Monday, April 20, 2009

Pirates, Politics, & 'pologies: Part 1

14 days.
Two weeks.
One fortnight.

Off. The. Grid. This was an even pre-first-term Clintonian off the grid; no email, no internet, no TV (except as background beyond my control), no radio, no newspapers (not even EarlyBird). If someone really needed me, they had to know where I was or get me via a close-held phone number.

Hopefully my scheduled posts kept everyone busy and happy - it looks like it did. As for me, I am refreshed in a way. As a info junkie, it was surprisingly easy to do in hindsight. It helped that I had little mental whitespace to fill for that fortnight and was as busy as can be - but that is most days really - so in a way if was nice to know that regardless of what Mrs. Salamander may think, I am not addicted to info - I just have a predilection for wanting more.

Where was I? We'll, just doing something to make you a feel as if that the money you are borrowing from your grandchildren to pay my bills was not going to waste. That's all I will say.

What does going off the grid gain a man? Perspective for one - a re-centering for another. Not so tanned - but rested and ready am I.

As mentioned in the beginning, I did get a little TV. Stations selected by others, on sets not my own, at times not of my choosing - just playing in the background for what was an half hour max over two week if tied together. It did give me the "Politics" part of my thoughts on coming back - I'll cover that in Part 2 on Tuesday. I also did get a few sheets of paper (single digits) of news clippings of a fashion - but just a few; none of which again I either chose or asked for. They just kind of found their way to me so to speak. The last "real news" I read before I went off the grid will form the basis for Part 3 on Wednesday - and in that case I want everyone to come back on WED at least (though you should be here every day) as I have a homework assignment for you that we will revisit next Monday on a new edition of "MARSTRAT Monday."

With that out of the way, let's get to one of the three things I came back on the grid to; pirates.
Part 1. Pirates.

Boy, did I miss a NavMilBlog moment or did I? No bigggie really; as usual your first stop for all thing pirates is Eagle1 - regardless of what time of the year it is.

Why this is at the top of my list of three things that bubbled out during my time away isn't the specific story of CAPT Philips and his crew - no, it was the inane OP-ED and opinion it spawned from the great and the gilded as reflected in their MSM publications.

If some wonder why complaints about bloggers just run off my back - let these be examples 1,001 and 1,002 of why. For some reason, we continue to think that just because someone was once a never-was-has-been that they somehow are experts in area X.

Have the right degree from the right institution and get appointed to the right position, and unless you are careful, you will find yourself surrounded by either yes men or are so fully impressed by your brilliance that you don't ask anyone else for their thoughts on your work. There is no failure on your own part that cannot be cured by trying to repeat it. If first you don't succeed, just do the same thing harder and you will. Rinse, repeat. It isn't the results that are as important as your intentions. Act with your heart, not your head. If it isn't in your national interest, it is. If you act in your national interest, you are imperialist. You know the type.

As a result, sadly for them, they are rarely challenged or asked the 2nd or 3rd level questions about their ideas. More often or not, we can find these people and their ideas in the NYT or their sister publications - usually in their hilariously Onionish opinion pages.

Let me just give you a couple of examples. Both of these are from the "well meaning, nice and good people; but wrong" category - and perfect examples of the above. First, William Pfaff; and his bit - Exporting Piracy.
A Muslim fundamentalist movement grew up a half-dozen years ago which actually pacified the country. But the War on Terror frowns on Muslim fundamentalism, and the United States paid Ethiopia to once again invade Somalia. But Somalian chaos, nationalism, religion (the Ethiopians are mostly Christians), warlords and general disorder drove the Ethiopians out last year.

In the meanwhile, a hungry fisherman, watching the ships go by, said what about piracy? Fantastic! Great idea! Within months the fishermen were millionaires. The money poured in. They didn’t have to hurt a fly, merely to cut the victim ships’ fire hoses. They treated the crews chivalrously, locked them up, fed them nicely, gave them videos and television to watch, and shook hands all around when the money arrived.

American diplomats today are reported to be keen to take over from the military in putting order back into the world. Why not a big international effort to get an EU, UN or NATO-policed agreement governing who can fish in Somalian waters; one more try to put together a provisional government, an agreement by the big countries and Somalia’s neighbors to keep their hands off, and to let the Somalians be Muslim fundamentalists if that is what they want?

And a big international fund set up by the world’s principal shipping companies to help the Somalians get back into the export business?
Ok. Now for another puzzler, Charles R. Stith and "No Silver Bullet for Somalia."
The United States must make an "investment" in our allies in the region so that they can increase their capacity to counter such threats. This is another part of the world where there are no "go it alone" options to deal with imminent threats. Engaging regional leadership means supporting regionally originated solutions to respond to the deeply rooted problems of the area. It means increasing our allies' capacity to deal with security problems on land as well as on the sea.

