Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Release and Surrender

US Navy Seals snipers killed three Somali pirates to rescue American ship captain Richard Phillips this past Sunday. 

While browsing comments on a NY Times article about the recent incident I came across mixed views of the military action. The majority of commenters praised the snipers and wished the captain well. A good deal of the comments were nationalistic shouts that bordered on bloodlust and called for increased military presence off the coast of Somalia. 
However, a very small percentage of the comments were from people who did not think the military action was necessary. 

Daisy from Brooklyn commented that "we have simply murdered three people who had not dome the same to the Captain" and that she could "never applaud killings." Other comments alluded to the lopsided nature of the standoff (US Navy vs. raggedy lifeboat) and the fact that the pirates are only concerned with money and have never actually harmed any of their hostages in the past.

Imagine if your child had his/her money taken every single day by a bully at school. You go to the school and demand that the extortion end immediately. But, the principal says the bullying is allowed because your child has never been hurt. As long as the bully doesn't harm your child it's okay to have the money stolen. 

The above analogy may oversimplify the situation because there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. You have to empathize with the Somali kids who see no other option than crime to make ends meet. A young man's career choices are severely limited in the regions of Somalia where pirates abound. There is information that suggests the pirates use some of the ransom money and stolen cargo to feed hungry Somalian civilians. There is probably some profound reason why the bully is taking your child's money also. But you don't want to hear anything about that when you are responsible for your child's well-being. Likewise, the US (Barack Obama) had to make a decision here. 

The pirates have been successful in hijacking commercial ships for millions of dollars in ransom for many years now. They had to draw the line somewhere though. And the line was drawn once they saw the US flag waving on the Maersk Alabama ship. Not because the US is better than other nations. But simply because the pirates should understand US history and foreign policy. All of the hijacking made the pirates brazen and arrogant. They never thought there would be any retaliation and money would continually flow from insurance company coffers while the ransom game remained status quo. The United States doesn't play these games. Especially not with the world watching. 

I don't want to see anyone get killed. Especially not teenagers, because the three Somalis ranged in age from 17 to 19. But, if nothing else, people have to realize the history of the US when it comes to military action. As we have recently seen in Iraq, the US will launch a preemptive strike for no reason at all. In this particular situation, FBI negotiatiors were brought in to control the talks with the pirates. The pirates repeatedly tried to secure a "ransom" and were repeatedly told to release the captain and surrender themselves. There is no negotiation.