Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No Drama Obama and the Pirates

The drama was inherent in the circumstance, and Barack Obama was not inclined to accentuate it. There was no echo of Bush declaring, "Bring them on," or Harrison Ford telling a hijacker, "Get off my plane." Several weeks ago, Obama declared, when asked why it took him two days to speak about the AIG bonuses, said, "Well, it took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."
It turns out he is as disinclined to rash actions as he is to rash words. He gave the order (two actually) and let the Navy Seals and FBI negotiators do their jobs, which they did superbly. It took three shots to take out three pirates—as clean an ending to the incident as one could imagine.
The seas off Somalia are still dangerous, and there won't be an easy solution to the scourge of piracy. Pirates are holding ships from a variety of countries, which may not have the will or the means to duplicate the Navy's feat. And, as the New York Times reminds us, there is no effective government in Somalia:
But policy makers and experts said the precision killing of three Somali pirates with three bullets would certainly prove easier than wiping out the larger threat in the shipping lanes or reversing the instability that makes Somalia a breeding ground for pirates and Islamic terrorists.
As for options, they are limited:
White House officials on Monday played down suggestions that the United States could attack pirate bases on shore, portraying that as premature at best.
Other options that the administration has before it, according to experts, are deploying more ships to patrol the region, pressing commercial shipping companies to stop paying ransoms and to do more to defend their vessels, get other nations to help capture pirates and bring them to justice, and doing more to build up a fledgling transitional government in Somalia.
This was a case involving a U.S. crew on a ship flying a U.S. flag. While President Obama is under no obligation to protect ships and crews from other countries, the U.S. could lead a more concerted, coordinated effort among countries. That would be in our interest.

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