Moreover, the Africa Strategic Command, which was launched during the Bush administration, must be fully embraced and given new marching orders by the Obama administration. Although the key to our engagement in the region must be diplomatic, there is clearly a military aspect to some the challenges. While AFRICOM has met some resistance, this latest hostage-taking involving an American might be just the opportunity to jump-start conversations about how AFRICOM might be more effectively engaged.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been a front-burner issue in Africa for some time. It has endangered and slowed commerce and has had a significant adverse impact on East Africa. Many leaders want to resolve, or at least contain, the problem. It presents a clear opportunity to further bilateral cooperation on the military front in the region.

Given the excellent way the Navy deployed special-services personnel to end the hostage crisis, there were clearly some lessons learned on how to defuse future similar situations. But the real lesson we should take from this situation is that if we are going to effectively deal with the problem of "pirates gone wild" and the instability of the region, we need a comprehensive policy agenda rather than just stellar police action.
That is only a taste of his work. Forget nit-pic'n the little wrong details like the "African Strategic Command" and "special-services" (someone introduce him to someone that understands the US military, please) that any Junior Officer knows is incorrect (AFRICOM stands for "U.S. Africa Command" and they are "Special Forces" or if you must, "Special Operations Forces") - look at the substance of what is referenced as a valid and knowledgeable opinion.

Be brave me fellow MilBloggers - at best we are no worse than the worthies!

Enough of that though, this post is going to be long enough anyway.

Back to being off the grid and piracy; in a way, not even getting a newspaper worked out fine as I did not feel the need to give daily updates on something that my take on is really rather simple, and that perhaps I will roll into a dedicated cross post at USNIBlog next week if I have the time. For now, here is the executive summary of Phibian on Piracy in late APR 09.

Right now we are crippled from meaningful action by LawFare, Internationalists, hesitant Civilian Leadership and a risk-adverse Senior Uniformed Leadership, combined with a large degree of "it just isn't that big of a problem yet and isn't worth the trouble" attitude that has been an aspect of anti-piracy since the beginning of time. Rarely, you see, have the rulers, their livelihoods, and their children been a victim of piracy. Once they or their pocketbook do become the focus, as you will see in a bit, there is action.

The template for dealing with pirates are well known, simple and direct - and they have worked for centuries. Pirates at sea are to be chased down and killed. Those captured at sea should be given a fair trail and then given the maximum legally and politically acceptable punishment - preferably capital. Their leadership, bases, finances, markets, and logistic nodes need to be identified and eliminated by force. Previous examples of anti-piracy operations in the Maghreb, the Caribbean and other locations - as well as the Royal Navy's 19th Century anti-slavery operations - supply a valid template.

Though in our tender age only a few of these tactics can be used - indulge my fetish a bit and let me give you a little foundation education on anti-piracy. Julius Caesar knew the problem, up close.
In 75 (bc), Julius Caesar was captured by Cilician pirates, who infested the Mediterranean sea. The Romans had never sent a navy against them, because the pirates offered the Roman senators slaves, which they needed for their plantations in Italy. As a consequence, piracy was common.

In chapter 2 of his Life of Julius Caesar, the Greek author Plutarch of Chaeronea (46-c.120) describes what happened when Caesar encountered the pirates. The translation below was made by Robin Seager.

First, when the pirates demanded a ransom of twenty talents, Caesar burst out laughing. They did not know, he said, who it was that they had captured, and he volunteered to pay fifty. Then, when he had sent his followers to the various cities in order to raise the money and was left with one friend and two servants among these Cilicians, about the most bloodthirsty people in the world, he treated them so highhandedly that, whenever he wanted to sleep, he would send to them and tell them to stop talking.

For thirty-eight days, with the greatest unconcern, he joined in all their games and exercises, just as if he was their leader instead of their prisoner. He also wrote poems and speeches which he read aloud to them, and if they failed to admire his work, he would call them to their faces illiterate savages, and would often laughingly threaten to have them all hanged. They were much taken with this and attributed his freedom of speech to a kind of simplicity in his character or boyish playfulness.

However, the ransom arrived from Miletus and, as soon as he had paid it and been set free, he immediately manned some ships and set sail from the harbor of Miletus against the pirates. He found them still there, lying at anchor off the island, and he captured nearly all of them. He took their property as spoils of war and put the men themselves into the prison at Pergamon. He then went in person to [Marcus] Junius, the governor of Asia, thinking it proper that he, as praetor in charge of the province, should see to the punishment of the prisoners. Junius, however, cast longing eyes at the money, which came to a considerable sum, and kept saying that he needed time to look into the case.

