Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Somali Pirate Situation

Admittedly, I haven't been following this very closely, but it seems to be getting out of control. Eventually, someone's going to have to take care of this pernicious little problem.

Here's an "interesting" snippet from a story I found in the L.A. Times:
She [Candyce Kelshall, a specialist at maritime security firm Blue Water Defence and Security, based in Trinidad] said that as few as four armed pirates have been able to seize control of massive commercial vessels because seafarers, who are often low-paid and undertrained, have been told by ship owners to offer no resistance to avoid loss of life.

"We don't want to have a crew of Rambos," Kelshall said, noting that she disagrees with American military recommendations that commercial vessels carry arms for protection. "But if this crew was able to retake the ship without using arms by outnumbering the pirates or because of their training, this is something that should be encouraged."
No, by all means, we don't want these innocent "seafarers" to be armed. Heavens, no! Why, then they might actually defend themselves, prevent the pirates from getting their million-dollar ransoms-- maybe injuring or killing a few of them in the process-- and discourage other pirates from making future attacks. And that would be bad.

Well, yes, it depends on the situation. If the only way you can save your life or the lives of your crew-mates is by not offering opposition, then of course you'll follow that course of (in)action. But there are also times when you have to defend yourself and your property from those who mean to do you harm. Or at least some of us still think so.

Going back to the story for a minute, please note that there is no middle ground. Either it's a ship full of untrained and underpaid Rambos armed to the teeth or it's nothing. Oh, and if you find a way to fight the pirates off without guns, that's fine-- just so long as there are no icky-poo weapons involved. Except for whatever "arms" the pirates might bring on board, of course.

Oh, and here's a snippet from another story, this time from CNN. Anderson Cooper interviews Kaj Larsen, a former Navy SEAL:

Cooper: And this is a different situation, because now the USS Bainbridge is on scene. This is the first time an American has been held hostage.

But, normally, a whole crew gets taken hostage, and it's basically a negotiation between the company that owns the vessel or the cargo and the pirates.

Larsen: Right. Obviously, this is a very unique situation and it's developing right now as we speak. So, this is setting new standards and new precedents. My concern during this situation is that the pirates, seeing their first batch of resistance, in the future might be using more aggressive tactics now that they see that some ships are willing to fight back.

Ok. . . So. . . in order to avoid them using "more aggressive tactics" in the future (because-- horrors!-- some ships might dare defend themselves), we should just roll over and play dead whenever the pirates attack? I suppose that, rather than protect themselves, they should just hope for the best-- pray that the pirates will generously allow them to live? Oh, those goofy pirates! Well, I hope the Boss-Man has deep pockets, 'cause here comes another $3 million in ransom dues. Do you really think that's going to solve the problem?

What would have been the "new standards and new precedents" set if this first U.S. ship they've attacked in two hundred (or whatever number of) years turned out to be exceptionally "easy pickin's"?

Maybe I'm missing something here, but this isn't the kind of talk I'd generally expect from a former U.S. Navy SEAL. . .

Cooper: How do you think this thing is going to end? Do you have any idea?

Larsen: I don't really have any idea.

In the past, what we have seen is a classic kidnap-for-ransom hostage negotiation system, where the insurance companies end up paying sometimes millions of dollars for these pirates.

In this case, I think the very close presence of a U.S. Navy vessel might ... provide some discomfort to the pirates in the area.
Poor widdle baby piwates! Did da mean old U.S. Navy wessel scare you, wee widdle bumpkins? I so, so sowwy!

Or, excuse me-- provide you with some discomfort? My most sincere apologies, gentlemen.

Also: "Classic kidnap-for-ransom hostage negotiation system". Ah, yes. What a great system it is, too. :o/