Failure to Act

Off the horn of Africa, a drama has taken place which I am afraid will turn out to be an example of what Americans will learn to expect from the Obama administration.  Last night Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk cargo ship Alabama (the ship that had been taken by pirates only to be freed after he heroically offered to accompany the pirates as a hostage) leapt from the boat in a bid to save himself

It is important to note, that these pirates and their hostage are currently in a lifeboat with their hostage.  It is out of fuel, and simply floating in the Indian Ocean.  So, what happened when the captain tried to escape in the night by attempting to swim to a U.S. Navy destroyer?  The pirates caught him and brought him back on board.  The U.S. Navy reported that it happened so quickly they could not provide assistance.

Translation: The Navy was not ready and in position to act when they had the opportunity to save the captain, they did not have the authorization to use deadly force against the pirates if they had been in position to do so.

I talked to a friend about this yesterday.  I told him that I believed that these pirates would eventually surrender, and that for the first time in history, we would do nothing to them, and they would eventually be released.  Historically, piracy has been one of the most punitively punished crimes in the world.  In fact, the first time the U.S. fought a war abroad, it involved piracy and the attempt to end it in the Mediterranean Sea.  Pirates are hung, shot, downed and keel-hauled (the Alabama has a big-assed keel), and rightfully so.

When this happened to a U.S. ship, Navy Seals should have been immediately provided to the destroyer overseeing the situation.  They should have been deployed in the small support boats from the destroyer to surround and curtail the movements of the pirates, and given the right to use deadly force.  Once it was realized that the pirates were adrift in a boat with a hostage, it should have only been a matter of time.

After the pirate boat was surrounded, the seals with appropriate Barrett M107 .50 Caliber sniper rifles should have simply waited until they all had a shot that did not include Captain Phillips.  This would definitely include any time he was not on the boat, especially an escape attempt in which he was in the water and swimming.  In fact, that may have been a good time to employ a weapon that involved an area of effect (one that goes ‘Boom!’) on the pirate boat.

My point is, I suspect that the Navy did not act because it was not prepared to do so.  The only reason that makes any sense to me is that they had not received the authorization to use deadly force at that time.  This would be the same authorization that would be expected to be given to any local police force in the U.S. in a similar hostage situation.

This inaction, and the attitude that kept the Navy from being able to do what was right and necessary at the time will be a hallmark of our foreign policy for the next four to eight years.

My thoughts and prayers are with the captain and his family.  I just hope action is taken to save his life soon.

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