Caesar paid no further attention to him. He went to Pergamon, took the pirates out of prison and crucified the lot of them, just as he had often told them he would do when he was on the island and they imagined that he was joking.
You can move up, ohhhh, about 18 centuries give or take a few dozen years, and you have another example of what can be done when things get too out of control.
In the fall of 1718 Blackbeard returned from sea to his favorite hideaway off Ocracoke Island. He hosted a huge, wild pirate get-together with dancing, drinking, and bonfires. Other famous pirates sailed in for the days-long event.
News of the pirate bash reached Alexander Spotswood, the governor of Virginia. He decided that the time had come to stop Blackbeard once and for all. He spent the next several weeks planning Blackbeard's capture.

SPOTSWOOD SENT TWO SLOOPS, small swift ships, commanded by Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy to Ocracoke. Seeing the navy's sails, Blackbeard and his pirates knew they were trapped. Only sandbars lay between them and the navy. By morning, the tide would rise, the sloops would glide over the submerged sandbars, and the attack on the pirate ship would begin.
In the morning Blackbeard didn't try to outrun the navy sloops. Instead he waited at his ship's wheel. His crew was puzzled. Finally, when Maynard's sloops started moving toward the pirates, Blackbeard ordered his crew to set sail. He seemed to be steering the ship directly toward the beach! They were going to crash!

But then Blackbeard eased the pirate ship through a narrow channel between the beach and a barely visible sandbar. Chasing the pirates, the navy sloops crashed into the sandbar.
One navy ship lay destroyed. Maynard's sloop was battered. Maynard ordered his men to throw food and water barrels over the side to lighten the ship. It worked. Floating free of the sandbar, Maynard's damaged sloop edged toward the pirate ship. Maynard ordered his men to hide below decks with pistols and swords ready.

Blackbeard's men hurled grenades onto the seemingly deserted navy sloop. The pirates boarded the ship easily. Suddenly, Maynard's men rushed the deck, firing pistols and wielding swords. The pirates turned around, completely stunned—they had been tricked into thinking the navy crew was dead. A battle began. Screams and cries of pain filled the air.

Pistol in one hand, cutlass in the other, Blackbeard came face-to-face with Maynard. They both fired pistols. Blackbeard missed. Maynard hit his mark.

Shot, Blackbeard still managed to swing his cutlass and snap off Maynard's sword blade. Maynard drew back. Blackbeard raised his arm for a finishing blow. Just in time, a navy seaman came up from behind Blackbeard and slashed his throat.

AS A WARNING TO OTHER PIRATES, Blackbeard's head was cut off and suspended from the bow of Maynard's sloop.
Pirates and people don't change all that much - just the means and methods - and will.

No, I don't think we can take a "hang them up and gibbet their heads" approach now - but the concept is valid. No quarter, full accountability, removal of the threat that lesser leaders did not have the will to eliminate.

In that train of thought - I stand with President Jefferson.
As Jefferson wrote to Adams in a July 11, 1786, letter, "I acknolege [sic] I very early thought it would be best to effect a peace thro' the medium of war." Paying tribute will merely invite more demands, and even if a coalition proves workable, the only solution is a strong navy that can reach the pirates, Jefferson argued in an August 18, 1786, letter to James Monroe: "The states must see the rod; perhaps it must be felt by some one of them. . . . Every national citizen must wish to see an effective instrument of coercion, and should fear to see it on any other element than the water. A naval force can never endanger our liberties, nor occasion bloodshed; a land force would do both." "From what I learn from the temper of my countrymen and their tenaciousness of their money," Jefferson added in a December 26, 1786, letter to the president of Yale College, Ezra Stiles, "it will be more easy to raise ships and men to fight these pirates into reason, than money to bribe them."
Unlike President Jefferson's time - but more in line with Rome and the VA Gov's position - our pirates are not state actors; they are not governments; they are not normal criminals or criminal enterprises either - they are not to be dealt with like they are.

Pirates operate in a well established niche on the global stage. They prey on the fair and free passage on the open seas (if you call it Global Commons in front of me I'll B1tch Sl@p 'ya), therefor they impact the livelihood of individuals, companies, and nations throughout the world. They take hostages. They murder. If allowed to fester and grow, they will grind the efficient transport of trade to a halt as alternate routes are devised to avoid them.

