You can tell, because we killed a couple of Somali teenagers on Easter Sunday.
Okay, look. We at the Egg are as ticked off as anybody at this piracy business. And we are as proud as any Americans at the sheer grit displayed by the crew of the Maersk Alabama, unarmed men who resisted an attack by AK-47 wielding thugs. We are deeply moved by the heroism of Captain Richard Phillips, who traded himself for the safety of his crew.
And, yes, we are quite pleased with the outcome of the resulting standoff. Navy SEAL snipers saw their shot and took it, killing three pirates and rescuing Phillips. Had we been in command, we would have authorized them to do so in no uncertain terms. Had we been where the snipers were, we would not have hesitated. They are heroes.
But with all that said, we can't resist a touch of bitterness. The Times article describes this particular standoff as "tragicomic: the world’s most powerful navy vs. a lifeboat." The WaPo says that the fourth pirate, who had gone aboard a US ship for medical treatment, was "18-20 years old." Given the opposition, this sort of thing should be so easy for us that nobody ever tries it twice -- and yet you know that somebody will. They may even be more eager to try, since the pirates who eventually succeed in publicly humiliating America will be overnight folk heroes.
And we face the humiliation built into any asymmetrical warfare, which this most certainly is: simply by defending itself against an obviously frail opponent, a massive military power looks like a bully. It's the main reason that terrorism works. They can't really intimidate us, but they can make us look really bad to the rest of the world. (Come to think of it, that's probably what made Gandhi so effective, too.)
Our main concern, though, is about the big picture. Military efforts, even if they were to be coordinated among nations with serious navies, won't solve the piracy problem, which is rooted in the political chaos and legal vacuum onshore. And those are not the sort of problems our government has shown any expertise at resolving.
On the other hand, we have David Petraeus, and his very solid counterinsurgency tactics, which emphasize co-opting the locals whenever possible. It seems to have worked -- somewhat -- in Iraq, and the principles are surely impressive.
Having once vacationed in the Bahamas, we at the Egg are -- obviously -- experts on piracy. And so our advice to the US military is to find a Henry Morgan. (Not Harry Morgan, the guy who played Col. Potter on M*A*S*H; Henry Morgan. He's more than just a spiced-rum salesman.) You know, some pirate who can be bought off, and turned into a regional warlord, but whose power will come from the US, with the clear understanding that if he can't control the pirates, he loses everything.