The Corner

Re: On Piracy

Here are a couple of rejoinders to Mario.

First, Mario claims that piracy has never been fully eradicated in the past and isn’t such a big problem today. I disagree. While piracy didn’t completely disappear in the past, it dwindled to extreme infrequency following the U.S. and British anti-piracy campaigns of the 19th century, with attacks confined to a few maritime levels. Piracy at that level was indeed tolerable. The situation today is fundamentally different. The number of pirate attacks is escalating all over the world and this trend will continue for one simple reason — piracy is a profitable and risk-free business. At some time, a tipping point will be reached, with piracy-related costs seriously impairing the flow of global commerce.

Second, the reason Lee Casey and I have been critical of the U.S. Navy is that there are time-tested and cost-effective solutions to piracy problems, and the Navy has not employed them. It’s not a matter of escorting ships; it is a matter of conducting aggressive offensive operations against pirates at sea and on land, driven by robust rules of engagement. For example, we don’t have to wait till a pirate attack occurs; we can stop boats crewed by armed men — there is no legitimate reason for fisherman to brandish automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. This, by the way, is how slave trade was suppressed: Ships that were equipped for carrying slaves were seized, and their crews punished, even if they had no slaves aboard. Captured pirates also need to be punished promptly and harshly. Ransom payments should be intercepted; pirate havens should be bombarded; pirate assets should be seized.

The goal isn’t to nation-build in Somalia; it is make piracy costly, difficult, and risky. All of this is doable. Unfortunately, both our political and our military leaders have no interest in this strategy. And, much as I love and admire our military, the Navy hasn’t done anything either to acknowledge the seriousness of the piracy problem or to offer a solution. For the world’s greatest navy to behave in this fashion is lamentable.

David B. Rivkin Jr.David B. Rivkin, Jr., is an attorney, political writer, and media commentator on matters of constitutional and international law, as well as foreign and defense policy. Rivkin has gained national ...

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