.2008 12:45am
Oren:
Chuck, the Navy flyboys will do as they're told.
11.26.2008 12:52am
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Tom S
RE: The Crushing of Fleas

There are a lot of people posting here who wish to use sledgehammers to crush fleas; a strategy that is almost always counterproductive. -- Tom S


Have you ever tried to 'crush a flea'? They're rather impervious to just pushing about. So a hammer, sledge or ball-peen, and a hard surface on which to whack them is a LOT better than you might be aware of.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[There are few problems that cannot be removed by the judicious application of a one-pound block of C4. -- US Army Combat Engineer axiom]
11.26.2008 12:53am
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Oren
RE: Yeah?

....the Navy flyboys will do as they're told. -- Oren


How many fighter jocks have you known?

I grew up in the Air Force.....

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Take egotism out, and you would castrate the benefactors. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson]
11.26.2008 12:56am
R7 (mail):
The United States' own shipping really hasn't been affected by Somali pirates, however China's has. Let's just say that China hasn't been infected by the West's PC rot and pacifist superstition.
11.26.2008 1:00am
autolykos:
To be clear, I don't think we even need to get into the question of what the best way is to eliminate piracy. As interesting as it is to talk about whether a cordon of ships, the destruction of all Somali navigable craft or the bombing of the seaside populations would be necessary/appropriate, that isn't the point. The point is that simply doing what we're already doing but granting our forces the right to shoot on sight would have a significant deterrent effect. Would it be "enough"? I have no idea, but I also don't know what the standard for enough is. That being said, the reason we don't execute pirates isn't because we don't think it will work or that it will cost more innocent lives than it will save, but because of these silly European anti-death penalty norms that have somehow developed over the past half-century.

Executing pirates wouldn't perpetuate some mythical cycle of violence. The Somali pirates are reasonably rational actors. They're not going to start offing more civilians because of increased risks. They're going to act in whatever way makes it most likely they will (i) get paid and (ii) don't end up dead. Changing our Navy's ROE doesn't change that calculus.
11.26.2008 1:08am
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: autolykos
RE: Hardly

The Somali pirates are reasonably rational actors. -- autolykos


Piracy itself is hardly what any REALLY 'reasonably rational' person would call 'reasonable' nor 'rational'.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[In wickedness there is a strong strain toward rationality.]
11.26.2008 1:27am
Jay Guevara (mail):

As for the idea of laying waste, Stephen Decatur-like, to the pirate's prospering capital port city of Eyl, this too would require U.N. authorization.


Then let's waste to the U.N. first, as accomplices. That'll help to clarify their priorities.
11.26.2008 1:29am
Oren:

Piracy itself is hardly what any REALLY 'reasonably rational' person would call 'reasonable' nor 'rational'.

$25 million payout for a few weeks of holding a ship hostage? Even the grunts make out like kinds.

Seems perfectly rational to me.
11.26.2008 2:14am
Occam's Beard (mail):


For all our special needs liberals, here's how the Soviets dealt -- permanently -- with terrorism:

In October 1985, Alfa was dispatched to Beirut, Lebanon, when four Soviet diplomats had been taken hostage by militant Sunni Muslims. By the time Alfa was onsite, one of the hostages had already been killed. The perpetrators and their relatives were identified by supporting KGB operatives, and the latter were taken hostage. Following the standard policy of 'no negotiation', Alfa proceeded to sever some of their hostages' body parts and sent them to the perpetrators with a warning that more would follow if the Russian hostages were not released immediately. The tactic was a success and no other Russian national was taken hostage in the Middle East for the next 20 years,[2] until the 2006 abduction of Russian diplomats in Iraq.

Hey, if socialists do it, it must OK, right?
11.26.2008 2:19am
Voodude (mail):
Don't you people realize that this is part of our solution to
global warming?
11.26.2008 2:58am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Occam's Beard:

"Alfa proceeded to sever some of their hostages' body parts and sent them to the perpetrators with a warning that more would follow if the Russian hostages were not released immediately."

