Looking Deeper Into The Pirate Attack On MAERSK ALABAMA

In my post from yesterday, I wondered whether or not the Somali pirate attack on the U.S.-flagged MAERSK ALABAMA may have been a result of the pirates being emboldened by Obama’s various shows of weakness during his European tour.

Other are thinking exactly what I was thinking. An editorial from Investor’s Business Daily notes some interesting circumstances that we must not be dismissive of and what the consequences of any action by the Obama administration would be.

From the article:

At 7:30 a.m., 280 miles off the Somali coast, a gang of pirates attacked the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama carrying 17,000 tons of U.S. humanitarian aid to Kenya. It was the sixth ship hit since Saturday, but the first U.S.-flagged vessel hit since 1804.

It poses an important test for the new Obama administration, still not 100 days in power, and it’s critical the response be decisive.

First, it’s likely the pirates knew it was an American ship, given the planning and firepower it takes to hit one 280 miles off the coast. If that’s so, then the attack had a political aspect, and the pirates wanted to show the U.S. as weak.

Two, the pirates aren’t the only bad actors in that region. Terrorists will watch the U.S. response closely and adjust their calculations accordingly. Unlike the foreign affairs jaunts Obama has participated in, involving only talk, this incident will be judged by the concreteness of the response.

I know that somewhere along the line Obama said that he “had no patience” for those who blow up bombs for political ends, but those are simply words. I highly doubt that if Obama comes out and says that he “has no patience” with Somali pirates that the pirates will suddenly release their hostages and free all of the ships they captured.

Words do not deter criminals and terrorists. Effectively forceful responses do. Say what you want about President Bush, but you have to acknowledge the fact that there have been no terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001. If the terrorists still hated us afterward, what stopped them from mounting anymore attacks? The effective use of force by the Bush administration, that’s what.

Obama’s response is one we must watch carefully. And here is why:

Precedent is worth noting.

In 1993, with Bill Clinton’s presidency just beginning, Somali hoodlums also attacked and murdered American troops delivering aid to the indigent. They dragged the troops’ bodies through the streets and crowds cheered. Instead of making the barbarians pay, Clinton ordered American troops out.

This alerted the region’s terrorists that Americans were easy to push around. One of these terrorists was Osama bin Laden.

According to the 9/11 commission report, a bin Laden fatwa in 1996 praised the Somali attack because the U.S. “left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you.”

The report goes on to say that bin Laden was behind the attacks on the American helicopters. Lawrence Wright, in “The Looming Tower,” noted that whether he was or not, he thought it important to claim credit.

Despite the fact that this pirate attack is ultimately a failure, it is a failure because of the fortitude and resourcefulness of the crew, not because of anything the Obama administration did. As of this writing, they still haven’t done anything in response. Pirates and terrorists around the world are not looking at the crew of MAERSK ALABAMA as a measure of risk for future attacks; they are looking at how the U.S. government will respond as their measure of risk.

IBD is right. This is the first real test of the resolve and mettle of the Obama administration. If Obama fails this test, it will be a major repeat of the first major international mistake of the Clinton administration.

And we all know exactly where that mistake led to.

You can access the complete article on-line here:

Somali Pirates Lay Out Another Test
Investor’s Business Daily
April 8, 2009

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