Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Exam Week (UPDATED)

And the Global Tests keep on coming.

In addition to the Iranian bluster, the North Koreans' big splashes, Russia's rearmament plans, and a host of others, we can now add this to the growing pile of gauntlets at President Obama's feet. The fact that these Somali pirates have now seized an American-flagged merchant vessel could be a game-changer in the US' response to these on-going challenges to the lawful conduct of trade on the high seas. It could create just the opportunity to deploy the considerable resources of the US' intelligence-gathering and other tactical capabilities to a degree which might not have been justified when it was other nations' ships which were getting jacked (though I personally feel that such justification has existed all along, since it is in the US' interests to protect trade, even if it is not its own vessels which are involved...yes, Mike, I know you don't agree with this!).

The way to pass this test is to assemble a Delta or DEVGRU team, gather real-time intel about the status of the vessel and its assailants and captives, and strike, hard and fast, while the iron is hot. Ideally, this would be followed by gathering and swiftly acting on the products of interrogation of any pirates who survive the engagement, and striking at the base from which these brigands operate. Longer term, dummy merchant vessels (or real merchants, with SF operators on board) should randomly ply these waterways, with satellite and (armed) UAV support. That would put a badly-needed caution to these miscreants, and show the world that the USN is anything but a paper boat.

I await any evidence that the current Administration possesses the vertebrae for this.

Maybe Obama will manage to Sparknote this one in time to seem less of a doormat (you know, those things on which people wipe their shoes...which is a damn sight worse than having them thrown at you).

UPDATE: Well, that was quick! Looks like the military didn't need to get involved in this one at all. Instead, it appears that a bold and alert crew saw and seized an opportunity to re-take their vessel. If indeed one of these pirates is in custody, then this was a very bad day for their ilk (I expect counterinterrogation training is not high on the list of skill sets for these jagoffs).

Bravo to the valiant crew of the Maersk Alabama!

UPDATE 2: This article from the CSM nicely lays out the issues and the stakes with regard to this incident. Meanwhile, my thoughts go out for the speedy return of the good captain.

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