If You Believe in War, You Believe in War

Fred Iklé believes in war (emphasis mine):

It is naive to assume that the millions paid annually in ransom to pirates merely enables them to purchase villas and fancy automobiles. Somalia is a country without government, where anarchy is being exploited by terrorist organizations. Although the threat that pirates pose to commercial ships is increasingly known, little is being done to combat it. And we must consider the bigger picture: Terrorists are far more brutal than pirates and can easily force pirates — petty thieves in comparison — to share their ransom money.

Uhhh-huh. I get it. Somalia is an anarchic failed state with no functioning government. So the answer then is to come up with strategic plans to make Somalia less anarchic and increase the chance for a functioning government to take hold. Right?

Wrong. The answer is to jettison international law and arm the cargo ship crews (emphasis mine):

Start by blaming the timorous lawyers who advise the governments attempting to cope with the pirates such as those who had been engaged in a standoff with U.S. hostage negotiators in recent days. These lawyers misinterpret the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Geneva Conventions and fail to apply the powerful international laws that exist against piracy. The right of self-defense — a principle of international law — justifies killing pirates as they try to board a ship.

Nonetheless, entire crews are unarmed on the ships that sail through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Shipowners pretend that they cannot trust their crews with weapons, but the facts don’t add up. For one thing, in the United States most adults except felons are allowed to have guns, and the laws of many other nations also permit such ownership. …

And nothing bad ever happens when we allow most adults to have guns, goodness knows. That’s certainly a persuasive argument for arming cargo crews. We allow most adult Americans to arm themselves, and that’s worked out fine, right?

Ed Morrissey signs off on another Iklé idea: “… an inspection and quarantine regime off the coast of Somalia to seize and destroy all vessels that are found to be engaged in piracy.”

Ed even goes Fred one better:

This should actually be the next mission for the US Navy after freeing Phillips.  We don’t need a quarantine and inspection to identify some of the boats and ports in question; I’d bet dollars to donuts we’ve already identified most of them.  Our next step after killing the pirates on the lifeboat is torpedoing their ships in their home ports without inspections or even warnings.  Somalia’s failed state can’t impose order on these areas, but if the pirates become a liability rather than an asset to these facilities, they’ll get the heave-ho soon enough.

In the future, we don’t need the lawyers and the FBI negotiators, and we especially don’t need to legitimize Somali “elders”, either.  Iklé has that right; piracy is not a bank robbery.  The entire point of piracy is to capture ships in territory where no nation can claim sovereignty and therefore work outside the civil law.  The proper response to that is military, not some notion of cops and robbers.  When pirates find out we’re serious, and when enough of them wind up at the bottom of the ocean, they’ll think twice about seizing American or Western shipping.

Isn’t the entire point of all crime to work outside the law? Do bank robbers work within the law? And about those two sentences I’ve bolded: Haven’t we been down this road before? Did Al Qaeda stop carrying out terror attacks after the Bush administration “killed enough of them”? Did the Taliban? Did Iran think twice about killing Americans in Iraq after they saw how many Iraqis we killed? For that matter, did Somali pirates think twice about seizing American or other Western ships when they saw how many tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans the U.S. killed? They don’t seem to have been deterred by U.S. military actions over the last eight years at all. Yet we are somehow supposed to believe they will be thoroughly chastened and go home with their tails between their legs if we seize and blow up their ships.

It’s the triumph of testosterone over brains. How else to explain Rick Moran pounding “Obama’s two Democratic predecessors” for ignoring military threats while apparently forgetting the Republican who was president for the eight years immediately preceding Obama? You know, the one who invaded and occupied a country that had not attacked the U.S. and posed absolutely no threat to the U.S., while completely ignoring Somalia and the pirates as they merrily went about their pirate business?

Rick and his friends on the right will excuse the reality-based side of blogtopia if we give absolutely no credence to saber-rattling blowhards on the right who support wars to stop non-existent threats while ignoring real and growing dangers, and who then accuse the left of being wimpy pacifists.

And even more so when people like Rick, who doubtless view themselves as hard-headed realists, resolutely turn their backs on anything approaching pragmatic, enlightened self-interest, to the extent that they can propose actions as self-destructive — even suicidal — as this (my emphasis):

Now, however, comes the hard part. It is time for the United States to take the lead and mount a military operation that will wipe out the scourge of piracy. If no one will help, we should do it ourselves although I think it likely that most nations are ready for such a move. And such an operation cannot be simply a raid; from what I’ve read from experts, it must be a sustained campaign that involves not only the navies of the world but also special forces to infliltrate [sic] the towns and villages along the coast where the pirates live and destroy their ability to cause trouble. This means destroying their boats, the docks, the gasoline dumps, interdict and confiscate weapons, and take other actions against targets that allow the pirates to operate.
Sure, let’s negotiate; just as soon as their [sic] isn’t a ship, a dock, or a boathouse left standing in those villages and towns that assist the pirates in their lawlessness. And capturing and hanging a few pirates wouldn’t hurt either.

Does the president have the judgement to pull the trigger on this, a much more problematic operation where civilians are likely to be killed and the loss of American life is probable? That will be Obama’s first real “test” and not some quick thinking by a brave captain and the dead eye marksmanship of our SEAL’s [sic].
I’m not so sure the townsfolk have the strength to give the pirates the “heave ho” which is why I recommend taking Ed’s [Ed Morrissey] idea and expanding it by sinking all boats, destroying every dock, every business that caters to the pirates. Yes, it is horrible that we would be destroying very poor people’s ability to make a living. Spreading some green as compensation for legitimate boat and business owners would help there. But it has to hit home to everyone in those towns and villages that the pirates are more than a liability.

The Ugly American writ in gigantic lights flashing on a billboard. But like the title to this post says, if you believe in war, you believe in war. Sanity, rationality, self-interest, and ordinary humanity can have no impact.

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