The immediate pirate crisis is over with the killing of three pirates, the capture of a wounded fourth and the recovery of Captain Phillips unharmed physically.

The American captain taken hostage by Somali pirates aboard a lifeboat was freed today after making a second daring escape bid that allowed waiting US forces to open fire on his captors.

Three of the four pirates were killed in the firefight and the fourth was injured but survived and was taken into custody, according to initial reports.

US officials said that Captain Richard Phillips was unharmed and safe aboard the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge last night.

"I can confirm that Captain Phillips has been safely recovered," Laura Tischler, a State Department spokeswoman, said.

What I don't understand is why we don't deal with those pirates the way it used to be done.
Bombarding Tripoli

The wiki gives a short history of our war with the pirates of Tripoli.
By late 1793, a dozen American ships had been captured, goods stripped and everyone enslaved. Portugal had offered some armed patrols, but American merchants needed an armed American presence to sail near Europe. After some serious debate, the United States Navy was born in March 1794. Six frigates were authorized, and so began the construction of the United States, the Constellation, the Constitution and three other frigates.

This new military presence helped to stiffen American resolve to resist the continuation of tribute payments, leading to the two Barbary Wars along the North African coast: the First Barbary War from 1801 to 1805 and the Second Barbary War in 1815. It was not until 1815 that naval victories ended tribute payments by the U.S., although some European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s.

The United States Marine Corps actions in these wars led to the line "to the shores of Tripoli" in the opening of the Marine Hymn. Because of the hazards of boarding hostile ships, Marines' uniforms had a leather high collar to protect against cutlass slashes. This led to the nickname Leatherneck for U.S. Marines.

After the general pacification of 1815, the European powers agreed upon the need to suppress the Barbary pirates. The sacking of Palma on the island of Sardinia by a Tunisian squadron, which carried off 158 inhabitants, roused widespread indignation.

American resolve is still obvious. The question is: why are these pirate harbors allowed to function? Who is selling them fuel? Why aren't they being blockaded? Why aren't they being bombed? Why isn't a punitive expedition on the way? Are the Europeans so weak that they are helpless? In a word - yes. They have no fight left in them. Someone might get killed.
PARIS - Navy commandos stormed a French sailboat held by pirates off the Somali coast Friday in an assault triggered by threats the passengers would be executed. But one hostage was killed in the operation, demonstrating the risks of a military operation against sea bandits.
So what is the French attitude? They intend to finance more piracy.
In a break with French government policy, authorities proposed paying a ransom during 48 hours of fruitless talks, but the pirates, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rejected the offer, Morin said, without divulging a sum.

The French also offered the pirates a French naval officer to hold in exchange for a mother and child but that too was rejected, the minister said.

The pirates can't operate without fuel and a safe harbor. So obviously you destroy their fuel supplies and their harbor. Sink all the ships in the harbor. Bomb all known pirate hideouts ashore and any other targets of interest for good measure. If piracy doesn't pay there will be a lot fewer pirates.


You can learn how the pirates of the Caribbean were brought down by reading The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. And Wars of the Barbary Pirates: To the shores of Tripoli: the birth of the US Navy and Marines might also be of interest.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 04.12.09 at 04:41 PM


This pirate "situation" is extremely interesting, and not at all in a good way. I see it as one more example of terrorism, fueled in this case by abject poverty and desperation. I know that most of us think of terrorism as something that results in innocents' death, but the pirates have stayed under the OMG radar by NOT killing (much)...so far. Some are comparing it to the early days of the mafia. Fabius Maximus has some great material about this on his website, so go check his archives for a wonderful read. To your point, Simon, where there is BIG money, many more are likely to get in the game, if only to organize and take a cut.

From a larger perspective, as the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow, we can expect to see ever more inventive ways of either "getting even" or just plain surviving. There are way too many evil people out there willing to "assist" for a small or large fee. Frost this cake with today's available technology, a few egomaniacal leaders and I'd say we have ourselves a "world class" problem.

Penny   ·  April 14, 2009 9:25 PM

It wasn't just the Barbary Pirates which led to the founding of the US Navy, the concurrent difficulties with France had a lot to do with it. The consequent thrashing of the French in the fighting in the West Indies would lead to a reassessment of America's role in the world where Whitehall was concerned

Where Somalia today is concerned, the problem lies in the fact Somalia is not a country, Somalia is a region in Africa where the people have a language and a culture in common. Where authority exists they are either unable to take effective anti-pirate measures, unwilling to take effective anti-pirate measures, or actually providing support for the pirates.

Because no one is really in charge in Somalia -not in any real way, diplomacy will not work. So long as Somalia is essentially a den of thieves the only real recourse we have is to occupy the place, and put American law in where Somali law has failed.

In short, to stop Somali piracy Somalia must be named a UN Trust Territory and placed under US jurisdiction. And damn the OAU.

Would the UN and other parties go along with this? Fuck no. But if there is to be security and stability in the region, and the prosperity that comes with it, Somalia must become a ward of the United States.

Penny in her comment above notes that Somalia is an impoverished region. Which it indeed is. Impoverished because nobody dares make any sort of investment in the place and the people who live there. Lawlessness ultimately hurts the lawless the worst, for theft and kidnapping is a bad way to make a living. Until someone is in charge who can and will put a stop to the crime, Somalis will continue to suffer because of the piracy.

Can't be the world's policeman? Who says we have a choice?

Alan Kellogg   ·  April 15, 2009 7:27 PM

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