Medeshi April 9, 2009
Planet War » Time to Fight Pirates
The unfolding pirate hostage crisis off the coast of Somalia raises a fundamental question. Should the United States negotiate the release of the U.S. captain, taken hostage when the pirates failed in the primary objective of seizing the ship (also to be held for ransom)? Or, should the U.S. refuse to negotiate and instead escalate to more lethal measures, perhaps using Special Operations Forces to hit the pirate bases on land? The military escalation option is apparently under consideration awaiting approval from President Obama. The official line from the Obama Administration thus far has been very measured -- they are "monitoring the situation closely," which is diplomatic-speak for "waiting to decide" and does not simply mean "we are watching cable news like the rest of you."
Negotiating the release is the short-term easy thing to do, but it makes the pirate situation worse over the long-run. Every time the pirates receive ransom, their incentive to take additional hostages increases and their capacity to do so improves because they buy more advanced equipment. I think the negotiate and ransom approach is a dead-end and I do not see a viable alternative to military force. President Obama likes to compare himself to famous American presidents. The last American president who faced the problem of pirates off the African coast was a very famous one, Thomas Jefferson, and he ultimately opted for force. I think that is what Obama will need to do. What is your view?