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.