What to do about the pirates?

Back on this post, bud said:

NEW DELHI (AP) — An Indian naval vessel sank a suspected pirate
"mother ship" in the Gulf of Aden and chased two attack boats into the
night, officials said Wednesday, as separate bands of brigands seized
Thai and Iranian ships in the lawless seas.
-USA Today

Where’s the U.S. Navy? We spend 3/4 of $trillion a year on the
military and it’s the Indian Navy that sinks these thugs. I know we
have the capability to defend the shipping lanes. So what gives?

And to think, I was going to post something a couple of days ago about the pirates, but thought y’all wouldn’t be interested. Silly me.

As I said to bud (who, if I recall correctly, thought we couldn’t succeed in Iraq, which is neither wet nor moving), you think it’s a snap for even the world’s largest blue-water Navy
to prevent small craft from taking UNarmed merchant ships in a section
of ocean three times the size of Texas? The supertanker was 450 miles
off Mombasa. Look at a map. Think about it.

Folks, the U.S. Navy IS working hard on the piracy problem, along
with the Brits, the French, Italy, Canada, Greece and Denmark. And,
obviously, the Indians.

You know what would have been the best thing we could do to stop
this piracy? Not abandon Somalia to chaos back in 1993 (a retreat on
our part that incidentally persuaded Osama bin Laden that it would be
easy to take down the U.S.; just inflict a few casualties). Piracy works
in the Gulf of Aden because the pirates have a safe place to hide the
prizes, since the "government" of Somalia is useless.

And that will continue to be the case as long as we have failed
states in East Africa. That’s why (ahem) the United States has to
employ a full-range policy of forward engagement in the world. (Remember, we stopped the Barbary pirates NOT by playing defense on the
high seas, but by sending the Marines ashore to take their haven. Diplomacy also played a significant role, but then the Barbary States were states; there was someone in charge to dicker with.)

I’ve been watching the latest piracy problem for awhile (I’m into that stuff, being both a Navy brat and a fan of Patrick O’Brian), and the overall story has been one of the U.S. Navy going after the privateers with increasing aggressiveness. This from the NYT on Oct. 30:

As Somalia’s rulers have struggled with an insurgency and political
instability that culminated in the resignation of the prime minister on Monday,
piracy has flourished off its shores. Experts say that there have been
“many more” than the 26 attacks formally reported to the International Piracy Center this year, and new hijackings are reported with unfortunate frequency.

But the latest hijacking came with news that the United States Navy
has now entered the fray. A distress call from a Japanese-owned
chemical tanker, Golden Mori, found its way to the U.S.S. Porter, an American destroyer, which intercepted and then sank the two skiffs that the pirates used to reach the ship, according to CNN.

Now, the pirates have no obvious exit route, and another American destroyer, the Arleigh Burke
is on their tail in Somali waters, which are usually something of a
pirate refuge. This time, the American navy received permission to
enter from the embattled transitional government….

As you can see, the U.S. and international allies have just started stepping up their response to this growing problem. But to think we’ll just snap our fingers and the problem will go away is unrealistic.

Once you have a failed state as a haven for pirates, the only way to prevent the incidents from happening (unless you think ALL international shipping should be escorted by our Navy at taxpayer expense) is for the merchant ships to be prepared to repel boarders. And yeah, they’ll probably need to hire private contractors for that, much to Capital A’s horror (unless of course you DO think third-nation-flag private ships should be guarded at taxpayer expense). Fighting close battles with small arms at the drop of a hat was a skill the average sailor had 200 years ago, but not today. They’ll likely have to hire some guns.

Once the vessel is taken, and the U.S. or other navies respond, what do you propose we do? We’re fully equipped to sink them (as you saw above we had no trouble sinking the pirate boats, once they were under our guns), but the sailors who specialize in the skills it would take to RETAKE the vessel intact (which I’m guessing that most of us — especially the owners of the ships or their cargos — would prefer), the U.S. Navy Seals, are really, really busy elsewhere these days. (Set Iraq aside; we need all we can train and more in Afghanistan.)

