A true American hero has been freed. Three pirates are dead. A fourth pirate is in custody. Our Navy shone.
Now the hard work starts.
This weekend’s success won’t be enough to keep our merchant mariners and cargo ships safe. Somali pirate gangs have already threatened retaliation against third-party captives. (We’ll see what they do.)
And all Somalis believe that the United States lacks strength of will and staying power. They remember President Bill Clinton’s cowardly retreat from Mogadishu. They’ll expect a replay from President Obama.
Some pirates may avoid US-flagged ships. Others will go out hunting for them — to teach us a lesson.
Will our president behave as Clinton did with al Qaeda, simply hoping the problem will disappear? Despite the blessed rescue of Capt, Richard Phillips, the indicators aren’t encouraging.
It’s time for real audacity, Mr. President. But this one takes rope, not hope. Pirates must hang.
Instead of standing tall, our just-vote-present president refused to make a statement reinforcing our principles during this ordeal. Rather than confirming that the United States won’t be intimidated by pirates and won’t pay tribute money, he ducked.
Obama’s politics were clever: He positioned himself so that he could distance himself from a military operation that went wrong, while taking credit for any success. And what was that nonsense about authorizing deadly force “if the hostage’s life is in danger”?
Deadly force should always be authorized against pirates. These aren’t shoplifters at K-Mart. We’re dealing with murderous terrorists. Can’t we please be serious?
Piracy is not a law-enforcement problem. It’s a military problem. Always has been. And retribution can’t be “proportional,” a tit-for-tat tap. Pirates and their supporters must be punished fiercely and comprehensively.
What should we do?
* Attack their harbors with land, sea and air power. Kill pirates, sink their vessels (including those dual-use fishing boats) and wreck their support infrastructure. The clans behind the pirates must feel sufficient pain to rein in their young thugs. The price for piracy should be stunning.
And we don’t need to stay to rebuild Somalia. End the fix-it fetish now. We need to leave while their boats are still burning down to the waterline.
* Congress must forbid any shipping company or maritime insurer that pays pirates a ransom from doing business in American ports.
Our cargo trade is the most lucrative in the world. Force shippers to choose between us and the pirates. In the short term, it may make life uncomfortable for a few foreign crews. In the long term, a hard line will save money and lives.
Surely, if Congress can sanction those who do business with North Korea or Iran, we can punish those who fund pirates with millions of dollars in US currency.
* Train and arm crews. This would help somewhat, but we need to have realistic expectations. An armed crew can deter or defeat amateurs of the sort who attacked the Maersk Alabama last week. But skilled pirates will simply upgrade to rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine-guns and other weapons that can do severe damage to ships and create carnage.
We can’t fix this problem on the cheap by giving merchant sailors a few shotguns and rifles — although they need such arms for self-defense. Again, this is a military problem. Piracy always was. We’re not exceptions to history.
We could shatter these bands of pirates, if we had the guts. But Obama would have to stop campaigning and start leading. He might even have to do something that his foreign fans wouldn’t like.
The next move is yours, Mr. President. ExileStreet
courtesy NY Post / copyright 2009 NY Post
Ralph Peters is Fox News’ strategic analyst. His latest book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”
Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.