Monday, April 13, 2009

Phillips Rescue & Piracy: WSJ’s Take

One of the heads of a WSJ editorial today leaves no doubt about what the editors think:

American alive, pirates dead, let's hope more to follow
The editorial begins - - -

The Easter Sunday rescue of cargo ship Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates is a tribute to his personal bravery and the skill and steel nerves of the U.S. Navy.

Now the Obama Administration has an obligation to punish and deter these lawless raiders so they'll never again risk taking a U.S.-flagged ship or an American crew.

The story of Captain Phillips and the Maersk Alabama is full of the kind of divine providence or good luck that can't always be counted on. Not every merchant marine vessel will have a crew that fights back against armed raiders, or a captain willing to trade his own safety for that of his crew.

It's also fortunate the U.S. Navy arrived before the pirates could make it back to land, where they would have been much harder to track down.

We can be grateful that the pirates exposed themselves long enough for U.S. Special Forces to shoot and kill three of them and free Captain Phillips.

Any such rescue carries risks, as we saw when a passenger was killed during the weekend French rescue of a pirated pleasure boat off Somalia. Patience was rewarded in the U.S. case, but also so was preparation and the willingness to act when Navy officials say Captain Phillips appeared to be in "imminent danger."

White House and Navy officials say President Obama had issued a general authorization to use force in these circumstances, and that is to his credit. With all the world watching, the U.S. Navy couldn't afford to be long stymied by sea-faring kidnappers.

No doubt Mr. Obama would have been criticized in some quarters -- though not by us --had Captain Phillips been killed once the order was given to shoot the pirates. But that is the kind of decision that has to be left with commanders on the spot. The pirates made themselves potential targets of deadly force under the law of the sea the second they took Captain Phillips hostage.

A fourth pirate was captured, and we hope the Justice Department tries him under U.S. laws rather than transfer him to Kenyan control. Better still if he's transferred to Guantanamo and held as an "enemy combatant," or whatever the Obama Administration prefers to call terrorists. ...

The rest of the editorial’s here.


My comments:

Before getting to the editorial I want to thank all of you who’ve commented on the piracy, the rescue, etc. Your comments are an excellent example of the worthwhile “conversations” the Net makes possible. You gave me, others and yourselves plenty to think about.

After I read John Keegan’s DT column, my first thoughts were: this is so informed and thoughtful, so like Keegan, and so like much that’s being said by the commenters.

Now to the editorial - - -

With one exception, the portions I’ve posted here reflect my thinking.

The exception – that President Obama would have taken heat had Captain Phillips been killed.

I doubt Obama would’ve come in for much criticism although there would surely have been plenty of second guessing from “the harpies on the shore.” (read MSM)

But the people who’d have taken the heat were the military personal most directly involved in the rescue attempt, with the Captain of the Bainbridge a particular target of the harpies.

Other than the exception I’ve just noted, I applaud the WSJ for a clear, sensible, unapologetic summery of what was at stake and why the U. S. needed to act as it did.

I’ve said enough. Now it’s your turn.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your analysis on all counts - particularly the last, that had the rescue failed or had Captain Phillips lost his life, the military would have come in for some harsh criticism and the commander of the Brisbane who gave the order would have seen his military career come to an end.
THe Navy Seals are to be commended on their marksmanship, Captain Phillips on his great courage; the crew of the Maersk Alabama for their courage as well; the naval commander of the Brisbane for correctly assessing the situation and ordering the take-down; and to Obama for granting the order for the navy to act.

Anonymous said...

Yes, if it had of turned bad, Obama could have said 'I had to trust the men on the spot, and they failed'.

Thankfully they did their job to their usual standards.

Scott S.

drew said...

JinC - with the apparent fecklessness of our current military command (see: Murtha award, and the fact that it was done by the current SecNav), I wouldn't be so sure that the command structure on the Bainbridge is out of trouble just yet. They will be second-guessed (as perhaps they should) in some sort of Navy-based after-action inquiry, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the inquiry panel's findings will be dictacted by politics from the White House.

Three people are dead, and (apparently) no shots were fired at any American forces during the final confrontation. The WH (and the Justice Department) with the willing cooperation of the Navy brass will make this look like the Bainbridge crew shot too soon and too lethally.

I pity the fact that men/women who did the RIGHT thing will be sacrificed on the altar of PC and press relations. It's a damn shame.

Danvers said...

The caninization of the Somail Pirates has begun!

CNN quoting afp refers to them as "untrained teenagers"

Anonymous said...

Of course the "touchy-feely" brigade will whine their two cents' worth and undoubtedly it will be condensed down to "if Americans did it, it's wrong."
Notwithstanding that, I believe the Navy will not do as Drew fears. Even feckless bureaucrats can sense the wind blowing in an unusual direction. Of course there wqill be an after-action inquiry, but the Navy always does that after any significant action.
BHO has already claimed ownership of this caper, so he won't turn on the Navy only because everybody (except the t-f's see above) is quite pleased with the outcome.
I believe some political advisor with half a brain (rare these days especially with this administration) saw a silver lining for his boss and advised Obama to go for glory.
What remains to be seen is the size of the gonads of congress and the White House. The pirates must not be allowed to continue; and they most decidedly must not be allowed to gain vengeance. If it takes a few dozen or a few thousand Somali brigands on the yardarm, so be it.
Tarheel Hawkeye

drew said...

I certainly hope that the gonad-growth mentioned by the Anon at 2:33pm continues and is robust. Consistent with the methodology of some of the left, perhaps this crisis should not be wasted. If there is some testicular fortitude gained from this episode, I for one think is a good outcome that should be welcomed.

Anonymous said...

What's troubling me is the effect the MSM would likely have on any real "get tough" policy on piracy.
If memory serves, the MSM were gung-ho about Kennedy going into Southeast Asia; on board with our Somalia operation; and behind our Iraq invasion. Then, they grew tired of them after discovering they went longer than a couple of news cycles. Then, the MSM--more than any single element of our society--single-handedly turned the nation's opinion around and created massive opposition to military operations.
I can see the same thing happening if we should initiate a tough anti-piracy program and it doesn't succeed in 24 hours. All the talking heads and opinion-makers from the extreme left will crank up the old liberal outrage machine, and it'll be deja vu all over again.
Much as I'd like to see us sweep the pirates from the seas, there would likely be a serious down-side if history is any indication.
Or am I being my cynical self again?
Tarheel Hawkeye