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April 12, 2009

Mr. President, I hope you're paying attention

In all of the years of the Bush administration, I don't recall hearing of an American ship being seized by Somali pirates. Less than three months into the Obama administration, however, folks in one of the numerous pirate villages on the coast figured that the new US government, seeking to become European in every meaningful way, would also capitulate to pirate demands like the Europeans typically do.

It's an age-old principle of child-rearing: you get more of the behaviors you reward. Somali piracy has increased significantly in the last two or three years because the ships and/or crews always end up getting ransomed. But somehow, all of the American ships sailing past were ignored. Could it have been because President Bush had demonstrated his resolve not to allow such outrages against Americans to go unpunished?

For a while, it was looking like the current incident would end up with the pirates going free (with or without the ransom). The bad guys were certainly not impressed when a navy ship showed up, only to stand by quietly while hostage negotiation teams swung into action.

It was with grim satisfaction that I saw today that the standoff was resolved in a swift firefight -- three of the four pirates dead, and the American captain unharmed.

This is justice. If other Somali pirates have any wisdom, they will know to let American ships pass unmolested from now on. There are still plenty of European ships out there to provide a handsome income.

President Obama, I don't know what role you played in setting the rules of engagement in this standoff, but I sincerely hope you will take to heart the lesson that -- just like with strong-willed youngsters -- we must make bad behavior so unprofitable that the bad behavior will decrease or be abandoned.

UPDATE: Credit where credit is due: the president did authorize force as early as Saturday, but it might be better to make it a standing order rather than having to react to every incident after it is underway.

UPDATE #2: It seems that the pirates are very put out over the deaths of what AP calls their "colleagues".
Somali pirates on Monday vowed to retaliate for the deaths of three colleagues who were shot dead by U.S. Navy snipers hours before in a daring nighttime assault that freed a 53-year-old American captain.
The Navy Seals late Sunday rescued freighter Capt. Richard Phillips, who had been held by pirates on a lifeboat that drifted in the Indian Ocean for five days.
"Every country will be treated the way it treats us," said Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town.
"In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "We will retaliate for the killings of our men."
He gave no details and it was not clear in what way the pirates could retaliate, though some fear they could take their revenge on the hundreds of other foreign nationals they hold on seized ships.
This is a standoff of another kind. Who will blink first: Obama or the pirates?

By the way, the AP article reveals something that I missed before. I was overly harsh in characterizing all of the Europeans as appeasers. The French, apparently, have had enough:
The American rescue followed a similar operation Friday carried out by French navy commandos, who stormed a pirate-held sailboat, the Tanit, in a shootout at sea that killed two pirates and freed four French hostages. The French owner of the vessel was also killed in the assault.
Good on them. Let's hope that more countries follow their example. The only negotiations the pirates will submit to are ones that result in money being paid to them. Some may think that paying ransoms are an acceptable cost of doing business, but they have no right to make that decision for the rest of us.

UPDATE #3: Man, this is getting confusing. The Obama administration is claiming that it authorized the military action that freed Captain Phillips, but as Blackfive notes, in reality the on-scene commander took action under standing rules of engagement that would have applied with or without the president's input:
I just finished listening to the press conference w/ ADM Gortney about the rescue of Captain Phillips. At the time it happened the USS Bainbridge was towing the lifeboat to calmer waters as the sea state was deteriorating. One of the pirates was on board the Bainbridge as the talks about obtaining Phillip's release continued. The lifeboat was approx. 25 m behind the Bainbridge when snipers on the fantail observed one of the pirates in the pilot house of the lifeboat pointing an AK-47 at the back of a tied up Phillips and the other two pirates on board were visible (at least shoulders and heads). The standing authority gave them clearance to engage the pirates if the life of the captain was in imminent danger. The on scene commander deemed this to be true and gave the order to fire. All three bad guys were taken out and then a rigid inflatable boat went to the lifeboat to retrieve Phillips. Iti is unknown at this point whether the shooters were SEALs or Marine Scout Snipers as both would have been available. This was not a rescue attempt ordered by National Command Authority i.e. the President. It was a reaction by the on scene commander under standard authority to safeguard the life of a hostage.
(Via Gateway Pundit)

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