More precisely, Alpha cut the Muslim's balls off, stuffed them into their mouths, which were sewed shut, and returned bodies to their families. Alpha engaged in this mutilation because some (all?) Muslims believe they can't enter Paradise in such a condition. Evidently this worked as Muslim terrorists stopped actions against the Soviets for a long time.
11.26.2008 4:01am
Mark in Texas (mail):
MCM - While pirates are sometimes captured by the United States Navy, I have yet to hear tell of any pro bono pirate defense.

A number of reasons suggest themselves:

1) It's the holiday season. Left wing lawyers are getting ready for their annual war against Christmas.

2) The US Navy may simply release the Pirates in a mean spirited move to deprive leftist lawyers of the pleasure of getting the pirates freed through the legal system.

3) The US Navy may be handing the pirates over to be incarcerated in Kenya or other remote places without trendy coffee shops, good vegan restaurants or decent bars. Traveling long distances to those locations is going to be tedious and will take so much time that it might interfere with the lawyers involved efforts to make partner.

Obviously what is needed is a court order directing the US Navy to transport all pirates captured to New York, Washington, Chicago or Los Angeles where it will be more convenient for progressive attorneys to do their pro bono work.
11.26.2008 7:14am
Mark in Texas (mail):
Oren - Shit, why not just nuke Somalia from orbit?

Because those damned liberals with their "don't weaponize space" crap won't let us have any orbiting nukes, damn them.

We could, however, fire a Minuteman missile from one of the silos in the Midwest. It would be kind of cool to see if those things really worked. That would be a suborbital flight so it doesn't really meet your requirements.

The thing is, to the best of my knowledge no US flagged ship has been captured or even attacked by pirates in this area so it seems a bit excessive to be devoting even the current level of US Navy effort and expense to protecting the ships of a bunch of pissant foreigners who hate us anyway.

I guess that it is good training and a morale booster for the Navy guys who feel left out from the action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
11.26.2008 7:40am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Perhaps some shipowners could agree to go in convoy--took a hell of a lot of work to get that started in WW I--and hire the Blackwater navy to shepherd them.
11.26.2008 8:17am
Sam H (mail):
"The thing is, to the best of my knowledge no US flagged ship has been captured or even attacked by pirates in this area so it seems a bit excessive to be devoting even the current level of US Navy effort and expense to protecting the ships of a bunch of pissant foreigners who hate us anyway."

Exactly. Not our problem and you know the EU and UN are just waiting for a chance to jump on us if we make an error. Pull our ships out and tell the UN it is their problem.
11.26.2008 8:17am
Mark Buehner (mail):
MCM, its really hard to tell if you are as ignorant of military affairs as you display, or just enjoy semantic arguments to no end.

SOSUS has nothing to do with this, we DONT NEED SONAR BOUYS TO IDENTIFY AND CLOSE ON SPEED BOATS. I only brought it up in passing as proof that our navy is very good at controlling sea lanes and denying them to the enemy. I know that confused you, and again, i'm sorry for adding a little context as opposed to keeping things obnoxiously simple.

I'll leave it at this: Our navy very good at finding, sinking other navies. We pay big money for same. Speed boats, rickety fishing boats not good navy. Ocean big, yes, but our navy aware of this, have considered it on occasion. No problem.

Now of course the idea of scuttling or seizing a few hundred Somali fishing is going to be viewed by some as the new killing fields, but i suspect the rational among us understand its a benign solution by any historical standards. A few hundred Somalis and their families will have to find a new line of work. Tragic, heart wrenching, i'm weeping bitter tears that this network of pirates and their enablers will lose their day jobs. But in the big picture this isnt exactly Darfur- and moreover it will prevent a much bloodier response by the less scrupulous international entities. It may also deter like minded elsewhere in the world. Great, we save the fishing fleets that moonlight as kidnappers and murderes, but then 5 more coastlines around the world join the fun. That will save lives...

