Fred C. Iklé: Kill The Pirates

Short, sweet and to the point. The title says it all. Kill the pirates. That is the best way to stop them. It worked down in the Carribean 300 years ago and it will work again today.

Writing for the Washington Post, Fred C. Iklé (a distinguished scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of Annihilation From Within and Every War Must End) makes clear that anything other than meeting this threat head-on will be counterproductive.

From his column:

It is naive to assume that the millions paid annually in ransom to pirates merely enables them to purchase villas and fancy automobiles. Somalia is a country without government, where anarchy is being exploited by terrorist organizations. Although the threat that pirates pose to commercial ships is increasingly known, little is being done to combat it. And we must consider the bigger picture: Terrorists are far more brutal than pirates and can easily force pirates — petty thieves in comparison — to share their ransom money.

Who among you believes that paying $1 million in ransom money will actually end piracy? You would have to be incredibly gullible to believe so. The pirates will think about it this way: if taking a ship is worth $1 million in ransoms, then taking a ship twice as big should be worth $2 million in ransoms.

Paying the ransom only encourages the pirates to attempt more hijackings in order to get more money.

Mr. Iklé goes on:

So why do we keep rewarding Somali pirates? How is this march of folly possible?

Start by blaming the timorous lawyers who advise the governments attempting to cope with the pirates such as those who had been engaged in a standoff with U.S. hostage negotiators in recent days. These lawyers misinterpret the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Geneva Conventions and fail to apply the powerful international laws that exist against piracy. The right of self-defense — a principle of international law — justifies killing pirates as they try to board a ship.

So, what should we have been doing all along? We should have been putting armed personnel aboard those ships. A pirate would think twice about going out on such a venture if he knew that the last three times someone from his group went out to attack a vessel that armed crewmen killed the attackers. There is not much profit in death.


Nonetheless, entire crews are unarmed on the ships that sail through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Shipowners pretend that they cannot trust their crews with weapons, but the facts don’t add up. For one thing, in the United States most adults except felons are allowed to have guns, and the laws of many other nations also permit such ownership. Even if owners don’t want everyone aboard their ships to be carrying weapons, don’t they trust the senior members of their crews? Why couldn’t they at least arm the captain and place two experienced and reliable police officers on board?

When these pitifully unarmed crews watch pirates climb aboard their vessels, they can do little to fight back. And while the United States and many other naval powers keep warships in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean — deployments that cost millions of dollars — these ships cannot keep pirates from boarding commercial ships that have unarmed crews.

The international right of self-defense would also justify an inspection and quarantine regime off the coast of Somalia to seize and destroy all vessels that are found to be engaged in piracy. These inspections could reduce the likelihood that any government will find itself engaged in a hostage situation such as the one that played out in recent days. Furthermore, the U.N. Security Council should prohibit all ransom payments. If the crew of an attacked ship were held hostage, the Security Council could authorize a military blockade of Somalia until the hostages were released.

Cowardice will not defeat terrorism, nor will it stop the Somali pirates. If anything, continuing to meet the pirates’ demands only acts as an incentive for more piracy.


You can access the complete column on-line here:

Kill The Pirates
Fred C. Iklé
Washington Post
April 13, 2009


What Do You Call Three Dead Somali Pirates?

A fairly decent start.

My hat is off to the Obama administration for taking such decisive action against the Somali pirates holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage in a life boat out on the Indian Ocean.

In a courageous rescue, Navy SEALs killed three pirates during the successful mission.

From the Associated Press:

In a daring high-seas rescue, U.S. Navy SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and freed the American sea captain who had offered himself as a hostage to save his crew.

Although many news outlets are hailing this as a great victory for Obama and claiming that he has passed his first international test, the pirates are promising revenge:

The operation was a victory for the world’s most powerful military but angry pirates vowed Monday to retaliate.

Those threats raised fears for the safety of some 230 foreign sailors still held hostage in more than a dozen ships anchored off the coast of lawless Somalia.

“From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages),” Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old pirate, told the Associated Press from one of Somalia’s piracy hubs, Eyl. “(U.S. forces have) become our No. 1 enemy.”

It appears that a new front has opened in the Global struggle against terrorism and we Americans are once again being brought to center stage.

Now, unlike my liberal counterparts who want to blame President Bush for everything the terrorists did over the past eight years, I will not blame Barack Obama for whatever the pirates and other terrorists do in response to this rescue. The blame falls solely and squarely on the pirates and terrorists themselves, just as it did during the Bush years.

This was not the first test of the Obama administration. It was the first question of the first test. Many more questions will come up and you can bet that the pirates and terrorists will be the ones writing them.

One Somali pirate noted:

“Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying,” Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, told The Associated Press on Monday. “We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men.”

I applaud the Obama administration for taking this action, but I am still waiting to see how this will play out in the coming months. Obama will have a hard time trying to reconcile his policy of “listening and learning” against the hard-line policy of taking swift action to protect American lives and interests. Reality is always different from academic exercise.

As for those countries who will want to blame the U.S. for whatever happens to their own sailors in the pirates’ custody, those sailors wouldn’t be their if those countries had taken steps to protect/rescue those sailors in the first place.

We shall have to wait and see which policy wins out, and whether or not such policy has the desired effects.

You can access the complete story on-line here:

Captain Freed After Snipers Kill Somali Pirates
Associated Press via MSNBC
April 13, 2009

Two More Obama Insults To Our Collective Intelligence

One thing Obama is good at is insulting the collective intelligence of the entire United States of America. For example, he tells us that this will be the most morally upright administration in history, but then nominates an entire slew of cabinet members who “forgot” to pay their taxes. He promises transparency in his administration, but then goes behind closed doors and locks Republican lawmakers out of the legislative process. He signs into law a stimulus package that includes protection of bonuses for companies like AIG and then turns around and says that the bonuses are wrong.

