I guess crime really doesn’t pay.
Instead of paying the Somali pirates who’d taken a U.S. sea captain hostage the $2 million they asked for – like many governments have done lately to recover their own sailors – the U.S. Navy chose a much cheaper solution: three bullets.
Even counting the cost of the fuel oil burned by the flotilla of ships surrounding the lifeboat carrying Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama and the three now, very, very much dead pirates, I’d say they chose the better alternative.
All in all, a very pleasing outcome to the situation. For more, read the NYT’s article.
The article does bring up a couple of interesting points in my mind, chief among them is this: Why the hell did the Navy have to get permission from the president to shoot these fuckers? Does it really take executive authority of that nature to kill foreign pirates actually in the act of piracy?
Or, the less desirable option in my mind, someone in the administration told them they couldn’t shoot without executive permission.
Actually, both of these choices are pretty distasteful. One the right hand you have military leaders unwilling to take a clearly military action without political coverage from above, making them unworthy of their commands. Seriously, how hard is it to order SEALs to shoot three guys? Or, on the left hand, you have political officials who’ve told the military they’re cops now (no offense to the cops out there, but your job is different from the military) and they can’t just kill the bad guys.
[Note: Upon further reading about this situation in other news sources, it seems the actual shoot order came from the ship's captain under the White House's guidance of "all necessary measures" to recover Phillips safely. While the NYT's description was not inaccurate, it could have been a little clearer. My bad. The situations I described above, however, are not unknown in military/political decision-making process, unfortunately.]
This is a situation, the whole “Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden” thing, requires only one order from the president: Shoot to kill on sight. Use missiles if you like and send us the strike footage, we’ll make popcorn and host a screening on the Mall.
See, one of the things the NYT got right in its article was this line: “The pirates threatened to kill Captain Phillips if attacked, and the result was tragicomic: the world’s most powerful navy vs. a lifeboat.”
I can understand our diplomatic restraint when dealing with Iran, Germany, Syria, France Venezuela, Canada, hell, even North Korea. They’re nation-states and a different set of rules apply. (I’m kidding about Canada and Germany. OK, France too, though they do so try my patience sometimes.)
A little more from the NYT:
In Somalia itself, other pirates reacted angrily to the news that Captain Phillips had been rescued, and some said they would avenge the deaths of their colleagues by killing Americans in sea hijackings to come.
' "Every country will be treated the way it treats us," Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying in a telephone interview. "In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying." '
Two words jackass: Get bent. Somewhere out there, there’s a SEAL, Ranger, Marine or Delta sniper with your name on a bullet.
Here’s a nice little mission for the world’s most powerful navy: blockade the “pirate den” of Gaan with a couple of destroyers (or half the U.S. Fifth Fleet for that matter) and then hunt down the pirates and kill them. They try to leave port: shoot ‘em. They threaten to kill any of the 200 or so hostages they’ve taken off of the 12 ships they’re holding, shoot them some more. They actually shoot any of the hostages, shoot them even more. In a situation like this, power comes straight from the barrel of a gun or, in our case, lots and lots of guns. Lots and lots of really big fucking guns.
Does anyone really think these guys are ever going to go back to fishing? No? Didn’t think so, so we’re going to have to kill them anyway at some point so why not now?
Sean Connery said it best as Officer Jim Malone in The Untouchables: “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way!”
What the hell fun is it being a great power if you can’t kill a bunch of pirates? Seriously, it’s not like anyone (worth mentioning) is going to complain. This would also have the beneficial side-effect of making some of the other nations that annoy us just a bit scared of what we might do to them if they fuck with us.
A little known historical fact: The United States’ very, very first expression of power overseas was dealing with the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean. Instead of paying tribute to the pirates (which is exactly what is happening now), the U.S. decided to build a navy and take the fight to the pirates. (If you want, you can still see one of these ships, USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides” – in Boston Harbor.)
It took a little while, but in the end the United States was the first major power to stop paying tribute to the Barbary pirates. The exploits of some even ended up in a song:
“From the Halls of Montezuma, To the shores of Tripoli. We have fought our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.”