For the record if the Russians decide to sink every 'suspicious' vessel as the article suggests, they are going to sink every vessel they come across. They are all suspicious. You see that's the problem.
11.26.2008 9:46am
autolykos:

Piracy itself is hardly what any REALLY 'reasonably rational' person would call 'reasonable' nor 'rational'.


Of course they're rational. They're attacking low-risk, high-value targets, principally with the goal of achieving monetary gain. There are countless other targets they could attack (but don't) because, though the value is higher, the risks are unacceptably high. I'm sure that if a group of pirates did an Under Siege style commandeering of a multi-billion dollar aircraft carrier, the hostage value would be through the roof (both because of the value of the equipment, the hostages and the ability to use the weapons systems on board). Of course, because of their lack of Gary Busey-esque expertise, the risk is unacceptably high.
11.26.2008 9:51am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
More precisely, Alpha cut the Muslim's balls off, stuffed them into their mouths, which were sewed shut, and returned bodies to their families. Alpha engaged in this mutilation because some (all?) Muslims believe they can't enter Paradise in such a condition. Evidently this worked as Muslim terrorists stopped actions against the Soviets for a long time.

Except for that whole Afghanistan thing, where they eventually beat the Soviets.
11.26.2008 9:55am
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Oren
RE: Heh

Seems perfectly rational to me. -- Oren


Then why aren't you a member of a pirate crew?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Moral dignity requires no equipment beyond the will to do what is right. -- Alan Keyes]
11.26.2008 10:16am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Maybe the vacation from history was the Twentieth Century.
Even the world wars were, in a sense, organized. Everybody knew where everybody else stood, both politically and geographically. We knew what winning and losing would probably look like, and when the wars were over, things got reorganized, with certain exceptions.

I understand New Zealand has decided not to have an Air Force, or perhaps the recent election will change that.

So what happens when a fast ship, like a renovated trawler, comes highballing into a the harbor of a small town in NZ? Puts a hundred guys ashore shooting anything that moves, loots the bank, blows up the POL storage facility for grins, and kidnaps a few dozen women, and is back over the horizon in two hours?

Pirate movies usually showed us various Fairbankses and Flynns swinging from lines on ships. Piracy's big scores were in taking whole towns. Even threatening North American colonial towns. If you look at a good map of the Atlantic coast of NA, you'll find old forts on practically every entrance to even a small harbor. That preceded the Revolution. It was pirates they were worried about.

So, to my NZ issue. Anybody think of a reason that cannot possibly happen? And if it does, what and who are going to do what about it?
11.26.2008 10:45am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Except for that whole Afghanistan thing, where they eventually beat the Soviets."

By "stopping actions against the Soviets for a long time" I meant the kidnapping of Soviet diplomats in the Middle East. The Alpha Group action certainly put a stop to that and related practices. In Afghanistan the Soviets came looking for trouble and found it. Unable to pacify the whole country they gave up and went home.

If your point is that extreme measures against terrorists don't always work, then I agree. But a better example is Chechnya. Here the extreme brutality used by Russia against the civilian population was not effective or at least immediately effective.
11.26.2008 10:57am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"... blows up the POL storage facility for grins,..."

POL stands for "Petroleum Oil Lubricants," a somewhat obscure term. Did you work at CIA?
11.26.2008 11:02am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Piracy and home evasion.

I see a similarity here. It seems like almost everyone agrees that the use of lethal force against pirates is certainly justified as there is no doubt of their guilt. Yet lethal force against a home invader is not justified in some places such as the UK. There the government expects the victim to remain passive because he might use excessive force against the intruder and hurt or kill him. The risk burden gets put onto the victim. Is it any wonder that the UK can't seem to deal with pirates?

What's happened to the British people? Why have they become a nation of pussies?
11.26.2008 11:12am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
So what happens when a fast ship, like a renovated trawler, comes highballing into a the harbor of a small town in NZ? Puts a hundred guys ashore shooting anything that moves, loots the bank, blows up the POL storage facility for grins, and kidnaps a few dozen women, and is back over the horizon in two hours?