The piracy problem is, of course, closely tied to the terrorism problem. The same sorts of conditions can foster it, and it presents the same challenges to international law (what do we do, for instance, if we catch the pirates — send them to Guantanamo?).

It’s an interesting problem, or rather SET of problems, and one the new president will have on a front-burner, given the escalation in recent days. The supertanker finally grabbed the attention of all of y’all who had NOT been paying attention.

22 thoughts on “What to do about the pirates?

  1. Lee Muller

    The US, UK, French, Italian, and Indian navies are patrolling the open seas, and the Arab emirate states are patrolling with gunboats inshore.
    Last week, a British destroyer dispatched speedboats and a helicopter with Royal Marines in response to a distress call, killed several pirates and took 3 vessels in tow.
    Many of the liner companies are hiring mercenaries as guards and equipping vessels with .50 caliber and even 20mm machineguns. Since the heaviest threat of most of the pirates are usually shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons like the RPG-7, they have to get within 200 yards to make a credible threat of blowing a hole at the waterline. A BMG .50 or 20mm can easily engage them at 1,000 to 1,500 yards.
    On large vessels like supertankers, if the number of pirates is fewer than 20, they cannot cover the ship against a sea and helicopter assault. So the thing to do is retake the vessel quickly, before it can be taken to port or reinforced.
    The US didn’t hear any news about it, but during the Iraq-Iran War, President Reagan used US Marines to guard, defend and retake vessels and oil rigs from Iranians. We typically took few prisoners, and Iran quickly stopped playing that game.

  2. bill

    If Obama is going to lead, differently than Bush, then we can expect him to bargin with the warlords. And to allow a mulit-national task force, with US being just a 4% player as we are 4% of the worlds population (as the anti-oil people always tell us). The rest is not our problem…we need to take care of our people first.
    So we are out of it, except for the 4%…which will guard our ships, I suppose.

  3. martin

    I think the rest of the world might have to step up to fight the pirates. how can we continue to do everything?

  4. Brad Warthen

    Yeah, Ozzie, they seem pretty much motivated by the money. Ransom of ships and cargos seems to work for them.
    And martin, it appears that much of the rest of the world IS stepping up against the pirates. But we still have the world’s biggest navy, and with the world’s largest economy, the greatest interest in the freedom and security of the high seas.
    But since so many nations ARE involved already, we have the makings of a good international effort already. We just have to figure out how to make it more effective. And the U.S. will necessarily play a leading role. But we aren’t, and won’t be, alone in this. Hey, the French are heavily involved already, and having them involved is half the battle, right? And as bud noted, the Indians certainly aren’t slacking off.
    This is a tough problem, but this might be an excellent opportunity for President Obama to show the right way to lead a multinational effort to stand up for right and justice against people who — while they are business-oriented, not bloodthirsty fanatics — have much in common with terrorists.
    Interesting thing about those RPGs. They’re another gift from the Soviets. The RPG-7, and the AK-47 (which has probably been the instrument of more mayhem, more widely dispersed, than any firearm in history), may be the two most influential inventions to come out of that system. Somali warlords love them. That’s what brought down those two Blackhawks on Oct. 3, 1993.

  5. John

    In the absense of a legitimate government, we (an international force) should invade their ports. Paying off these losers is what got us into this mess. They need to be eradicated, not rewarded. It is humiliating that advanced nations are being shaken down by a few thugs on fishing boats.

  6. bud

    This actually seems like a good use of our military assets. Too bad we’ve squandered so much money on the Iraq debacle.

