Home  |   Jihad Watch  |   Horowitz  |   Archive  |   Columnists  |     DHFC  |  Store  |   Contact  |   Links  |   Search Friday, December 19, 2014
FrontPageMag Article
Write Comment View Comments Printable Article Email Article
Font:
Send in the Marines By: Arthur Herman
New York Post | Friday, November 21, 2008


US Marines have been singing about their exploits on the "shores of Tripoli" ever since President Thomas Jefferson sent them to scour out the world's most dangerous pirates, the Barbary corsairs, from their bases in North Africa in 1801. Now President Barack Obama may have to give the Corps the chance to add a new line - by sending Marines to destroy the newest generation of pirates, this time on the other side of Africa.

Piracy has been an index of civilization's ability to enforce law and order since ancient times. Yet the ability of our civilization to do that is now in question.

The Nov. 15 seizure of an Arabian oil tanker by armed Somali thugs off the Kenyan coast is just the latest incident.

Forget the Johnny Depp stereotype. These pirates wear designer shades, use cellphones and GPS, and tote Kalashnikov assault rifles. As of today, they're holding the Sirius Star, its 2 million barrels of oil and its 25-man crew hostage for a ransom of $20 million.

And if these pirates aren't stopped, the problem will only keep growing.

Some 16,000 merchant ships a year traverse the ocean in the Gulf of Aden region. Since August, the enforcers of the laws of the sea there have been the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, along with other NATO warships, in an international force patrolling to ward off attacks by the new corsairs.

Yet the Navy finds itself helpless to stop the attacks. The taking of Sirius Star makes 95 international vessels hijacked this year, triple the number last year. Pirates now hold 17 freighters and 339 crew members hostage - and no one can do a thing about it.

Why? Stopping the pirates at sea is almost impossible. The time that lapses from when the crew of an innocent ship spots the approach of a high-speed pirate boat until it is boarded is less than 15 minutes - not enough time to get a US frigate to come to the rescue.

Even when a warship manages to catch up with a captured vessel, its options are limited: It can't sink the target without endangering the crew and cargo. And boarding ships under hostile fire is a vanished art in modern navies - as is handling hostage situations.

Faced by the vast stretches of the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and the challenges of mobilizing a multinational force against a cunning and elusive foe, our Navy has become a helpless giant.

With no better answer, companies quietly pay the ransoms. Meanwhile, America's NATO allies fear that, if they arrest irregular fighters like pirates, they'll be accused of violating someone's "human rights."

Yet the traditional laws of the sea on piracy are clear. What's needed aren't more naval patrols or new laws - but a new strategy.

History teaches that the only way to destroy pirates is from the land, not the sea - by wiping out their bases.

Those bases are in a nation that's been in anarchy and civil war ever since President Bill Clinton pulled US troops out of Mogadishu in 1993. Piracy has become good business for ex-militia fighters and ex-fishermen in a country with no economic future. Fishing villages along the Somali coast have become pirate havens - swarming with prostitutes, drug-dealers and gunrunners. An illiterate teen in a pirate band takes a cut of a ransom that runs to $2 million on average.

The Somali government can't impose law and order. It's up to America and the international community to do the job:

* All nations will need to agree not to pay the Somali pirates any more ransoms, which has only encouraged the banditry. And they'll need to force corporations to say no, too.

* The Fifth Fleet will need reinforcements - not more ships, but a Marine Expeditionary Brigade that can wipe out the pirate bases once and for all.

Time for kinder, gentler measures may be running out.

The 300,000-ton Saudi tanker isn't the most important ship the pirates have taken. On Sept. 25, they grabbed a Ukrainian freighter, the MV Faina, which happened to be carrying 32 T-72 battle tanks, grenade launchers and a hold full of ammunition destined for the Kenyan army. The pirates are holding the Faina for a $20 million ransom, while six US warships and a bevy of military helicopters hover around the freighter at its anchorage to prevent any of the deadly cargo from falling into the wrong hands.

Chaotic Somalia is ripe to become the next al Qaeda base. Until now, the country's Islamic fundamentalist militias have been hostile to the pirates. But evidence suggests that at least some ransom money has found its way into the coffers of Al Shabaab, a group on the US terrorist list.

When the terrorists realize that they can not only enrich but also arm themselves through piracy - and hold the world ransom by threatening to blow up oil tankers in the world's strategic waterways - the seizure of Faina and Sirius Star may signal a new, horrifying chapter in the War on Terror.

Islamic fundamentalist groups found a home in the last major haven for international piracy, in Indonesia's Aceh province. It took an act of nature, the 2004 tsunami, to wipe them out. It will take an act of man to destroy this new nest of corsairs.

Get ready to add some new words to the Marine Hymn.




We have implemented a new commenting system. To use it you must login/register with disqus. Registering is simple and can be done while posting this comment itself. Please contact gzenone [at] horowitzfreedomcenter.org if you have any difficulties.
blog comments powered by Disqus




Home | Blog | Horowitz | Archives | Columnists | Search | Store | Links | CSPC | Contact | Advertise with Us | Privacy Policy

Copyright©2007 FrontPageMagazine.com