I could go on and on with the missteps this guy has made before his first 100 days in office are done, but I’d like to move on to two more.

First, the White House claims that Obama did not bow to the Saudi King Abdullah. Interesting claim considering the video clearly shows Obama bowing to the Saudi ruling anti-semite.

Ben Smith of the Politico has this:

The White House is denying that the president bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at a G-20 meeting in London, a scene that drew criticism on the right and praise from some Arab outlets.

“It wasn’t a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he’s taller than King Abdullah,” said an Obama aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

And why is this an insult to our intelligence? Because Obama is also taller than Queen Elizabeth but no such bow seemed to be necessary in that meeting.

You can access that complete story and video on-line here:

White House: No Bow To Saudi
Ben Smith
The Politico
April 8, 2009

Obama also insulted our collective intelligence by by refusing to give any comment whatsoever on the Somali pirate hostage situation in which an American is being held against his will.

When asked by a reporter for comment, Obama refused and instead wanted to stick to some sort of script.

From Reuters:

April 9 (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama declined to answer reporters’ questions on Thursday on a hostage crisis off the coast of Somalia, where a U.S. ship captain is being held captive by pirates.

Obama was asked to comment on the situation several times by reporters at a White House event on refinancing for homeowners. Obama, however, stuck closely to the script and replied that he wanted to remain focused on housing.

Is the situation just not that important to him? Couldn’t he have said something reassuring to the family of the hostage? No. He couldn’t bring himself to be that good of a leader.

Maybe the person running the teleprompter could have put something up about it so that Obama would at least have had a script to read.

You can access the article on-line here:

Obama Declines Comment On US Hostage Crisis Off Somalia
Jeff Mason, Sandra Maler
April 9, 2009

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

Somali Pirates Hijack American Ship; Update: Crew Retakes Control


It appears as though the Captain of the MAERSK ALABAMA was taken hostage by the pirates when the crew retook control of the ship.


The American crew of a hijacked U.S.-flagged ship retook control of the vessel from Somali pirates Wednesday but the captain was still being held hostage, according to Pentagon officials and a member of the crew.

The crewman told The Associated Press that the 20-member crew had managed to seize one pirate and then successfully negotiate their own release.

The man, who picked up the ship’s satellite phone but did not identify himself, told the AP in a brief conversation that the crew had retaken control of the ship and the pirates were in a lifeboat. But the man also said the pirates were holding the ship’s captain hostage.

The crew overpowered one of the pirates and used him as a negotiating chip for their own release. The other three pirates took the captain hostage in retaliation and fled in a lifeboat. There were negotiations to do an exchange, but although the crew held up their end and released the pirate, the other three pirates reneged on the agreement and are still holding the captain.

You can access the complete story on-line here:

Pentagon: U.S. Crew Retakes Ship From Pirates
NBC News
April 8, 2009


The Associated Press is now reporting that the crew of the ship has retaken control and has one of the pirates in custody.

“The crew is back in control of the ship,” a U.S. official said at midday, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak on the record. “It’s reported that one pirate is on board under crew control—the other three were trying to flee,” the official said. The status of the other pirates was unknown, the official said, but they were reported to “be in the water.”

The crew apparently contacted the private shipping that it works for. That company, Maersk, scheduled a noon news conference in Norfolk, Va, defense officials said.

Another U.S. official, citing a readout from an interagency conference call, said: “Multiple reliable sources are now reporting that the Maersk Alabama is now under control of the U.S. crew. The crew reportedly has one pirate in custody. The status of others is unclear, they are believed to be in the water.”

I hope those other three pirates can stay afloat long enough for a few sharks to swim by. Maybe someone could send another boat out there to chum the water.

You can access the complete story on-line here:

Officials: US Vessel Now Back In Hands Of Crew
Pauline Jelinek
Associated Press via Breitbart
April 8, 2009

Now we really need to see Obama’s response. Will he apologize for the “arrogance” of the crew’s retaking the vessel from the pirates? Will he offer reparations to any of the pirates’ families if the pirates die? Will he offer up the crew as war criminals for counter-attacking and retaking their own vessel?

These questions may seem silly, but given Obama’s conduct during his European tour, they are legitimate.

This from the Associated Press:

Somali pirates on Wednesday hijacked a U.S.-flagged cargo ship with 20 American crew members onboard, according to the shipping company.

The 17,000-ton Maersk Alabama was carrying emergency relief to Mombasa, Kenya at the time it was hijacked, said Peter Beck-Bang, spokesman for the Copenhagen-based container shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk.

In a statement, the company later confirmed that the U.S.-flagged vessel has 20 U.S. nationals onboard.

Now, the question is whether Obama will send bailout money to Maersk to pay the ransom or will he try to secure the release of the ship by apologizing for the “arrogance” of the American crewman?

I’m wondering whether or not Obama’s various shows of weakness during his European tour (bowing to a despot, calling America “arrogant,” praising Islam for a betterment that never happened, etc.) may have had something to do with emboldening the pirates to attack a U.S.-flagged vessel.

We should all be watching this and how Obama handles it. Attacking an American ship on the high seas is not something that our government should take lightly.

You can access the complete story on-line here:

Somali Pirates Hijack Ship; 20 Americans Aboard
Katherine Houreld
Associated Press via
April 8, 2009