The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Saturday, April 11, 2009

Piracy in the age of Obama; Why America must send a Message by playing Hardball Now

Jules Crittenden has perhaps the most sensible post on how to handle the Somalian pirates that I have yet read:

My own thoughts on this are similar to Keegan’s [article in the UK Telegraph]. Just sink the boats. Declare Somalia’s coast to be a no go for boats of any kind. Offshore or tied up at the dock. On trailers, on the beach. Send whatever airframes may be appropriate to the task … UAVs, helicopters, Warthogs, F-16s, whatever … and destroy every boat along the coast. Wait a day or two, repeat. Wait a week or two, repeat. Destroy any boat launch, repair, storage or harbor facilities as may exist while you’re at it. A few quick Marine shore parties, naval missile barrages and close-in naval raids may be helpful.

No boats, no piracy.

If that is considered too draconian, seeing as some people might actually be trying to fish, then there’s the more intensive, expensive, hazardous measure of patroling close to shore, and stopping every boat. Sink any with weapons on the spot and deposit those boatmen who don’t resist on shore. Kill the ones who do. Placing military teams on some merchant ships, or deploying decoy ships to ambush and kill pirates in the act might also be effective. Personally, I’d suggest another expedient from the Golden Age of Piracy. Gibbets. We had one at the entrance to Boston Harbor on a rock called Nix’s Mate, which is an aid to navigation these days as well as reportedly being cursed and bothered by strange wailing noises. (I camped on a harbor island adjacent a couple of years ago, didn’t hear anything but the jets screaming in overhead to Logan.)

The idea is, hang them and let them rot, where the others can see them. If opportunities to hang pirates at the entrance to harbors old-school are limited … and there’s that annoying lawyer/rights problem … then maybe the answer is to keep a few pirate bodies acquired in the above-mentioned operations. Drop from altitude into the middle of suspect villages and piracy bases.

Just a thought. It may sound a little too 18th century, but that is more or less the century in which Somalia dwells, on a good day. Decades of violent anarchy has left Somalia with little respect for anything but rule of arms. If we are to help Somalia enter the 21st century, it will take baby steps. Brutal baby steps.
With Obama in the White House and Hillary at State, I would NOT go "all in" on Obama having the cojones to undertake anything this drastic, what with Hillary's blather about a "21st Century Solution" (Earth to Hillary: it is not wise to attempt to nuance your way through a "21st century solution" when your enemies' mindset is mired somewhere between the 6th and 18th centuries).

In fact, I would be less suprised if Obama instead concocted a "Pirate Bailout Program", i.e. to print some more worthless US dollars and pay ransom for any and all of Americans taken in the last several days.

Christopher Hitchens wrote a great piece in City Journal a couple of years back as he researched his book on Thomas Jefferson; particularly Jefferson's decision to take on the Barbary Pirates (who arguably were the day's most famous Islamic terrorists, going all the way back to the Middle Ages).

The lessons drawn from history from REAL Presidents and patriots like Jefferson (a man who risked his own hanging to write and sign that Declaration of Independence--and a giant of a man) in comparison to a deer-in-the-headlights appeasement-minded novice whose bona fides were "community organizing" and getting payoffs from corrupt Chicago "kingmakers", are stupefying and depressing. But I digress.

The lessons of the Barbary Pirates--combined with the modern-day the failures of the Clinton Administration to act forcefully against the spread of Islamic radicalism--are completely relevant to the Somalian (and all other) piracy; especially considering the message it sends to the enemies who want to destroy us, like Iran and North Korea. What Crittenden suggests above is worth serious consideration. Hell even the French are showing more balls than our own "Commander in Chief" is in this crisis.

On the example of Jefferson, Hitchens writes (emphasis mine):

... How many know that perhaps 1.5 million Europeans and Americans were enslaved in Islamic North Africa between 1530 and 1780? We dimly recall that Miguel de Cervantes was briefly in the galleys. But what of the people of the town of Baltimore in Ireland, all carried off by “corsair” raiders in a single night?

Some of this activity was hostage trading and ransom farming rather than the more labor-intensive horror of the Atlantic trade and the Middle Passage, but it exerted a huge effect on the imagination of the time—and probably on no one more than on Thomas Jefferson. ....

