Monday, April 13, 2009


Count me among those who are glad that I didn't jump on the bandwagon and start bashing the Obama administration for weakness last week when the Somali pirate crisis first got underway. Although there may be plenty of areas where I would favor far different policies regarding the military than the president (such as his plans to cut production of the F-22 or missile defense), in this case I'm very pleased to give credit where it is due. From the very beginning, I said, "get a team of SEALs to that destroyer; problem solved." Sure enough, when the order came, it was three SEALs, three shots, three dead pirates. (When I heard that THREE pirates had been killed, I did not know at the time that the fourth had already left the pirate vessel and was captured. My first thought was that there was a fourth SEAL who had somehow missed his shot, and would never hear the end of it from his brethren who wear the trident.)

There are plenty of those who were on the Obama-bashing bandwagon who are now seeking cover by pointing out that the president did not give an order to fire, he gave (twice) the captain of the USS Bainbridge the right to make the call. But life is not a Harrison Ford movie. If our civilian leaders will simply let the pros do their jobs without interference, that's fine by me.

Piracy around the horn of Africa works for the pirates because the reward outweighs the risk. Millions of dollars in ransom can be had (which goes a long way in Somalia), and most merchants would rather pay than risk trying to protect their ships. Now there is a new element in the calculus--if the target is flying the Stars and Stripes, the risk factor can be assumed to be a little higher. This may not do a thing to end international piracy, but it may very well cause US vessels to be a little safer.

Moreover, this action buys president Obama some much-needed "street cred." Whether or not he intended this violent resolution, bad actors around the world (including state and non-state actors) have to reckon with the possibility that the new guy in the White House will pull the trigger. I'm reminded of when Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers in 1981. After the USSR fell, we were able to see the Soviets' notes on that situation. They took note that the new president followed through on his threats (unlike his predecessor). There is no telling how much that belief contributed to the eventual end of the Cold War. It may be a perverse logic in this fallen world, but being perceived as willing to fight often means that you will not have to do so. And likewise, the perception that you will do anything to avoid a fight often ensures that you will have to later on (see Neville Chamberlain, 1939).

One last thought--there are plenty of heroes in this story. The captured ship Captain willingly traded his own life for those of his crew. He's the real deal--a maritime Sully Sullenberger. And the SEAL snipers that stealthily joined the Bainbridge and squeezed off those three head shots... well, they are the real deal, too. I have the pleasure of having coached a recently-minted SEAL officer, and he is one of the most exceptional individuals (in terms of physical, mental, leadership, and character qualities) I have ever known. I imagine that most of the men who went through BUDS/SEAL training with him are similar, or else they would have been among the 85% of applicants who wash out. I sleep better in my safe, warm bed at night knowing that the parapets of our civilization are manned by sentries such as this. Likewise, there are bad guys around the world who sleep a little worse tonight in the same knowledge. And that's just how I want it to be.


Pete said...

I whole-heartedly agree. Many thanks to our military!

mnpolutta said...

A second amen.

Adrian S. said...

I don't know Larry... it seems to me that Obama started another "illegal war." Obama lied, pirates died! This incident will just increase pirate recruitment, and the whole world is going to hate us more than they already do. No more blood for... safe shipping! ;)

Pete said...

FYI: If you are interested in what really happened in the piracy hostage standoff, read the following from a person with a lifetime in national security-related operations. His name has been erased, as is the name of the SEAL contact as he is still on active duty and we would not want to risk career damage to him for his truthfulness. FYI, ROE= rules of engagement, BHO=our "esteemed" president.

The real story of Obama's Decision Making with the hostages.

Having spoken to some SEAL pals here in Virginia Beach and asking why this thing dragged out for 4 days, I got the following:

1. BHO wouldn't authorize the DEVGRU/NSWC SEAL teams to the scene for 36 hours going against OSC (on scene commander) recommendation.
2. Once they arrived, BHO imposed restrictions on their ROE that they couldn't do anything unless the hostage's life was in "imminent" danger
3. The first time the hostage jumped, the SEALS had the raggies all sighted in, but could not fire due to ROE restriction
4. When the navy RIB came under fire as it approached with supplies, no fire was returned due to ROE restrictions. As the raggies were shooting at the RIB, they were exposed and the SEALS had them all dialed in.
5. BHO specifically denied two rescue plans developed by the Bainbridge CPN and SEAL teams
6. Bainbridge CPN and SEAL team CDR finally decide they have the OpArea and OSC authority to solely determine risk to hostage. 4 hours later, 3 dead raggies
7. BHO immediately claims credit for his "daring and decisive" behaviour. As usual with him, it's BS.

Read the following accurate account.

Philips' first leap into the warm, dark water of the Indian Ocean hadn't worked out as well. With the Bainbridge in range and a rescue by his country's Navy possible, Philips threw himself off of his lifeboat prison, enabling Navy shooters onboard the destroyer a clear shot at his captors - and none was taken.

The guidance from National Command Authority - the president of the United States ,
Barack Obama - had been clear: a peaceful solution was the only acceptable outcome to this standoff unless the hostage's life was in clear, extreme danger.

The next day, a small Navy boat approaching the floating raft was fired on by the Somali pirates - and again no fire was returned and no pirates killed. This was again due to the cautious stance assumed by Navy personnel thanks to the combination of a lack of clear guidance from Washington and a mandate
from the commander in chief's staff not to act until Obama, a man with no background of dealing with such issues and no track record of decisiveness, decided that any outcome other than a "peaceful solution" would be acceptable.

After taking fire from the Somali kidnappers again Saturday night, the on scene commander decided he'd had enough.

Keeping his authority to act in the case of a clear and present danger to the hostage's
life and having heard nothing from Washington since yet another request to mount a rescue operation had been denied the day before, the Navy officer - unnamed in all media reports to date - decided the AK47 one captor had leveled at Philips' back was a threat to the hostage's life and ordered the NSWC team to take their shots.

Three rounds downrange later, all three brigands became enemy KIA and Philips was safe.

There is upside, downside, and spinside to the series of events over the last week that culminated in yesterday's dramatic rescue of an American hostage.

Almost immediately following word of the rescue, the Obama administration and its supporters claimed victory against pirates in the Indian Ocean and [1] declared that the dramatic end to the standoff put paid to questions of the inexperienced president's toughness and decisiveness.

Despite the Obama administration's (and its sycophants') attempt to spin yesterday's success as a result of bold, decisive leadership by the inexperienced president, the reality is nothing of the sort.
What should have been a standoff lasting only hours - as long as it took the USS Bainbridge and its
team of NSWC operators to steam to the location - became an embarrassing four day and counting standoff between a ragtag handful of criminals with rifles and a U.S. Navy warship.