Monday, April 13, 2009

Pirates of Obama

Let's start by congratulating the US Navy in it's incredible rescue of Captain Richard Phillips. Congratulations also goes to President Obama's administration. While Obama didn't "order" the attack as some news reports have suggested, making sure the Navy had the authorization to use force if necessary was a political risk. Had it gone badly, comparisons to the failed hostage rescue under President Carter would have been inevitable. Give credit to the Obama Administration for letting the situation dictate the force used and not political risk calculations.

The Associated Press is reporting President Obama has sworn to crack down on piracy.

President Barack Obama vowed Monday "to halt the rise of piracy," while shipmates of the rescued American freighter captain called for tough action against Somali bandits who are preying on one of the world's busiest sea routes.

Obama appeared to move up the piracy issue on his agenda, saying the United States would work with nations elsewhere in the world.

"I want to be very clear that we are resolved to halt the rise of piracy in that region and to achieve that goal, we're going to have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks," Obama said at a Washington news conference.

The nighttime rescue operation of Richard Phillips won praise abroad but it was uncertain how far Obama wanted to go to engage the pirates.

One option being seriously considered by the Obama Administration is to fire the Pirates' CEO and put Timothy Geithner in charge of their operations.

Meanwhile, local liberal blogger Capper demonstrates why criticizing people for what they don't say just to score political points may make you look foolish.

I am still waiting for one, just one, to give the credit to him and apologize for speaking out of turn now that the last hostage has been freed unharmed, through the use of force as ordered by President.

(Of course, the President did not "order" the use of force.)

Capper wrote that Easter Sunday night before anyone had the chance to really comment. Both WTMJ-AM's Charlie Sykes and WISN-AM's Jay Weber took the opportunity this morning (the first either of them were on the air after the rescue) to give credit to the Obama Administration for the rescue. We're still waiting for one, just one, acknowledgement of that from Capper.

Meanwhile, for those that are asking, "What next," Andy McCarthy at National Review explained the law when it comes to issues of piracy:

...virtually all hostile acts that occur in war could also be charged as crimes — conspiring, shooting, bombing, killing, etc. When we are at war and both sides are complying with the laws of war, combatants are priviliged to use force and are not prosecuted for doing so — other than when they commit atrocities (war crimes). But when one side is not complying with the laws of war — or is otherwise in violation of the Law of Nations — that side's operatives are unlawful combatants and not privileged to use force. In those circumstances, the fact that their acts of piracy or terrorism are criminalized under American law gives us an additional option. It does not mean we cannot treat an act of war as an act of war.

Professor Peter T Leeson makes the case for privatizing the oceans as a way of discouraging piracy.

Predictably, the absence of ownership of these waters means no one has had much incentive to prevent activities that destroy their value — activities such as piracy. The result is a kind of oceanic “tragedy of the commons” whereby, since no one has an incentive to devote the resources required to prevent piracy, piracy flourishes. In contrast, if these waters were privately owned, the owner would have a strong incentive to maximize the waters’ value since he would profit by doing so. That would mean suppressing and preventing pirates.

Rather than trying its hand at Somali state building, the international community should try auctioning off Somali’s coastal waters. According to some Somali pirates, greedy foreign corporations are exploiting valuable resources in these waters, which is allegedly why they’ve resorted to piracy (the large ransoms earned from pirating are a happy but unexpected byproduct of pursuing social justice, I suppose). If this is right, Somalia’s coastal waters should be able to fetch a handsome price. The international community can use the proceeds of the auction for humanitarian assistance in Somalia, or put it in a trust for Somalia’s future government, if one ever emerges. The “high seas” should be similarly sold. It’s not so important where the proceeds go. The important thing is that the un-owned becomes owned.

Marquette Professor Rick Esenberg comments on the use of lethal force:

One of the things that annoys me, though, in the reporting of these things is the phrase "shoot to kill." As a general matter, there is no other way that responders shoot in these circumstances. Police officers, for example, are trained to aim at an area that is immediately below the target's neck and up to his eyes. If you are hit there, you are not likely to make another move which is the point. Police shoot to stop - immediately. A corrollary of this is that the target is likely to die. Because of this, cops are trained to use lethal force only where there would be justification to kill the suspect.

Maybe Navy SEALS have more leeway. Their training is unbelievable and I have heard that trained snipers will sometimes try to take less than a lethal shot. But I can't imagine why you would do anything but take a head shot here. You had to immediately incapacitate these guys and, unfortunately, there is no other way to do that.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are 1.5 games out of first place.