Friday, April 10, 2009


Somali pirates are holding an American merchant captain hostage. They vow to fight if attacked... I don't really care if these Somali pirates are classified as terrorists or enterprising criminals. The attack is the first on an American ship since 1805 or so. It comes within days of this self-imposed humiliation:

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I find it significant that the last serious pirate threat faced by our nation was from Muslim pirates in Africa. That the threat was quelled by actions by the Marines and Navy, but resumed shortly after the above bow.

So what do we do now? Obviously, we try to save the life of the American Captain Richard Phillips. There's a report that he's tried to escape on his own. Our nation must send one message: It is suicide to attack an American ship. Period. Regardless if Captain Phillips is rescued, returned or murdered, his captors should be tracked down and killed.

John Keegan, writing in The Telegraph stated in part:

...One of the reasons why the attack on the Maersk was the first to involve American sailors in around 200 years is encapsulated in a well-known line of the US marines' anthem: "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli". This refers to the occasion, in the early 1800s, when the young republic sent a naval expedition to the north-western coast of Africa, den of the Barbary pirates, to deter attacks on their shipping.

Like other countries, America had paid bribes and ransoms, but the pirates' promises were never kept. Military action, in the form of two expeditions separated by a decade, was far more successful, especially when consolidated by the French occupation of Algeria in 1830. Admittedly, piracy did persist in the South China Sea and East Indian Sea, but with the rise of the European empires – and especially of the Royal Navy – it was eventually wiped out. One of the triumphs of Victorian Britain was to rule waves on which piracy had been extinguished.

He prescribes 17th century medicine for this 17th century ailment:

...So our campaign must be ruthless and pitiless: pirate ships must be sunk on sight and the crews left to swim to safety, if it can be reached.

Many would complain about such tactics but, in my opinion, pirates have no rights – indeed, it will be vital to exclude human rights lawyers from the anti-piracy campaign. To bring any captives to Europe or America for trial would probably be to grant them their dearest wish, which is to secure entry to a new life in the First World.

I'm a fan of Mr. Keegan's. He is a noted historian. I'm glad to have read some of his books, and so should you. However his advice doesn't go far enough. In addition to sinking their ships we should be attacking their safe harbors and removing their shore based logistical support. Mr. Keegan is writing for a British audience, which so he also is obliged to write about the need for rearmament for the Royal Navy. How sad.

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