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“How to Deal With Pirates”

Great history lesson, good assessment of a solution

I wrote last week on the problem of the Somali pirates. Michael B. Oren, via the WSJ, has done an excellent job of documenting the history of the pirate problem in the Jeffersonian period and how we dealt with it then…and how that applies to today’s situation.

Read it here.

In my prior diary, one of our intrepid readers implied that I was suggesting that the US take unilateral action. I was not. Oren addresses this question:

Still, in the post-9/11 period, America would be ill-advised to act unilaterally against the pirates. The good news is: It does not have to. In contrast to the refusal to unite with America during the Barbary Wars, or more recently the Iraq War, the European states today share America’s interest in restoring peace to the seas. Moreover, they have expressed a willingness to cooperate with American military measures against the Somali bandits. Unlike Washington and Jefferson, George W. Bush and Barack Obama need not stand alone.

And this is accurate. Where there is no obvious (direct) impact on American interests, we should tread lightly on unilateral action. I made light of the UK’s reluctance to act because of international law. There is some attention to be paid to this issue, but I suspect that most of the nations directly impacted by the actions of the pirates are willing to forgo their concerns about it at this point.

Oren’s assertion is that the affected nations will be (and probably are) seeking US cooperation in addressing this situation. His conclusion is that we should be prepared to take military action against the piracy. I agree, in particular because of the implications of not addressing it and knuckling under to their demands.

In spite of the potential pitfalls, an America-led campaign against the pirates is warranted. Though the Somali pirates do not yet endanger American trade, they will be emboldened by a lack of forceful response. Any attempt to bargain with them and to pay the modern equivalent of tribute will beget more piracy. Now, as then, the only effective response to piracy is a coercive one. “We shall offer them liberal and enlightened terms,” declared Commodore Decatur, “dictated at the mouths of our cannons.” Or, as William Eaton, commander of the Marines’ march to Tripoli, more poignantly put it: “There is but one language that can be held to these people, and this is terror.”

Note his quote from William Eaton. I previously made this point as well. These “pirates” are terrorists, and their “language of hate” (to twist Gary Smalley a bit) is terror. The connection between “terror” and “piracy” cannot be understated.

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