Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Obama and the Somali pirate hostage situation

It seems everyone else is weighing in on this, so why not me too? Evaluations on Obama's handling of his "first international crisis" are mixed across the board. I'm reserving judgment, as as I see it, this one incident is not the crisis. It's one move in the chess game.

But in this one incident I see encouraging signs. The President authorized lethal force and left control of the situation at the local level. The Bainbridge's captain wasn't having to call for permission to have his snipers fire. He was able to react as he saw fit, and things turned out well.

Yet the fact that the situation went on as long as it did showed some patience and hope for a peaceful resolution from the top.

So it would appear that Obama's orders were to resolve it peacefully if possible, but protect the hostage's life at all costs. I approve. It was the right call for the situation, I think.

For the larger crisis I would like to see more action. Obviously what we're doing now isn't getting the job done. While I feel for the Somalis, who are forced to live with a dysfunctional government that cannot provide them better options than piracy, they clearly condone piracy and are dismayed that the international community is escalating the situation:
In Somalia, in the pirate haven of Harardhere, where locals have benefited from millions of dollars in pirate ransom, the military operation seemed like a bewildering display of force against four errant young men. "It was wrong to kill those pirates," said Aisha Gurey, an Arabic teacher. "The international community is wrong, and the pirates are wrong. But in this case, the strong one has killed the weak one." (Washington Post via MSNBC)

Obviously the pirates don't view the international community as the strong ones or they wouldn't be doing this. Unless we can somehow turn the Somali economy around (which would likely require invasion of Somalia) we're going to have to figure out how to make piracy not pay. We're not going to accomplish either without significant loss of life. The only question is which option is the better one.

The situation is only getting worse. It's time someone stepped up and took leadership of the situation. I'd like to see it be us, but I'm not holding my breath.

One side note: In darkness, 80-100 feet away, in rough seas. Three shots, three hits, first try. DANG! As I've probably said before, give our military an objective and get out of their way and you'll get results. Kudos to the SEAL sniper team and to our military in general.

UPDATE: Here's a Newsweek article on how France is handling pirates. They're nastier than we are, and it's getting them results. And evidently none of this talk of "escalation".

That would suggest that the pirates are not yet convinced of American resolve.

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