Really, if this happened in the U.S. do you think the Air Force could scramble that quickly (remember what happened on 9/11)? Do you really think that the Air Force would attack a U.S. town from the air without knowing what was going on on the ground?

This of course is what the Coast Guard and police are for.

You guys just don't seem to understand how complicated this situation is. Somalia is completely lawless. These ships run on skeleton crews--that Saudi super tanker had a crew of 25. The owners of the ships don't invest in security because the bottom line doesn't justify it. Even if the crews could be trained to fight back, what possible incentive could a Indonesian cook have to risk his life fighting pirates when he is making a few hundred dollars a month?
11.26.2008 11:14am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Zark. Worse. I'm sixty-three and when I was younger that was a common term. Also in the Army. Not at all obscure in the last millenium.

J.F. I wasn't hypothesizing an attack on, say, Niantic, CT. But some small coastal town in NZ.

How fast would NZ's forces, whatever they are, going to get to that town? How many cops does this town have? Do they have automatic weapons and RPGs and light armor? Mortars?

My primary question is not about the hypothetical land assault by pirates, but what would or could be done about one in other parts of the world which are both militarily weak and closer to unsettled areas such as backwater Indonesia.

Seems to me the primary reason not to do it would be that the local bank would be presumed to have inadequate currency on hand to justify the effort and there probably isn't any other source of easily portable wealth. But the question is, what if it happened? What would/could be done, considering what isn't being done wrt the waters off the Horn?
11.26.2008 11:24am
autolykos:

Then why aren't you a member of a pirate crew?


Probably because he's not an impoverished Somali.
11.26.2008 11:47am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
auto.
Seems the obvious wasn't all that obvious.
11.26.2008 11:58am
wfjag:
Ignatius Riley
"A Confederacy of Dunces". Your logging name, by itself, wins this thread.


A Thailand-based fishing company has claimed that the pirate 'mother ship' the Indian Navy destroyed in the Gulf of Aden last week was one of its deep sea fishing trawlers and was being hijacked by pirates when it was blown up by INS Tabar.

In an area where there are pirates taking ships and crews for ransom, and there are also warships from nations that sometimes follow the "Shoot first and ask questions later" doctrine, ever consider fishing someplace else? 70% of the Earth's surface are oceans -- lots of room, no waiting.
11.26.2008 12:10pm
Edmund Unneland (mail) (www):
As I understand it, legislation for the British Indian Ocean Territory (Diego Garcia) can be enacted by Order-in-Council. Also, pirates may be tried by any forum into which they are brought, under the laws of that forum.

Perhaps the U. S., France, Saudi Arabia and Britain could work together to construct a prison in the territory and a courthouse for trials on the island. A high court judge could be seconded to conduct trials and appeals could go to the judicial committee of the privy council (perhaps a panel of privy councillors having held judicial office could be sent to the island periodically to hear appeals). It seems a good and quick way to deal with a situation that could get very bad, very quickly; this kind of justice, while perhaps a bit rough, is less rough than a simple hanging from the yardarm.

Also (though this is a stretch considering the anti-death penalty sentiment in the UK), perhaps the territorial legislation against piracy could also provide for lethal injection when a piractical action results in someone's death.

(I've posted this elsewhere, on "Bystander's" magistrate's blog.)
11.26.2008 12:29pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
wf.
Rantburg has more on the "oops", including photos of what are supposedly secondary explosions, which don't normally happen with fishing boats. I couldn't say how fuel oil would look burning, but, absent some artificial introduction of oxygen, or the fire itself being blown up by some other explosion, the pix do seem to show secondaries.
There are other considerations discussed, as well.
11.26.2008 12:36pm
autolykos:

In an area where there are pirates taking ships and crews for ransom, and there are also warships from nations that sometimes follow the "Shoot first and ask questions later" doctrine, ever consider fishing someplace else? 70% of the Earth's surface are oceans -- lots of room, no waiting.


