Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Obama and the Pirates

Somali pirates have captured a U.S. ship with a crew of 20 Americans on board in the Gulf of Aden. "Danish-owned and US-flagged 17,000-tonne Maersk Alabama, was seized as it passed 400 miles north-east of Mogadishu," according to the Telegraph. What's Obama going to do?
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It's unfortunate for the crew and the company, but more importantly, it's essential for the nation to deal with Somali pirates and with the primitive world all together at this time. Will Obama walk away? Will we end up giving millions more dollars to Somali jihadis in the worthless hope of peace on the high seas? Or is this a Danish problem?

This should be the right time for Obama to set the tone of his administration's dealing with the hostile world we share with hostile people and nations. It's not a matter of a ship hijacked, it's a matter of how we will be perceived in the world.

When American troops were ordered to literally run away, run on foot in front of thousands of Somali witnesses during Clinton's administration during the Blackhawk Down incident, we gave birth to Osama bin Laden's idea that the American nation is doomed by cowardice and ready to topple at the first major blow. It won't hurt Maersk to pay up. Obama might even bail them out with our money. But who will bail us out?
It is the largest container ship operator and supply vessel operator in the world. Maersk is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, and has subsidiaries and offices in more than 130 countries worldwide. The group has around 117,000 employees. It stood as number 131 on the Fortune Global 500 list for 2008, up from 138 in 2007. Maersk is the second largest company in Scandinavia by revenue, and the second largest company in Denmark measured by market capitalisation.

We've witnessed this incident before in our brief history:
"Several Muslim countries along the North African coast had established the tradition of plundering the ships of European and American merchants in the western Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, capturing the crews and then demanding ransom from the respective governments for their release. In a joint message to their superiors in Congress, Adams and Jefferson described the audacity of these terrorist attacks, pirates leaping onto defenseless ships with daggers clenched in their teeth. They had asked the ambassador from Tripoli, Adams and Jefferson explained, on what grounds these outrageous acts of unbridled savagery could be justified: "The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the laws of the prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their [Islam's] authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners...."

This event occurred between 1784-1789 while Jefferson was ambassador to France and Adams (2nd president) was ambassador to England.

Jefferson responded by inventing and using the US Navy to stop the Barbary pirates of North Africa from attacking US ships, stealing their cargo and enslaving its sailors.

The reference above is to the Barbary pirates.
Muslim pirates along the coast of North Africa from 16th until 19th centuries. This region was in this period known as Barbary Coast.

Small-scale piracy had been performed for centuries before the 16th century. They were at their height in the 17th century, involved in looting and kidnapping of Europeans on a large scale.

Until the 17th century, the pirates used galleys. After this time, they were taught by a Flemish renegade how to construct and handle sailing ships.

The piracy of the North Africans was backed by their respective states. Local bankers financed and equipped ships with one purpose only, to loot ships and kidnap Europeans. Their standard fee was about 10% of the prizes.

The pirates operated largely in the Mediterranean, but those along the Moroccan Atlantic coast and the western parts of the Mediterranean coast, also sent ships up along the European Atlantic coast, reaching the British Isles, Norway and even Iceland.
Kidnapping and slave trade was among the most important activities of the pirates. Kidnapping could be done to force the payment of ransom, but many abducted civilians became slaves with numerous purposes in North Africa and beyond.

For a long time, Europe did not fight back. The reasons were many, but the most important was that agreements were forged in which the respective states payed tolls to the pirates to pass securely. The insecure chances of winning a war on the pirate states, as well as its cost, also kept Europe away. The first real blow to the pirates was when the USA intervened in the very beginning of the 19th century. Still, even the USA had to sign several treaties with the Barbary states between 1786 and 1836 to secure their ships.
More here:

The question is, Will Obama just pay up or will he also issue an apology to the pirates for past American interventions in Somalia. Will he, in fact, bow down and apologize?

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