One immediate effect of the American Revolution, however, was to strengthen the hand of those very same North African potentates: roughly speaking, the Maghrebian provinces of the Ottoman Empire that conform to today’s Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. Deprived of Royal Navy protection, American shipping became even more subject than before to the depredations of those who controlled the Strait of Gibraltar. The infant United States had therefore to decide not just upon a question of national honor but upon whether it would stand or fall by free navigation of the seas.

One of the historians of the Barbary conflict, Frank Lambert, argues that the imperative of free trade drove America much more than did any quarrel with Islam or “tyranny,” let alone “terrorism.” He resists any comparison with today’s tormenting confrontations. “The Barbary Wars were primarily about trade, not theology,” he writes. “Rather than being holy wars, they were an extension of America’s War of Independence.”

... But one cannot get around what Jefferson heard when he went with John Adams to wait upon Tripoli’s ambassador to London in March 1785. When they inquired by what right the Barbary states preyed upon American shipping, enslaving both crews and passengers, America’s two foremost envoys were informed that “it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” (It is worth noting that the United States played no part in the Crusades, or in the Catholic reconquista of Andalusia.)

Ambassador Abd Al-Rahman did not fail to mention the size of his own commission, if America chose to pay the protection money demanded as an alternative to piracy. So here was an early instance of the “heads I win, tails you lose” dilemma, in which the United States is faced with corrupt regimes, on the one hand, and Islamic militants, on the other—or indeed a collusion between them.

It seems likely that Jefferson decided from that moment on that he would make war upon the Barbary kingdoms as soon as he commanded American forces. His two least favorite institutions—enthroned monarchy and state-sponsored religion—were embodied in one target, and it may even be that his famous ambivalences about slavery were resolved somewhat when he saw it practiced by the Muslims.

However that may be, it is certain that the Barbary question had considerable influence on the debate that ratified the United States Constitution in the succeeding years. Many a delegate, urging his home state to endorse the new document, argued that only a strong federal union could repel the Algerian threat. In The Federalist No. 24, Alexander Hamilton argued that without a “federal navy . . . of respectable weight . . . the genius of American Merchants and Navigators would be stifled and lost.” In No. 41, James Madison insisted that only union could guard America’s maritime capacity from “the rapacious demands of pirates and barbarians.” John Jay, in his letters, took a “bring-it-on” approach; he believed that “Algerian Corsairs and the Pirates of Tunis and Tripoli” would compel the feeble American states to unite, since “the more we are ill-treated abroad the more we shall unite and consolidate at home.” The eventual Constitution, which provides for an army only at two-year renewable intervals, imposes no such limitation on the navy.

But do not expect Obama and his fellow anti-Constitutional "Statists" to be impressed by the intent of the founders--they have shown disdain for the founders and the Constitution they have sworn to defend in almost everything they do and stand for.

These, after all, are the same folks who came up with the original ideas of letting (first) the UN, (second) Jimmy Carter, and (third) Madeline Albright matriculate into paying off North Korea in exchange for a promise not to build nukes--a promise they almost immediately broke, long before Bush took office.

Even President Bush let down many Americans who believe in peace through strength (myself included) by attempting yet another failed payoff of the NK's. Fool me once, shame on me...

But the consequences of not sending the appropriate "messages" today are much more dire, to say the least. Note to Barack: if there is no United States your Hope and Change mean exactly squat (emphasis again mine):

In the latest evidence Iran is seriously planning an unconventional pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S., an Iranian military journal has publicly considered the idea of launching an electromagnetic pulse attack as the key to defeating the world's lone superpower.

Congress was warned of Iran's plans last month by Peter Pry, a senior staffer with the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack in a hearing of Sen. John Kyl's subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security.

In an article titled, "Electronics to Determine Fate of Future Wars," the journal explains how an EMP attack on America's electronic infrastructure, caused by the detonation of a nuclear weapon high above the U.S., would bring the country to its knees.

"Once you confuse the enemy communication network you can also disrupt the work of the enemy command- and decision-making center," the article states. "Even worse today when you disable a country's military high command through disruption of communications, you will, in effect, disrupt all the affairs of that country. If the world's industrial countries fail to devise effective ways to defend themselves against dangerous electronic assaults then they will disintegrate within a few years. American soldiers would not be able to find food to eat nor would they be able to fire a single shot."