While it's true that 70% of the Earth's surface is water, a considerably smaller percentage of that is suitable for fishing. The majority of the Pacific, for example, is much too deep to sustain fishable populations. The areas that are capable of being fished are generally close to shore (since the reachable bottom provides both room for plants to grow and nutrients to sustain them). The problem, especially in someplace like South Asia, is that there are many, many people and nations laying claim to the fish stocks in a pretty compact area. I can see how going to someplace like Somalia, with its thousands of miles of coasts and the obvious disincentives for most people to fish, would seem attractive given those circumstances.

Off-topic, but a subject I find interesting.
11.26.2008 2:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
auto.
Right. The Grand Banks are tough water, and getting there isn't easy, or wasn't, but they were being fished from Europe from at least 1497 (Cabot) if not earlier. Long way to go. Across a lot of water where it didn't pay to wet a line.
11.26.2008 3:38pm
traveler496:
Pirates need oceans; why don't we just drain them? The oceans, I mean. At least the ones around Somalia.

Then, when the pirates go wandering in search of sunken treasure, we can fill them again.

The oceans, I mean.
11.26.2008 6:30pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
If Bush does something to stop them before he leaves office, they'll be innocent fisherman caught up in Bush's war mongering adventures and entitled to Constitutional rights and ACLU lawyers, along with catered meals and prayer rugs.

If Obama comes into office and orders fighter planes to descend on them and blow them to Allah, Obama will be a strong and decisive leader protecting American's children from the threats that would ultimately come to our shores.

It's that simple.
11.26.2008 7:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Brian.
So you took the lesson from the "not so fast" wrt Gitmo, did you?
I think there are some who'd prefer we not actually notice.
11.27.2008 12:38am
Mark in Texas (mail):
autolykos

The blue water oceans are blue because they are essentially devoid of life. The nutrients sink down below the level which sunlight can penetrate so there is almost no phytoplankton growth and so there is no base to the food chain.

If the anthropogenic global warming cultists actually believed what they were preaching, they would already be doing projects like ocean iron fertilization which would cause plankton blooms in mid ocean areas in order to sequester carbon. One of the interesting byproducts of this, if done consistently, would be a massive increase in fish populations in the newly fertilized plankton rich areas.

With fish more plentiful in areas far away from Somalia, there might well be fewer fishermen in the area causing a richer legitimate target to innocent bystander ratio.
11.27.2008 8:33am
Thomas_Holsinger:
Jim Dunnigan at Strategy Page agrees with me that the only effective solution to Somali piracy is to have a lot less Somalis. By slaughtering them. They've done this lots of times before, and their neighbors have always resorted, eventually, to slaughter. My emphasis at the end, and this is a exceprt of about the first 2/3 of the article.
Shoot On Sight, Shoot First, Shoot To Kill, Keep Shooting

November 27, 2008:

There's a gold rush atmosphere on northern Somalia's "pirate coast." More gangs are being formed, and going hunting. The gangs have an informal organization, which largely consists of not getting into each others' way. The local government of Puntland (a tribal coalition that had brought peace to this corner of the country) has been bought off and intimidated into inaction. The local Islamic Courts gunmen are not numerous, but have declared the taking of ships owned by Moslems to be bad. Plundering infidel ships is another matter, which the Islamic radicals are rather more vague on.

What it comes down to is that the piracy will continue and grow until the pirates no longer have bases. Nothing new about this. Similar piracy situations have arisen for thousands of years, and have been eliminated the same way; you go after the bases. But no one wants to step forward and do this. In the past this was less of a problem, because there was no mass media quick to find fault with any government action. But there's also the nature of the enemy. The Somalis have been a regional menace for centuries, raiding and threatening neighbors with all manner of mayhem. The Somalis are persistent and resourceful fighters. British 19th century colonial administrators learned that the best way to deal with Somali outlaws was to "shoot on sight, shoot first, shoot to kill, keep shooting." Not unexpectedly, post-colonial Somalia proved unable to govern itself. The tribal rivalries kept the pot boiling, and even the rise of a "clean government" party (the Islamic Courts), based on installing a religious dictatorship, backfired. Too many Somalis were willing to fight the Islamic radicals, who were also handicapped by their support for al Qaeda and international Islamic terrorism.

