Saving Captain Phillips, Testing President Obama.

The final score of the first serious test of President Obama as Commander-in-Chief is Obama: 3,  Pirates: 0

The four day  drama of Captain Richard Phillips’s capture by four Somali pirates ended Sunday when Navy Seals and snipers shot and killed three of the pirates.   Phillips was freed unharmed and the fourth pirate was arrested.   President Obama gave the Navy authorization to use lethal force if Phillips’s life were at risk.

The longer the United States and other governments ignored the problem and allowed the shipping companies to pay the pirates the tribute they demanded, they emboldened them. When will we learn that appeasement doesn’t work, won’t work and never works?

Captain Phillips, freed at last.

Captain Phillips, freed at last.

Do I blame the Somali pirates? For being thugs, I do, but since nobody took them seriously before, why all the flexing and saber-rattling now? Oh, that’s right. NOW they finally have our attention.

It’s a shame Somalia has no functioning government.  Warlords and gangs run the country, but poverty is not an excuse for holding people at gunpoint. 

In a purely cost/benefit analysis, it’s been cheaper to pay the pirates than it is to fight them.  The problem is as anyone could see is paying millions of dollars to the pirates only encourages them to seize more ships and demand ever greater ransoms.

“All the world’s naval forces do not have enough available ships to protect the 20,000 vessels that pass through the Gulf of Aden annually and the wider 2.5 million square miles of ocean where Somali pirate attacks occurred in recent years,” said U.S. Horn of Africa scholar David Shinn in a recent paper.

No one questions the might of the U.S. Navy, but in a situation such as this, it’s like bringing an tank to a knife fight. Sure, we can flex our pecs and show a bunch of raggedy-ass pirates how much death we can rain down on them, but this is a hostage negotiation, not a military situation, hence the presence of the FBI in this situation.

It’s a frustrating situation and to be sure two issues must be addressed in the wake of this particular incident. The U.S. and other nations have to stop messing around and get serious about piracy before more innocent people are killed. The pirates are getting bolder and more brazen and before too long there will be a major loss of life.  That is when some nation is going to get tired of this b.s. and turn the pirate enclaves into a greasy, smoking hole.

Next, the United Nations and the  African Union must step up and try and restore some semblance of governance to Somalia. Failed nation-states are breeding grounds for this type of criminality and anarchy. We may want to forget about Somalia, but they aren’t as willing to be ignored.

This may not have been the international incident the Obama Administration thought they would be tested by, but it was big enough, simple enough and important enough to have major ramifications had Captain Phillips been killed.

Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old self-proclaimed pirate, told The Associated Press from one of Somalia’s piracy hubs, Eyl, that, “our friends should have done more to kill the captain before they were killed. This will be a good lesson for us.”

“From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages),” he said.

Not exactly a pirate of the Caribbean.

Not exactly a pirate of the Caribbean.

And then Mr. Habeb, commit your maggot-filled soul to the devil in hell if he’ll have your mangy ass.

The “good lesson” here for these thieving idiots is how long did they think they were going to be able to screw around with the nations of the world until they got screwed back?

If they really think they are swinging a big enough stick to beat down the terrible fury and pain the United States and other nations can unleash, they’ve been chewing too much khat.

You can only negotiate with thieves for so long and then you have to respond with something they understand: massive and punishing force.

Or as Jimmy Malone from The Untouchables  might say, “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.”

There are a few beneficiaries from this sorry situation.  The first naturally enough is Captain Phillips.  He escaped a terrifying situation without a scratch.  When he gets back home besides a grateful family waiting for him will be the now obligatory book and movie offers, a seat next to Letterman and Leno and a whole lot of damn silly questions.

The second is President Obama whom faced his first big test of how he would employ the nation’s military might and he showed the right stuff. 

 He avoided making any public statements and allowed the military and FBI take the lead.   They deserve the credit for successfully executing the rescue, but had something gone wrong, it would have been  Obama whom would have taken all the blame. 

There will be other crises and other opportunities for the enemies and critics of the president to test his will.   But this was Obama’s first test and by any measure it is one he passed with flying colors. 

Every president has to prove themselves sooner or later.

Every president has to prove themselves sooner or later.