WND reported the Iranian threat last Monday, explaining Tehran is not only covertly developing nuclear weapons, it is already testing ballistic missiles specifically designed to destroy America's technical infrastructure. The report was published first in Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, a premium, online intelligence newsletter by WND's founder.

Pry pointed out the Iranians have been testing mid-air detonations of their Shahab-3 medium-range missile over the Caspian Sea. The missiles were fired from ships.

"A nuclear missile concealed in the hold of a freighter would give Iran or terrorists the capability to perform an EMP attack against the United States homeland without developing an ICBM and with some prospect of remaining anonymous," explained Pry. "Iran's Shahab-3 medium range missile mentioned earlier is a mobile missile and small enough to be transported in the hold of a freighter. We cannot rule out that Iran, the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism might provide terrorists with the means to executive an EMP attack against the United States."

Lowell Wood, acting chairman of the commission, said yesterday that such an attack – by Iran or some other actor – could cripple the U.S. by knocking out electrical power, computers, circuit boards controlling most automobiles and trucks, banking systems, communications and food and water supplies.

"No one can say just how long systems would be down," he said. "It could be weeks, months or even years."

EMP attacks are generated when a nuclear weapon is detonated at altitudes above a few dozen kilometers above the earth's surface. The explosion, of even a small nuclear warhead, would produce a set of electromagnetic pulses that interact with the earth's atmosphere and the earth's magnetic field.

"These electromagnetic pulses propagate from the burst point of the nuclear weapon to the line of sight on the earth's horizon, potentially covering a vast geographic region in doing so simultaneously, moreover, at the speed of light," said Wood. "For example, a nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 400 kilometers over the central United States would cover, with its primary electromagnetic pulse, the entire continent of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico."

The commission, in its work over a period of several years, found that EMP is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold American society seriously at risk and that might also result in the defeat of U.S. military forces.

"The electromagnetic field pulses produced by weapons designed and deployed with the intent to produce EMP have a high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics and information systems upon which any reasonably advanced society, most specifically including our own, depend vitally," Wood said. "Their effects on systems and infrastructures dependent on electricity and electronics could be sufficiently ruinous as to qualify as catastrophic to the American nation."

Wood warned of the potential for unprecedented cascading failures of major electronic and electrical infrastructures.

"In such events, a regional or national recovery would be long and difficult and would seriously degrade the overall viability of the American nation and the safety and even the lives of very large numbers of U.S. citizens," he said.

Strategic EMP attacks on the U.S. have also been considered and discussed recently by China and post-Soviet Union Russia, according to the commission. Yet, the more imminent threat, according to William R. Graham, former chairman of the commission, and Wood, comes from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea and their terrorist allies.


The commission estimated that major corrections could be made in the next three to five years that would greatly reduce America's vulnerability to an EMP attack. There is concern within the commission, however, that the EMP threat is not being taken seriously by the Department of Homeland Security.


Wood said an actual EMP attack on the United States minimally would result in $20 billion in damages, no loss of life and just a great deal of inconvenience. However, on the other end of the scale, it could "literally destroy the American nation and might cause the deaths of 90 percent of its people and set us back a century or more in time as far as our ability to function as a society."

And so today, here we are. The US Navy against terrorists in a lifeboat. Here we are in a world with an isolated nuclear North Korea, with Kim lobbing ICBM's over Japan, selling these missile technologies to a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran, the world's leading terror sponsor and sworn enemy of America and all other "infidels". We have Iran's president promising to wipe America and Israel from the face of the earth, even as Obama proposes to REDUCE spending on our missile shield that seems to be working.

Meanwhile, as Korea and Iran and these modern-day Barbary Pirates thumb their nose at the rest of us, all that the Obama/Clinton regime seem to be able to concoct as a "response" is to take this "serious provocation" (ooooo...) back to the impotent, corrupt, anti-American UN for resolution, with China and Russia ready and waiting with their veto pens.

Good luck with all that.

Crittenden (and Jefferson before him) had it right: President Obama has an opportunity here with these pirates to at least flex a muscle or two at minimum and to send a message to the terrorists who want us all dead purveyors of "man-caused disasters".

But don't hold your breath.

You might want to stock up on long term food and water stockpiles though...

DiscerningTexan, 4/11/2009 11:38:00 AM |