In the past (before the European colonialists showed up) a form of order was imposed by having more reasonable (and often non-Somali) powers hold the coastal cities and towns, enabling trade with the outside world. One had to accept a near constant state of war, or just the banditry, with the interior tribes. There were periods of peace, as warlords established temporary kingdoms, but was never the notion that peace was something that would last. The Somalis were constantly at war with their neighbors, usually in the form of Somalis raiding into Kenya and Ethiopia, and sometimes getting attacked in turn by "punitive raids" (to discourage raiding, for a while anyway.)

Local Arab and African governments are looking to the West (the owners of most of the ships being plundered) to deal with the problem. The West is looking to the United States to take the lead. The U.S. got burned (by the Somalis and the mass media) the last time (1993) it tried to bring peace to Somalia. What will happen now is all these nations will squabble among themselves over who will do the deed, until the piracy gets so bad that someone blinks. Egypt is particularly nervous, as major ships are starting to avoid the Gulf of Aden, and the Suez canal. This could eventually deprive Egypt of millions of dollars a day in canal transit fees. It will cost shipping companies even more to send their slower and more vulnerable (to pirates) ships around the southern tip of Africa.

But what will really bring in the marines (U.S. or otherwise) will be greedy pirates to pull more stunts like going after the huge tankers entering and leaving the Persian Gulf. This trade is vital to international commerce and the world economy. Put too much hurt on the big money, and the big stick comes out. The media have their irresistible wartime headlines, Somalia has some form of peace, and a decrease in population...

11.27.2008 11:32am
MCM (mail):
Zarkov -

"What's happened to the British people? Why have they become a nation of pussies?"

Personally I blame the Beatles.
11.27.2008 1:59pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: autokos
RE: Oren the Pirate

Probably because he's not an impoverished Somali. -- autokos


Give him a chance! Will ya? He can become the next Obama/Muhammod, once he has the 'authority' at his finger-tips.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Every people gets the governance they deserve.]
11.27.2008 2:16pm
traveler496:
Thomas_Holsinger:

Thanks for the background on Somalia.

You don't actually say, but assuming that you're in fact advocating a mass slaughter of Somalis: would you make any attempt to distinguish innocents and treat them less harshly (by oh I don't know slaughtering fractionally fewer children under the age of 8 when convenient)? Or would you just go for it?
11.27.2008 2:20pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
traveler496,

I am relating the historical experience. This has happened lots of times before, and the most prevalent outcome is slaughter of the Somali coastal population by the armed forces of neighboring countries. The survivors then have more problems surviving for a while, their enemies don't bother keeping up the slaughter, the Somalis return to piracy, and the cycle starts up again.

The next most prevalent outcome is military occupation of some of Somalia, with the occupying power hiring their conquered Somalis to go bother the unconquered Somalis, genrally by slaughtering them, and so give them the more immediately pressing task of survival to distract them from piracy.

But the conquering powers always leave eventually, because there is nothing of value in Somalia, and the Somalis are impossible to civilize.

So I am not advocating the slaughter of Somalis, but I can state with reasonable accuracy that nothing short of that will change the present unpleasant situation. Sure the slaughter process will be even more unpleasant for the Somalis, but it will also be less unpleasant for everyone else. Tough for the Somalis.

Denouncing those who explain these unpleasant facts, and contending that the bearers of unpleasant information are responsible for it, is irresponsible and juvenile. It is magical thinking, and quite prevalent on the left. Here is an example which was best summarized by James Taranto on his Best of the Web, but he references a wondeful comment, and thread, right here on the Volokh Conspiracy. Take another bow, Fub.

