The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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In Which I Talk About Pirates

Posted by ALmod on April 11, 2009

I’ve been watching the drama unfold regarding the Maersk Alabama, and a few things have come up in conversation with my husband.  The first was a comment I made to him a month or so ago.

“At some point, these pirates are going to bite off more than they can chew.”

Now, if the current situation weren’t so serious, it would be almost comical.  Enter the pirates.  They board a U.S. flagged ship and they have their usual greedy attitudes.  The problem is that the ship they’ve just tried to hijack just happens to come complete with a crew and captain that has been specifically trained to handle such a situation.  The pirates’ victory is short-lived, and they find themselves having to escape to a lifeboat while taking the captain hostage.  Meanwhile, U.S. battleships are now in the area, and they’re trapped.  They’ve called to their friends on shore, but no help can get to them because the U.S. Navy threatens to take them out.  Meanwhile, the captain has escaped once, so they didn’t exactly pick an easy hostage.

This is only going to end one of two ways.  Either the captain will live, or the captain will die.  As hard as it is to admit, I doubt any help can get to the captain before someone can slit his throat, so it’s going to have to be through some sort of negotiation if he’s released.  (As in, you’re not getting away, but this might be slightly less unpleasant for you if you are smart and don’t kill anyone.)  If I understand correctly, there are about 12 days worth of supplies on that lifeboat, so we won’t have to wait too long to find out.

Either way, they won’t get off scott free like they normally do.  This isn’t the sort of thing that the U.S. government will just let fly.

President Obama is going to be criticized from the right no matter what he does, so I don’t see any reason to worry about that response.  I’ll just make a prediction so that I can add an “I told you so” later.  If he tries to get the captain out alive and/or “starve out” the pirates with a waiting game, they’ll complain that he’s not taking enough action quickly.  (Of course, that’s not much of a prediction, as they’re doing that already.)  As we’ve seen from the French, you can retake a vessel quickly, but they didn’t do so without the loss of a hostage.  If Obama orders the Navy to strike, and the captain is killed, the right will go on about how he’s too reckless.  If he gives in to the demands of the pirates, he’s weak.  The truth is that there’s no 100% guaranteed good way to go about it.

The only part of this that has a right answer will be after the hostage situation is over.  We know it.  President Obama knows it.  The pirates know it, too.  It’s probably the only reason why they still are holding the captain.  He’s really the only thing that right now stands between them and the U.S. Navy.

Are we having trouble chewing, yet?

UPDATE: The captain has been freed.  Three of the four pirates holding him are dead with the fourth taken into custody.  No more chewing.  Predictably, the right is beating their chests about how Obama will take credit for the captain’s rescue.  (Wouldn’t he have to take credit if the captain had died?  He is the Commander in Chief, after all.)  I’m also seeing a few sites gloating over how negotiations broke down, though not many seem to mention that negotiations broke down due to the U.S. demanding that the captors be arrested– a condition that the pirates were not willing to agree to.  (Imagine what the reaction from the right would have been had the U.S. agreed to let the pirates go free!)  Again, predictably, it’s a no-win from the right for Obama.

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