Barack Obama, martime

Obama’s first big foreign emergency test – passed

Just a quick comment on the killing of three of the four Somali criminals holding US ship captain Richard Phillips.

The killing is dangerous and is bound to result in an increase in violence against foreign sailors in the region – but what of it? It’s already a dangerous situation and it’s only getting worse. The solution is two-pronged, and this might just be the spark to get things going. First and foremost, we have to help clean up the civil war in Somalia – the primary cause of the lawlessness offshore. This will take time and will not be accomplished by a single event, but a single event might provide the focus needed to support an more focused international effort on the ground.

Secondly, the threat of  increased violence will result in a more active response by NATO, the US, and maybe even the UN. Arming and/or escorting merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden and along the East African coast is the only interim mitigation measure available on the water right now.  The US and NATO are sure to respond with some sort of shipping plan. It won’t solve the problem, but it will make merchant ships harder to hit and bring some measure of policing to a region long short of it.

Finally, I just have to say that Barack Obama handled the situation so well it must be driving the wingnuts bonkers. First, he resisted grandstanding during the crisis, something I can’t imagine Bush doing. It showed class, calm, and confidence. In addition, by giving authority to the commanders in the field to handle the situation, he showed that he trusts those around him to make decisions and do their jobs, and that he will not micromanage the situation to the level the point of interference.

It must be quite a change to go from working under W to a guy with self-confidence and respect. It must be driving the wingnuts absolutely batshit.

I might actually sit and watch me some Glenn Beck this week to bathe in the freakshower.


5 thoughts on “Obama’s first big foreign emergency test – passed

  1. A third-prong should be a commitment by the UN and NATO to address one of the main root causes of the existence of Somali pirates in the first place:

    1. The illegal mass-fishing by other countries inside Somalia’s waters, which sent coastal communities that depend on income from fishing to the brink of starvation and solicited the first evolution of coastal residents from fishermen to ‘unofficial’ Somalian coast guards, to full blown ship interceptions (piracy).

    2. The illegal dumping of nuclear and medical waste off the shores of Somalia, by unknown foreign nations.

    It is argued that Somalian ‘piracy’ was a natural result/response to what the Somalians dub as the ‘world turning a blind eye’ to the pillaging of its natural resources in the absence of a Somalian state.

    Locals justify the ransoms as some kind of ‘tax’ that they are personally collecting in lieu of the Millions in fishing revenues realized by companies/nations who take advantage of the absence of a Somalian sea authority and illegally enter Somalian waters and deplete Somalian fish resources.

    If you have the time, read “You Are Being Lied To About Pirates” at


  2. hahaha… wow indeed Tim.

    I was born and spent my childhood in the city of Aden, Yemen. The Gulf of Aden was always a melting pot of African and Indian immigrants who came off the British ships as they made trade voyages from India to England and back when Yemen and India were British colonies.

    Later on I spent my high school years hanging out with Somalis and Ethiopians in school. We played basketball together, and hung out at the UN Refugee club in Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen. The stories are incredible.

    The humanitarian crisis of Somalia is worse than words can describe. Every month, 10s of Somali bodies wash up on the southern shores of Yemen. They flee the inhuman conditions in their home country by buying passage to Yemen from Somali human smugglers.

    The smugglers pack bodies like sardines in their fishing boats, and when they get close to the shores of Yemen, they simply toss everyone overboard if they suspect that a Yemeni coastguard patrol is in the area.

    Many of the women and children drown, only some strong men who can swim the long distance to shore make it. They come with horror stories seeking shelter and UN protection, but end up living in tents in refugee camps for months on end, not dissimilar to the state they ran away from, but with better food rations.

    What is unfortunate is that the same Somalians crying fowl for the deaths of 3 pirates at the hands of the French and the Americans don’t usually bat a lash when it comes to the 100s of Somalians who are literally forced to ‘walk the plank’ or be killed by those very same human smugglers and pirates.

    Check this video if you have the stomach for it


  3. Indeed, Obama handled it pretty well.

    Issmat, I read that last week. The fishery collapse doesn’t excuse the piracy (which basically spreads the victimization on to the working crews of these merchant vessels), but it does explain how the coastal population in Somalia got so desperate that they turned to piracy.

    Incidentally, this anti-piracy system was shown on the Discovery Channel a couple of days ago. Basically, shippers are equipped with a floating net that they deploy behind and beside them. If a boarding vessel approaches close to the merchant ship, the propeller of the boarding vessel gets caught up in the net. The torque caused by the sudden halting of the prop will quickly swamp the pirate vessel. Sounds like a good defense, so long as the net is large enough to prevent accurate small-arms fire from being sprayed at the crew.


  4. Issmat, thanks for posting that link. For some reason, over the last couple of years I stopped regularly checking out Information Clearing House – outrage overload, I suppose. Fox and Bush wore me down. I shouldn’t have, obviously, as this is all pretty new to me.

    My feelings have been that the maritime crime occuring off Somalia is directly related to the civil war, but obviously there are other factors as well. It’s apparent that the lawlessness resulting from 18 years without effective government has created a vaccuum that has been filled by more than piracy, but also by slack western corporations looking for an easy buck. I don’t think I need to take that analogy any further for this crowd. 🙂

    In any case, the solution lies with rebuilding an effective government in Somalia: to provide more effective policing on and offshore and to stabilize the economy and provide regulatory governance in the offshore. All will be better off in the end, provided the final solution isn’t limited to running convoys out of the Gulf of Aden in the hope that piracy, and therefore the entire problem will have been solved.


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