Barry and the Pirates
There’ve been a number of blog posts over the last couple days accusing President Obama of fecklessness, cowardice, and being out-toughed by the French with regard to his handling of the Somali pirate situation.
Fairness compels me to point out that the current spate of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and East Africa began roughly two years ago and Obama took office roughly ten weeks ago. As Jim Easaw’s recent roundup notes, New Atlanticist has been featuring analyses of Somali pirates since last September, with a dozen or so pieces written before Obama was inaugurated.
To be sure, the capture of the Maersk Alabama Americanizes the problem for the first time. But, as Dave Schuler and I discussed in Wednesday’s episode of OTB Radio (“Piracy, Defense Budgets, and Europe“) the options for dealing with the situation are exceedingly limited. Most experts agree that this is not a situation that can be resolved through naval power; the ocean’s just too damned big and sustaining a huge navy presence is incredibly expensive. There aren’t a lot of good options here.
UPDATE: FP’s Anne Lowry says, “we should stop calling them pirates and start calling them something like maritime terrorists, to end any remaining romanticization.” While doing that would be confusing at this point, I’ll note that, on above-linked program, I pointed out that these pirates are essentially terrorists, both in how they conduct themselves and in the incredible difficulty that presents operationally in dealing with them.