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The Right is blaming Barack Obama for Somali pirates, or at least the lack of a response to the Somali pirates. Short version: Barack Obama is Jimmy Carter.

I thought you might like to read a Wall Street Journal story about Somali pirates published while George W. Bush was still president:

In the waning days of the Bush administration, the National Security Council issued a detailed yet little-noticed plan for combating piracy off the coast of Somalia....

...But the vast majority of the tasks laid out in the plan either were aimed at making sure pirates never reached commercial vessels -- encouraging ships to travel at night, increasing intelligence sharing, destroying vessels that appear outfitted for piracy -- or ensuring that there were consequences for pirates that were ultimately caught.

It was nearly silent, however, on what to do if a ship is taken by pirates and crew members are held captive. And what little guidance it provided was vague. U.S. naval forces were given authority to "terminate the act of piracy and any included hostage situation." Just how they were to do that was left unsaid.

Pay close attention:

The reason for the plan's lack of guidance has now been made clear over the last two days off the coast of the Horn of Africa: The choices facing a hulking navy destroyer as it confronts a ragtag group of Somali pirates holding an American seaman hostage in a small, propulsion-free boat are extremely limited.

Pentagon and U.S. Navy officials have been reticent to engage in the kind of hostage rescues that could spring crewmembers from capture at sea, arguing it would set a precedent that would strain an already thinly deployed naval taskforce in the region and, more importantly, potentially lead to more bloodshed.

In other words, President Obama probably is taking the advice of the commanders on the ground, er, water. But does this mean George W. Bush also was Jimmy Carter? I hate to insult Carter so, but let's not pull punches here.

John Keegan, who has written some of my favorite military history books, says that the one way to stop the piracy is to sink pirate ships on site. I suspect he's right about that. However, that doesn't solve the present hostage crisis, unless we're willing to sacrifice the lives of the hostages. But then he says European navies would need to be re-equipped to engage in a pirate ship sinking campaign, which seems odd to me. But Keegan knows military stuff better than I do.

Originally posted to maha on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 10:40 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Obama is very vulnerable here, because U.S. ships (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    weren't boarded (and sailors kidnapped) on Bush's watch.  Obama (and the international community)needs to move a carrier into the area.  

    "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come." Victor Hugo

    by lordcopper on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 10:55:06 AM PDT

  •  Will the real president please stand up? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miriam, nextstep, John Minehan

    This is Obama's decision.  He will be graded on his decision, alone, whether Bush would have made the same decision or not.

    •  Not Really the Point (0+ / 0-)

      Whether it might have been Bush's decision or not is not the main point. The main point is in the bolded paragraph:

      "Pentagon and U.S. Navy officials have been reticent to engage in the kind of hostage rescues that could spring crewmembers from capture at sea, arguing it would set a precedent that would strain an already thinly deployed naval taskforce in the region and, more importantly, potentially lead to more bloodshed."

      •  That doesn't matter (0+ / 0-)

        Obama is Commander in Chief.  Whether the Pentagon prefers to get involved or not, Obama is ultimately responsible and will be held responsible if it turns bad.  It's a complicated matter, but Obama is either in charge of these complicated matters, or he's not.

        •  Well, how important (0+ / 0-)

          Somalia is to the National Interest is his and his alone.  On the other hand, how to rescue the hostage is one for the Commander of the Destroyer and his Task Force Commander.

          •  Not true (0+ / 0-)

            Obama is at the top of the chain of command. He can have the orders run through him or not.  Ultimately, whatever action is taken is his responsibility, whether he approved them or not and that is the issue.

            •  Well, if you take that (0+ / 0-)

              to the LBJ extent, it would be completely dysfunctional.  Mission-type orders generally work best, especially where they come from the National Command Authority-level.

              You can never delegate responsibility, but it is wise to delegate authority.    

