By lex, on April 15th, 2009
The Somali pirates – who apparently are better at seizing ships than they are at driving them – are not intimidated by the president’s promise to suppress them:**
Somali pirates fired grenades and automatic weapons at an American freighter loaded with food aid but the ship managed to escape the attack and was heading Wednesday to Kenya under U.S. Navy guard, officials said.
Despite President Barack Obama’s vow to halt their banditry and the deaths of five pirates in recent French and U.S. hostage rescue missions, brigands seized four vessels and more than 75 hostages off the Horn of Africa since Sunday’s dramatic rescue of an American freighter captain.
The Liberty Sun’s American crew was not injured in the latest attack but the vessel sustained some damage, owner Liberty Maritime Corp. said…
“We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets,” crewman Thomas Urbik, 26, wrote his mother in an e-mail Tuesday. “We are barricaded in the engine room and so far no one is hurt. (A) rocket penetrated the bulkhead but the hole is small. Small fire, too, but put out…”
The USS Bainbridge responded to the Liberty Sun’s call for help but the pirates had left by the time it arrived five hours later, Navy Capt. Jack Hanzlik said.
I read somewhere in the last week – I disremember where – that while those who use the sea in international commerce believe they ought to have the liberty of the sea, the pirates believe (with at least equal fervency) that they have the right to disrupt that commerce for their own gain, their “country” being bereft of either much in the way material resources or social capital, at least as it is elsewhere reckoned. Not to mention the fact that all the taxi cab driver positions in Sandy Eggo are pretty much filled, capacity being what it is, what with Our Struggling Economy.
“Our latest hijackings are meant to show that no one can deter us from protecting our waters from the enemy because we believe in dying for our land,” Omar Dahir Idle told The Associated Press by telephone from the Somali port of Harardhere.
Which, we can play it that way too.
Although there’s talk of tipping it the 19th century and laying waste to pirate havens ashore, I don’t believe it will come to very much. Offshore bombardments with 5″ guns are all very well and good (until the damn things jam), but there’s scarcely anything ashore worth hurling a TLAM at and hosing them down with helicopter gunships sends the wrong signals pretty much everywhere. Even if we could stand the heat for what would have to be rather indiscriminate slaughter of desperately poor people of color, the pirates being all mixed in with the locals, which I don’t believe we can.
And the appetite for smoking out the rat’s nest with boots on deck cannot be very great these days. Going in heavy means replaying the Mog back in ’93, and sending small teams of operators in unsupported is probably out of the question as well – our guys don’t blend.
Oh, a punitive raid by a Marine Expeditionary Unit is probably within the limits of a do-able do, but nothing long-term can be much effected by such a limited campaign, and anyway we seemingly cannot resist the temptation of trying to fix whatever we leave broken in our wake, which is a pretty tall order in Somalia.
So, despite the fact that it’s much better to go after hornet nests than individual hornets, this will probably have to be done “from the sea,” a thing for which our Navy – God bless it, and keep it whole – is woefully under-equipped, our ships being so few and the ocean so very vast. The international merchant marine force is probably unwilling to defend itself actively, liability being such a great concern should something go awry, not to mention the reticence of foreign ports to allow permanently armed merchant ships come and go as they please.
I’ve said it before, and believe it to be true: There’s a private sector answer, to what is essentially a private sector concern. Letters of Marque, issued to private security detachments embarking from mother ships at either end of the perilous passage. Shipping companies would have to pay, but it would probably be less than they pay to Lloyd’s of London for insurance, and a great deal less than what they’d pay in ransom money should their ships be siezed. Helicopters – or even small UAVs – carrying FLIRs could be used to extend the ship’s sensor range for positive ID of RPG- and AK-carrying “fishermen” in skiffs, while a deployable, cuppola clad Ma Deuce or two ought to be dissuasive to anyone who gets inside the helo/UAV arc. Only pirates are killed rather than mouse poor civvies ashore, and merchant mariners would have to “pay to play.”
We’d still have to sort out liability for the privateers, but the issuance by Congress of Letters of Marque is constitutionally protected, and not denied the US by the Declaration of Paris, since we are not signatories.
I’m sensing a business opportunity here, is all.
** 09-04-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.
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