William Hamilton: Navy SEALs 4, pirates 0: Sea captain rescued
April 14, 2009
Our Navy is to be applauded for its dramatic rescue of American sea captain, Richard Phillips; however, a simpler solution would have been for Barack H. Obama to walk across the water to that lifeboat, bow deeply, apologize profusely for intruding, and then give those pirates a talking-to. Actually, according to recent polling data, Obamas hard-core supporters, which are about 30 percent, might believe he could and should do all those things. It should be noted, however, that the polls also show a hard-core opposition to Obama of about 30 percent who probably think he could not pour water out of a boot even if the instructions were written on the heel. As much as reasonable Americans would like to see any administration, be it Democrat or Republican, solve the problems we face, the cold political reality is that Obama, like George W. Bush before him, has a legitimacy problem. Although Bush won in the Electoral College in 2000, some in this country never believed that President George W. Bush was legitimate a legitimacy undermined by losing the popular vote to Al Gore. Even after Bush won handily over John Kerrey in 2004, the Far Left continued to consider his presidency illegitimate.So, until Obama produces an actual birth certificate to prove that he was born in Hawaii and not Kenya, where his Kenyan grandmother claims he was born, his presidency will be undermined in much the same way as that of President George W. Bush. As for the Somali pirates, Obama might look to former President Thomas Jefferson, the slave-owning founder of the Democratic Party, who, eventually, dealt harshly with the Barbary Pirates the original terrorists. But the political situation is different now. President Jefferson sent the U.S. Navy and the Marines to the shores of Tripoli. Tripoli was an actual nation-state with enough government muscle to make its pirates come back ashore and tend the sheep.Somalia is a nation-state in name only. As Gertrude Stein famously said of her home town of Oakland, Calif., Theres no there, there. But Somalia is home to pirate chieftains who revel on ransom money. Last years take was an estimated $150 million. Lobbing cruise missiles or Marines at Somalia are not good options. There is a perception problem. The pirates are black Africans, with an Arab heritage. An invasion of Somalia would have negative implications across black Africa and the Crescent of Islam.For an appropriate fee, a better solution is to offer merchant shipping an armed guard service. During World War II, my sainted Father served in the U.S. Navy Armed Guard on two different Liberty Ships.Merchant ships about to enter a pirate zone would take aboard a heavily armed squad of Marines. The Marines would ride along until the ship is out of danger. The Marines would then debark, be given combat pay and some R&R time to spend it. As long as the Marines have the authority to blow approaching pirates out of the water before the pirates can do harm, it would be good duty. Another solution would be for U.S.-flagged ships to form convoys, a la World War II, and be escorted by U.S. Navy warships. That solution, however, would be expensive and diverts our already overstretched Navy from other missions.Alternatively, we could keep armed, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the pirate infested waters: however, those same seas are heavily traveled by thousands of fishing and other innocent vessels. Trying to identify the pirate boats would be like trying to separate the fly specks from the pepper. One of the pirates was taken alive. Recent rulings by liberal judges may mean that captured pirates will be brought to our shores for trial. But just imagine televised trials-at-sea followed by images of hanged pirates twisting in the wind. The larger pirate ships probably have satellite TV. That could cause wannabe pirates to reconsider their career choices. William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today, studied at Harvards JFK School of Government and the U.S. Naval War College. Dr. Hamilton is a former assistant professor of political science and history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.