  7. bud

    Let’s keep in mind the big picture here. We elected and re-elected George W. Bush on the promise that he would keep us safe. Since then he failed utterly to prevent the 9-11 attacks then he lied us into a war in Iraq before finishing the job in Afghanistan. After 3+ trillion dollars and 4,200 soldiers wasted in Iraq we’re still there.
    In the meantime pirates see an opening to hijack ships and use the failed state of Somalia as a haven. We are just now beginning to focus our attention on this particular threat. A real president would have given the legitimate issues more attention and not gotten so bogged down in useless stuff like star wars, Osprey aircraft and most especially Iraq. And now the world pays the price for Bush’s continued incompetence.
    I look forward to the day when we can have a real president in charge that can actually make sound, well-thought out decisions rather than the chief nincompoop who currently occupies the White House. The Bush legacy grows ever more bleak. Hopefully we can make it through another 60 days.

  8. Capital A

    Typical Republican and Unwhatever response: Find the biggest stick and hit them with it.
    The size of the gun matters not when the pirates are not an “official” army. They use the ships they have stolen and operate from those. Guerilla warfare…well, seamonkey warfare in this case, I guess.
    A big gun is useless if you hit the wrong target. Ask that trashcan that was just to the left when I was setting the sights for my own AK.
    Warthime, to suggest that the Iraq War is directly comparable to this situation with Somali pirates is laughable. You try to mock bud, but only reveal your own ignorance of a situation when we would expect you, US Navy cheerleader that you are, to be most informed. Passive-aggressive snipes are not nearly as attractive or admirable as admitting your own folly.
    To a certain fathom, you are correct, however. The ocean is big and wet, as you astutely reminded us.
    Such a setting will require even more subtlety and planning than that which was never shown in the majority of our Iraq War operations. We’re going to need help, we’re going to need information and in the area, we’re going to need not a BIGGER boat…but many smaller, swifter ones.

  9. Capital A

    “Folks, the U.S. Navy IS working hard on the piracy problem..”
    Posted by Brad Warthen at 06:36 PM
    Taken from the link: http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/oct/22ship.htm
    “To a query on what the US Navy’s response would be to a ship hijacked by pirates, he (US Navy Captain Kenneth J Norton)said: “We are still trying to figure out what has to be done if pirate have captured a ship.”
    Now, I ask you, dear readers, is Warthime’s position grounded in truth or wishful thinking?

  10. Capital A

    I knew someone had spoken on this topic better than I or most here ever could, and this time, that message comes from Kipling in reference to the Barbary pirates:
    It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
    To call upon a neighbor and to say:—
    “We invaded you last night—we are quite prepared to fight,
    Unless you pay us cash to go away.”
    And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
    And the people who ask it explain
    That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
    And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!
    It is wrong to put temptation in the pathof any nation,
    For fear they should succumb and go astray;
    So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
    You will find it better policy to say:—
    “We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
    No matter how trifling the cost;
    For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
    And the nation that plays it is lost!”
    Every nation touched by these pirates should have the same reaction expressed above and join with us in the complete annihilation of these brigands. For those who don’t understand how many of us could support military action against this scum but not in Iraq, I’ll make it as clear as possible: These jackanapes actually attacked us.
    (Three posts in a row on the same subject; can you tell this topic fires me up? Friggin’ pirates in 2008?!?!)

  11. Jerry

    Go back into history and send some Q-Ships in there. Q-Ships were British or German warships designed to look like helpless merchantmen that would attack the helpless merchant ships especially early in WWI and WWII. Let the pirates hit a couple of those with some type of drone air cover and manned by some SEALs. I think that would knock it down a bit.

  12. Lee Muller

    These pirates operate in an area of 1,000,000 square miles of ocean, which is difficult to patrol.
    As Brad said, the solution involves shutting down the ports where the pirates are based. Militarily, it is easy. The West lacks the political will, now, but the ransoms are financing Al Qaeda and other international terrorists, so we have to stop it, sooner rather than later.