If appeased, they will grow. Their primary goal is to avoid the strong, and prey on the weak. They are ultimately motivated by money - regardless of what other excuses they or their apologists may wrap them in. They will expand in the direction of lawlessness and weakness. They will avoid the ships of those nations that endanger their enterprise and will instead search out the ships of those nations that supply them with the greatest risk/reward opportunity. Economics, not diplomacy or sociology - is the best way to understand pirates.

The last half decade has proved my long held position that there is no international solution to this problem if you want to protect American lives and property. There is only the discrete application of unilateral action and/or the ad hoc "Coalition of the Willing" operations that will address this problem - and the international will does not exist for a united front. We cannot make the Somali pirates fear all ships - but we can make them fear and avoid any ship that has the USA flag on the stern. Fix the security situation for your own citizens first - then try to make the other nations do the right thing.

Sometimes it can take decades. Let's go back to Jefferson,
Thomas Jefferson, United States minister to France, opposed the payment of tribute, as he later testified in words that have a particular resonance today. In his autobiography Jefferson wrote that in 1785 and 1786 he unsuccessfully "endeavored to form an association of the powers subject to habitual depredation from them. I accordingly prepared, and proposed to their ministers at Paris, for consultation with their governments, articles of a special confederation." Jefferson argued that "The object of the convention shall be to compel the piratical States to perpetual peace." Jefferson prepared a detailed plan for the interested states. "Portugal, Naples, the two Sicilies, Venice, Malta, Denmark and Sweden were favorably disposed to such an association," Jefferson remembered, but there were "apprehensions" that England and France would follow their own paths, "and so it fell through."
... it was not until the second war with Algiers, in 1815, that naval victories by Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur led to treaties ending all tribute payments by the United States. European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s.
A few examples of what I am talking about.

The executive summary of the CAPT Philips adventure,
Five, four, three, BANG!

In that split second, three bad men die, a good one is saved and concentric ripples start to spread. At the tactical level, threats are removed and the hostage is rescued. At the operational level, the Somali pirate network now has a new risk factor to plug into their "cost-benefit model" (as in piracy can get you killed). At the strategic level, those shots echo far and wide. Unintentionally or not - remember, the tactical commander made the call - they send a message. America can still reach out and touch someone.
The French understand.
Three suspected Somali pirates have been charged with hijacking and false imprisonment, French prosecutors say.

The three were captured by French commandos in a hostage rescue operation in the Indian Ocean on 10 April and brought to France to face trial.

Two pirates and the skipper of the yacht Tanit were killed and four hostages freed in the operation.
Don't sneeze at the French and trials either - we do that too.
The Somali pirate captured during the rescue of a U.S. cargo ship captain held hostage in the Indian Ocean is expected to stand trial in federal court in New York, according to senior administration officials familiar with the investigation.
Now we look at what happens on the multi-national front.
Commandos from the Dutch ship, the De Zeven Provincien, pursued the pirates, who were on a small skiff, back to their "mother ship", a hijacked Yemeni fishing dhow.

"We have freed the hostages, we have freed the dhow and we have seized the weapons... The pirates did not fight and no gunfire was exchanged," Fernandes told Reuters. The Corte-Real is also on a NATO anti-piracy mission.

He said the hostages had been held since last week. The commandos briefly detained and questioned the seven gunmen, he told Reuters, but had no legal power to arrest them.

"NATO does not have a detainment policy. The warship must follow its national law," he said.

"They can only arrest them if the pirates are from the Netherlands, the victims are from the Netherlands, or if they are in Netherlands waters."
National law and multi-national operations, especially in NATO, means the lowest common denominator.

There is a reason that we have a CTF-150, CTF-151, NATO, EU, China, Russia, Japan, India and other "national" operations going on. National interest and political reality. We should accept it and then do what we must.

Play the multi-national game while using our national fist when needed. The danger is when that method is forgotten and twisted by the theorists who ignore the facts of piracy. If the national is absorbed into the multi-national - then you have the Dutch model of anti-piracy (
a Continental default position for a few thousand years, BTW). That is a formula for more piracy, and more dangerous piracy.

At land and at sea, the multi-national/UN approach has a long and bloody history of being little more than bureaucrat full employment exercise, NGO Food Trough, and belly-button picker CYA while, literally, millions die. For those who believe that we should go that route - I would ask them to review how the International Community performed in Rwanda, Congo, and Darfur - better yet - ask those who survived what they think.

The pirates have taken hundreds of sailors and dozens of ships off the Horn of Africa. This does not have to be the case. All it takes is will - political will. As Julius Caesar and Governor Spotswood knew, the military was ready - all they were waiting for was the order.

Hat tip The Good Jimbo for the pic.

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