Magazine May 4, 2009, Issue

Piracy and Civilization

Capt. Richard Phillips (right) shakes hands with U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. David Fowler, executive officer of USS Bainbridge, after being rescued off the coast of Somalia, April 12, 2009. (Reuters/U.S. Navy)
A lesson for our time

When U.S. Navy SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and rescued Capt. Richard Phillips off the coast of East Africa, they struck a blow for civilization in general and for the liberal civilization of the West in particular. Pirates took an American hostage; they sought a ransom and their own freedom in return for his release; and, when negotiations dragged, they seemed about to shoot him. The snipers, steadying themselves in choppy seas, delivered three shots to the head. If ever a military action deserved the name of “surgical strike,” this one did. It was justified, precise, and lethal. It

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