  13. CaptBeefheart

    Children stop yer nursin’ unless yer renderin’ fun
    The mother ship the mother ship
    The mother ship’s the one
    The blimp the blimp
    The tapes uh trip it’s uh trailin’ tail
    It’s traipse’n along behind the blimp the blimp
    The nose has uh crimp
    The nose is the blimp the blimp
    It blows the air the snoot isn’t fair
    Look up in the sky there’s uh dirigible there
    The drazy hoops whir
    You can see them just as they were
    All the people stir
    ‘n the girls knees trembles
    ‘n run ‘n wave their hands
    ‘n run their hands over the blimp the blimp
    Daughter don’t yuh dare
    Oh momma who cares
    It’s the blimp it’s the blimp.

  14. CaptBeefheart

    Children stop yer nursin’ unless yer renderin’ fun
    The mother ship the mother ship
    The mother ship’s the one
    The blimp the blimp
    The tapes uh trip it’s uh trailin’ tail
    It’s traipse’n along behind the blimp the blimp
    The nose has uh crimp
    The nose is the blimp the blimp
    It blows the air the snoot isn’t fair
    Look up in the sky there’s uh dirigible there
    The drazy hoops whir
    You can see them just as they were
    All the people stir
    ‘n the girls knees trembles
    ‘n run ‘n wave their hands
    ‘n run their hands over the blimp the blimp
    Daughter don’t yuh dare
    Oh momma who cares
    It’s the blimp it’s the blimp.

  15. Steven Earl Salmony

    Concerning pirates in dark pin-striped suits……
    GUEST COLUMN by Steven Earl Salmony
    November 26, 2008
    Chapel Hill(NC)News
    Billions end up paying for excesses of the wealthy on Wall St.
    Our lexicon of business activities is being expanded daily, thanks to the “wonder boys” on Wall Street. We are learning about derivatives, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, recapitalization, puts, short selling and so on. We are gaining a new vocabulary from the recent meltdown of the financial system and expected slowdown of the real economy worldwide.
    Where did this debacle begin? Well, it began in the center of the human community’s banking and investment houses in the financial district of NYC. Supposedly, the “brightest and best” among us go to Wall Street, know what they are doing and do the right thing. Unfortunately, such assumptions turn out to be colossal mistakes.
    How did this calamity occur and why is the human family in such dire economic straits? It appears that grotesque greed and a culture of corruption have come to dominate significant operating systems of the global political economy.
    Powerful people in high offices within huge business institutions with access to great wealth are recklessly and deleteriously manipulating the unbridled expansion of the global economy in the small, finite planetary home God blesses us to inhabit.
    Self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe have surreptitiously “manufactured” a subprime “asset bubble” and perversely fostered its uneconomic growth within the world economy. Not unexpectedly, this asset bubble did what bubbles do. The subprime bubble burst and made a mess. Global credit markets have frozen, stock prices are tumbling and the value of the dollar is gyrating.
    Evidently organizers, managers and whiz kids overseeing the global economy, and the unraveling (i.e., deleveraging) of the worldwide subprime swindle are running the artificially designed financial system of the global economy as a pyramid scheme. This is to say that the international financial system is being operated so that most of the wealth funneled pyramidally into the hands of a small minority of people at the top of the world economy where this wealth is accumulated and consolidated. Note that 30 percent of annual corporate profits end up in the accounts of a tiny number of people. At the same time, the vast majority of people on Earth, near the bottom of the global economic pyramid, are left with very little wealth. Does the economy of the family of humanity exist primarily to provide wealth to the already stupendously wealthy? The “bankstas” among us evidently think so.
    In the 1980s, this extremely inequitable method of distributing wealth and arranging business activities was called a “trickle-down” economy. We have been repeatedly told how this ‘rational’ economic scheme is good because it “raises all ships.” And yet, from my limited scope of observation, the billion people living on resources valued at less than one dollar per day and the additional 2.7 billion people being sustained on two dollars per day of resources now appear to be stuck in squalid conditions. The ‘ships’ carrying these billions of less fortunate people (i.e., more people than lived on Earth in the year of my birth) do not appear to be lifting them out of poverty.
    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on the Human Population,
    established 2001

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