Sunday, April 12, 2009

Congratulations Seals, Captain - and President

Well, the President, too, sort of.

We can be proud of our nation and all who participated in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from the Islamic Somali pirates. The Seals performed flawlessly. The Captain served as a parable of the Easter season in his self-sacrifice and subsequent rescue. The President ordered what needed to be done (after early attempts at tying the hands of those in the best position to take action in the field). We celebrate this victory while we mull over both the consequences and what we do next.

I agree with John Bolton, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, who argues that we need to go after the ports and home bases of the Somali pirates militarily. I agree with him that it is a mistake for our response to revert to some sort of reactive police action - an after the fact attempt to rescue ships and people from tyranny on the seas. That approach allows piracy to continue for years to come. I agree that we need the cooperation of other nations. But we must not allow our mission to be driven or subverted by other nations.

Now there are folks who call for "nation-building" of places like Somalia to solve problems of bad behavior. Yes, once the nation is built, that tends to reduce this sort of irresponsible behavior. But that certainly requires multi-national involvement and not primarily by the United States. And it typically takes decades to achieve.

In the meantime, the big stick approach, and using it, is the thing we must do. Consequences, yes. Criticism from others, yes. Loss of innocent lives. Probably. They live in a bad neighborhood. For those who believe in evolution; the survival of the fittest: that will occur here. For those who believe in divine mercy, pray for those people. Once the bad behavior stops, nation building becomes more likely. But piracy is not Somalias only "bad behavior." There is much for them to overcome, including their addiction to violent Islamic teaching and tribal anarchy.

If they respect nothing else, they respect power adminstered with a clear and resolute hand. Residents of Harardhere, a port and pirate stronghold, were gathering in the streets after news of the captain's release, saying they fear pirates may now retaliate against some of the 200 hostages they still hold.

Here is the Somali reaction: "We fear more that any revenge taken by the pirates against foreign nationals could bring more attacks from the foreign navies, perhaps on our villages," Abdullahi Haji Jama, who owns a clothes store in Harardhere, told The Associated Press by telephone.

That is a very good fear. They must understand what we mean by "Don't Tread on Me."

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