"The Yale Daily News reports that "in the wake of Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech in which a student killed 32 people, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has limited the use of stage weapons in theatrical productions":
According to students involved in the production, Trachtenberg has banned the use of some stage weapons in all of the University's theatrical productions. While shows will be permitted to use obviously fake plastic weapons, students said, those that hoped to stage more realistic scenes of stage violence have had to make changes to their props.

"Fub," a commenter on the Volokh Conspiracy, has a perceptive analysis:
What makes these ritual bannings of depictions or imitations of real weapons politically effective (among those for whom they are effective) is a very primitive human thought process: belief in sympathetic magic.

The actual object, the weapon, is imbued with magical power. Its very presence magically causes harm. It causes people to behave in evil ways. The rationale commonly offered is that the mere presence of a weapon makes people more prone to violence.

Sympathetic magic is the belief that what one does with an imitation of the thing with magical power will affect the actual thing. For example, in a magical religious context we see the image of a deity addressed, or given gifts or sacrifices. The magical deity is affected through the treatment of its image, and so performs its magic for the one who gives the image a gift.

In the imitation weapon banning context we have first the belief that the object, the actual weapon, is magic and causes those in its presence to behave in an evil manner. The sympathetic magical belief is that by banning the image or the imitation weapon, the magical power of real weapons to cause people to be violent will be lessened, or the real weapons will stay away from the presence of the faithful.

Betty Trachtenberg, do do that voodoo that you do so well!"
11.27.2008 4:49pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Thomas Holsinger;
Wrt your response to traveler.
It is certainly common of liberals to accuse those who point out certain nasty facts, which have the additional benefit of impeaching the libs' arguments, of actually favoring such nastiness.
IMO, it is not a matter of magical thinking. Libs are kind of out there, but not as bad as university administrators (whose DNA should be compared to that of Homo Sapiens). They know they are lying when they make the accusation. It's a tactic to get you to stop pointing out the inconvenient by making you the villain.
It is not necessary to explain the whole thing to them. It is only necessary to call them on it and demonstrate you are neither fooled nor daunted.
11.28.2008 12:21am
Mark in Texas (mail):
Thomas_Holsinger

When you say "the Somalis are impossible to civilize" that is historically true but the bluntness of that statement is going to cause it to be rejected by left leaning sophisticates, not the least because they are not all that enthusiastic about civilization since it tends to put limits on their appetites.

They are more likely to accept an analysis that Somali culture has proven remarkably resilient and has so far resisted all efforts to make it more compatible with other world cultural and economic systems for organizing human activity.

They are still unlikely to accept either General Napier's or General Sherman's comments on the clash of cultures.
11.28.2008 10:23am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Actually, the waiters in Somali and Ethiopian restaurants in our larger cities are friendly, efficient, and personable. I don't see what the problem is.
The only concern is that the more attractive ones look something like Ayan Hirsi Ali, who is a fascist.
But she was in Holland or something.
11.28.2008 2:51pm
Lucius Cornelius:

"Shit, why not just nuke Somalia from orbit?"

It's the only way to be sure.



Well, I mean...I know this is an emotional moment, but let's not make snap judgments. This physical installation had a substantial dollar value attached to it.
11.28.2008 4:47pm
traveler496:
Thomas_Holsinger:

Again (for those to whom this must be repeated), thanks for the (informative and truly depressing) background on Somalia.

I am glad to hear that you are not advocating the mass slaugher of Somalis. This renders most of my posting (namely, the part that I prefaced with "assuming that you're in fact advocating a mass slaughter of Somalis..." irrelevant.

If it is unclear to you why I thought that you might be an advocate of the mass slaughter of Somalis, let me know.

If you do reach a point where you believe it a good idea to engage in a mass slaghter of Somalis, I would urge you to consider those manifestly innocent, and in any case to make your proposed policy wrt, for example, young children amenable to discussion.