      •  The WSJ Article (0+ / 0-)

        referred to a situation where the US Navy would be involved with hostages who are not US citizens, from ships that were not US flagged.

        Lastly in the current situation the ship was under charter from the US Government.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 12:07:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hey (0+ / 0-)

    No one expects an Escalating Pirate Standoff!

  •  Anybody who thinks that this is a major national (0+ / 0-)

    security issue needs their head checked. Not to excuse the criminally ultra-incompetent bush, or to dismiss the plight of the crews, but the amount of attention this is getting reveals that the media is always ready to tune the next new thing to maximum noise whatever the relative importance. In a delicate hostage situation, that can be as much or more to the detriment of the outcome than less sensationalistic coverage would be. And we  must overcome the tendency to line up behind that.

  •  ya know (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Powered Grace, Jay C

    the union trained the seaman to deal with terrorists at sea, i.e., pirates.

  •  For an interesting account: (0+ / 0-)

    For the immediate question, the short answer is "Fleet SEALs."

    For the deeper issues, it may be time to "be prepared" (in the sense of the term of art) to send in a MEU with appropriate CMO/CA support.  Pirates usually have to be dealt with on land historically and stopping the pirates (who were bringing in a lot of hard currency) might have second-order effects.  

  •  It is a point that (0+ / 0-)

    occurred to me, but maybe not to others, that piracy might be yet another problem Bush was willing to ignore because it wasn't Iraq.

    Let tyrants fear.-Queen Elizabeth I

    by Virginia mom on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 12:22:24 PM PDT

  •  Continuing my anti-piracy campaign (0+ / 0-)

    Every since this Somali pirate stuff started I have been raising the question why doesn't the U.S. Government use the high tech spy Satellite technology that it has in place to combat this growing scourge? Even Goggle Earth has the ability to display most locations on the earth using Satellite technology.

    My suggestion requires sufficient computing sources, and input data from two sources. The first source is the data defining the maritime traffic whose trips include using sea lanes in the Indian Ocean in the Somalia, Kenya area. The second source is the down link data from satellite optical system as it completes monitoring passes over the Indian Ocean. The satellite could also have advanced technology to engage in an ID Friend or Foe code exchange between the ground station, the satellite, and the particular naval vessel it is scanning.

    These data would be processed and the position, course and speed of unidentified ships would recorded and monitored. Human intervention activity would also be carried on independent of the monitoring process as personnel attempted to resolve the identities of the unknown ships. An alarm situation would be triggered by either the detection of an unidentified ship "giving birth" which would be the launching of a small boat from the unidentified "mother" ship. The course and speed of the smaller boat would immediately be plotted to determine the intercept position with the target merchant vessel,its intended hijack victim. Obviously smaller boats heading out to sea from the Somali mainland would also be monitored and tracked.  

    The system that I briefly described above could be run by a special Sea Security agency of the U.S. Government. This agency could sell subscription services to various maritime interests around the world, to provide monitoring and security alerts for ship board crew personnel who are actively engaged in the delivery of cargo shipments by sea. The Sea Security System would save hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom in addition to providing safety for the shipping crew members. The System would alert the Captain of any vessel perceived to be in immediate danger with a coded warning message that would provide the position and course of the pirate boat and the approximate time to incept. Using this information, the Captain could then initiate avoidance procedures, such as an immediate change in course and ship speed.

    I intend to keep raising this issue until I get some reasonable response from the Government. If the world is truly becoming a global society, then the safety of traffic on the high seas must be a rule of international law whose sanctity cannot be violated.

    •  Maybe because this isn't nearly as high a (0+ / 0-)

      military priority as the media is trying to make you think?

      Maybe because if in 30 years the high-tech military hasn't been able to win the 'war' on drugs, which have been around for less than a century, it is pointless to aim it at a 'scourge' that has been around for 3,000+ years?

      I'd rather see the combined navies of the world do something useful and start cleaning up the ocean's plastic patches. That is something that could be done.

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