The Minnesota Grizzly Bear

Roaring about life since 2009

To the Shores of Tripoli, pt. deux

I can’t help but shake my head when I read an article like this about piracy.  I think the U.N. gets all of its information on piracy from Johnny Depp movies.  According to the U.N.,

Piracy on the high seas cannot be fought by international naval fleets alone, but requires a regional approach that also deals with its root causes, the UN Special Representative for Somalia said.

This is just Somalia buying time to keep the sovereign nations of the world from acting on this issue.  The pirates, who are by and large a collection of groups from Somalia, undoubtedly enrich their local communities with the riches from paid ransoms like the one Spain recently paid, to the tune of $4 million dollars.  It’s obvious that a surface navy is ineffective as a deterrant, because the ocean is far too big for any reactive surface force to safeguard all international trade from attack.  So what is the next best thing? 
Well, as always, I have the answer.  It involves simply extending my belief in a decentralized, responsible and armed force of on-the-scene responders.  This is one of my primary arguments for the Concealed Carry Permit in the U.S., and it looks like a good arugment on the high seas.  In fact, here’s proof just yesterday of what good can come from armed personnel on board a ship:
Somali pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama on Wednesday for the second time in seven months and were thwarted by private guards on board the U.S.-flagged ship who fired off guns and a high-decibel noise device.

Pirates hijacked the Maersk Alabama last April and took ship captain Richard Phillips hostage, holding him at gunpoint in a lifeboat for five days. Navy SEAL sharpshooters freed Phillips while killing three pirates in a daring nighttime attack.

Four suspected pirates in a skiff attacked the ship again on Wednesday around 6:30 a.m. local time, firing on the ship with automatic weapons from about 300 yards (meters) away, a statement from the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain said.

An on-board security team repelled the attack by using evasive maneuvers, small-arms fire and a Long Range Acoustic Device, which can beam earsplitting alarm tones, the fleet said.

The wife of the Maersk Alabama’s captain, Paul Rochford, told WBZ-AM radio in Boston that she was “really happy” there were weapons on board for this attack.

Maersk Alabama repels 2nd pirate attack with guns

That sounds to me like a pretty easy way to deal with piracy.  They attack you with guns?  Counterattack with your own.  Letting pirates know that a cargo container is a “gun-free zone” only lets them know that taking the ship over is going to be absurdly easy, just like a similarly marked zone on a college campus tells the deranged gunman that no one is going to be armed and no one will stop the massacre.

And why should the U.S. wait to take action against these renegage gangs of thugs and pirates?  Piracy is one of the few crimes outlined explicitly in the U.S. Constitution.  In Article I, Section 8 of Congress’s enumerated powers, it’s right there:
The Congress shall have power to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas
Doesn’t get much more simple than that, does it?  Americans don’t have a history of negotiating with pirates, as the United States Marine Corps can proudly explain to you.  In fact, that’s where the line “to the shores of Tripoli” originates in the USMC Hymn.  The Battle of Derne was America’s way of saying ‘enough is enough’ to the Barbary pirates, and I think it’s time we do it again, I think the lesson has worn off.
Have it good,

November 19, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. The only problem is, as far as I know, the pirates of Somalia aren’t under a central leadership like the corsairs of North Africa were in the 18th century. So there would be no one to negotiate with. I agree that all merhcant ships from the Horn of Africa to Indonesia should arm their crews though. It’d be insane not to.

    Comment by Tom | November 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. Do you mean negotiate in terms of ransom? Given the one-sided language mentioning only the U.S. and the power of Congress to define piracy, I don’t think that would be a major hurdle today. Even if they aren’t under central leadership, that doesn’t mean negotiation can’t occur, like in a hostage situation with a handful or a lone terrorist or criminal. An interesting question nonetheless…

    Comment by Minnesota Grizzly Bear | November 19, 2009 | Reply

  3. I meant as far as sending a fleet to Somalia, making a show of force and negotiating with a head guy to stop piracy for good like in Second Barbary War. Unfortunately ending piracy in Somalia would probably be like swatting at gnats. Kill one group of pirates and there are still 100 other independent groups to deal with.

    Comment by Tom | December 4, 2009 | Reply

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