To Richard Aubrey (&to a lesser extent Mark in Texas): Please read my posting to Thomas more carefully. I made no accusation. Nor am I opposed to the "pointing out of the inconvenient." In fact FWIW I've noticed in myself a tendency to seek out and take pleasure in (and sometimes modify my views or behavior due to) well-expressed views diametrically opposed to my own. The fact that you contrued my posting as implying the exact opposite makes me question a) the extent to which you share this tendency, b) the clarity of my posting.
11.28.2008 6:02pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
traveler

Go with "c" "I really meant it. Too bad it didn't work."
11.28.2008 7:27pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
traveler,

Sometimes collateral damage is the objective, and sometimes it is even justified. That doesn't make it good, or bad. It just is. The effects on those charged with the task in such a case is then a proper matter of concern, but not the effects on the targets. War is like that sometimes. Military operations against Somalis in Somali is like that rather more often.

When even the unusually laid-back and "minimum necessary use of force" British of the colonial era, as colonial powers went then, said of Somalis:

"Shoot On Sight, Shoot First, Shoot To Kill, Keep Shooting",

it means something. The Somalis haven't changed. What is has happened is that it simply has been too long since non-Somalis conducted enough general massacres of Somali civilians to keep the rest too busy surviving to trouble the rest of the world.

An age-old cycle is repeating itself.
11.28.2008 9:29pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
A novel, based on, I believe, some version of reality, dealt with barbarians living in the Burma highlands.
They raided and killed the more civilized folks living around them.
Other than utter liquidation, there was no solution but to allow the surrounding folks to pay a price in blood until the barbs are ground down or converted or something.
11.28.2008 10:56pm
traveler496:
Thomas_Holsinger said:

Sometimes collateral damage is the objective, and sometimes it is even justified. That doesn't make it good, or bad. It just is. The effects on those charged with the task in such a case is then a proper matter of concern, but not the effects on the targets. War is like that sometimes. Military operations against Somalis in Somali is like that rather more often.

Thomas, if your view is really more nuanced than my reading of the above quote suggests (e.g. if you really would have nonzero consideration for the welfare of children in such a situation), please excuse the following non sequitur:

Certain things (e.g. lives of innocent children) don't cease to have value when acknowledging that they do becomes inconvenient. It's true that ugly situations sometimes require ugly tradeoffs, but to deliberately blind oneself to the things being traded off is not just intellectual cowardice; it also leads to morally indefensible acts.
11.29.2008 4:04pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
trav.
Prove "deliberately blind oneself"
11.29.2008 6:24pm
traveler496:
"The effects on those charged with the task in such a case is then a proper matter of concern, but not the effects on the targets."
11.29.2008 6:42pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
That is not deliberately blinding oneself.
That is a matter of putting some things before other things. There is no indication of being oblivious.
To reverse the importance is to give the battle to those most skilled at hiding behind the innocent.
11.29.2008 11:48pm
AntonK (mail):
Regarding police in Mumbai who may have hesitated firing on the terrorists in the train station:

It seems that in India, even "commandos" (which indicates at least some sort of specialized preparation) are not trained to face the chance that they might possibly inflict civilian casualties themselves in a situation like this. But such a risk is an inevitable part of dealing with terrorists willing and eager to fire into crowds. The police must be willing to do the same. The big difference is that the terrorists are aiming for the civilians, whereas the security forces are aiming for the terrorists.
11.30.2008 10:45am
Mark in Texas (mail):
Thomas_Holsinger - Sometimes collateral damage is the objective, and sometimes it is even justified.

A semantic nit. Collateral damage is never the objective. That's what the word collateral means. If your objective is to blow up the pirate ship and a bunch of Somalis on the shore get blown up as well, their deaths are collateral damage. If your objective is to tamp down Somali piracy by slaughtering Somalis living by the shore, the dead Somalis are not collateral damage. They are the objective.
11.30.2008 3:20pm