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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Top 5 Worst Presidents in U.S. History

1. Jimmy Carter– He is hands-down, the greatest embarrassment to the office in the history of the Presidency.  He was an abysmal failure while in office, who could not even pass legislation with a sympathetic Congress.  His economic policies led the U.S. into one of the greatest recessions in its history, and his foreign policies led to events such as the storming of the U.S. embassy in Teheran.  At least, he did his constituency the service of hiding out in the rose garden during most of his presidency and refusing to be the leader that he was elected to be.

Today, he spends much of his time violating two centuries of Presidential decorum by decrying the work of the men who have succeeded him, and sticking his nose into affairs in which it does not belong, such as working with terrorist organizations like Hamas.  Giving him the Nobel Peace Prize cheapened it, and it has become the sad political tool that it is today.  No amount of house building can make up for the awful way he has dragged the most prestigious office on Earth through the mud.

2. Warren Harding– I tried not to hold the fact that a president died in office against him.  Presidents like William Henry Harrison or James Garfield get an incomplete from me.  They are obviously near the bottom, but as a result of their untimely deaths, did not have the opportunity to do anything truly bad to the office.  However, the Harding administration, though only two years in length was simply packed with Presidential embarrassments.  His administration is generally viewed as the single most corrupt in the history of the U.S., and that includes the Grant administration.  Harding was barely by his own party.  He did poorly in the primaries, was part of a split vote at the RNC, and after a deal was struck for his candidacy in the predawn of a hotel room, it still took ten ballots for him to receive the nomination. 

He won the general election by a landslide, and then had to pay back those to whom promises were made.  This led to the appointment of several corrupt individuals to his administration.  Many of his appointees were personal friends who were completely unqualified for the posts to which they were named.  His nominee to head the Veteran’s Bureau robbed its coffers of $200,000,000 and fled the country.  The Justice Department was accused of taking bribes.  The Attorney General was proven to have illegally profited from allowing alcohol to be taken from government supplies during the middle of prohibition, and corruption was discovered in the office of the Alien Property Custodian.

The most egregious example of corruption in his administration was the Teapot Dome Scandal in which the Secretary of the Interior received $400,000 in bribe from oil companies after leasing oil-rich land to them without any competitive bidding.

This was all bad enough, but Harding’s personal problems were also prominent.  He was married, but he carried on several affairs while he was president.  These eventually came to light adding to the cloud that surrounded his presidency.  Today, there are some theories that he was actually poisoned by his own wife.  In any case, he was dead after serving only two years.

3. Andrew Johnson– He was impeached but not convicted on two occasions.  Most historians agree that he did not deserve to be convicted, but his track record in office showed that he did not agree with his party or Lincoln in regards to the position of former slaves in post-Civil War America.  He repeatedly vetoed legislation that was meant to protect the former slaves and allow them to be absorbed into normal American society.  His appointments and policies promoted the establishment of so called ‘black codes’ that allowed southern blacks to be kept in some sort of servitude as second-class persons.  He was instrumental in defeating the 14th Amendment which eventually made the former slaves actual citizens.  Lincoln was a practical man who would do what it took to eventually get the outcome that he wanted, but his appointment of Johnson was easily his biggest mistake, and one, that with his death, could not be undone.  Johnson’s apparent racism which undermined many of the victories that so much blood was shed for during the Civil War put him high on the list.

4. Ulysses S. Grant– Grant’s two terms as president of the U.S. were notable for their corruption and failed domestic policies.  Waffling on the issue of ‘greenbacks’ and allowing unrestrained speculation in the gold market by Jay Gould and James Fisk led to Black Friday in which the Stock Market shut down.  The Grant administration failed to react by releasing gold early.  This caused the ruin of many investors, and when the administration finally did release its gold reserves, it caused a crash in the gold market that led to more ruin.

Though he was never personally accused of corruption, his administration was involved in several famous instances of corruption.  The most famous of these were the Credit Mobilier swindle and the Whiskey Ring.

Grant may have been a great general, but he was not a great president.  His two terms and his military legacy keep him off the bottom of the list.

5. Richard Nixon– Nixon is an anomaly.  His foreign policy achievements could easily have put him into the top 20 presidents of all time.  The problem was that his own paranoia and character flaws led him to use abuse his power as president and to eventually sanction crimes committed at the expense of his political opposition.  Of all the people on the list, his actions as president were probably the worst, but his extremely effective foreign policy keep him off the bottom of the list.

6. James Buchanan– I added a sixth because he is really the only other bad president.  For the most part, America’s presidents have been good and able men who led the country to the best of their ability.  Some may have been less effective than others, and some served short terms, but the true bottom-dwellers are a short list.  Buchanan’s lack of any attempt to keep the U.S. from devolving into Civil War puts him near the bottom of the list.  He and Nero could have played a duet.