4.12.2009

Captain Phillips' Rescue Sends the Right Message to Pirates

Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama has, thankfully, been rescued. The U.S. Navy killed three of the four pirate captors, with the remaining pirate now in custody.

Immediately, television commentators and others began discussing what the rescue meant. A number of observers started from a proposition that the deaths in the rescue of Captain Phillips were regrettable, something along these lines:

But American officials acknowledged that the deadly ending of this incident, which began on Wednesday, could lead to more confrontations with Somali pirates, who are currently holding more than 200 hostages.

“This could escalate violence in this part of the world,” Vice Admiral Gortney said.

We've debated the appropriate response to piracy on this blog before in the comments, and I feel the need to reiterate my stance in light of all the commentary arguing that the death of the pirates was the wrong response:

The United States and its mariners, especially in this day and age, should never cower in fear of pirates. And the United States should never refrain from killing pirates to save the lives of mariners held hostage.

It's regrettable that so many observers start by fearing greater violence by pirates. These observers are operating on a playing field that cedes far too much ocean to the pirates to begin with. It wouldn't matter whether pirates treated hostages humanely or brutally if we never permitted them to take hostages on the high seas in the first place - if we stepped up defensive measures on vessels traveling in the Horn of Africa region and took the fight to pirates and their havens.

I think the rescue of Captain Phillips using all necessary means (kudos to President Obama) sends the right signal to pirates operating from the Somali coast: we're serious, this will not stand, continue your unlawful activity at your own peril.

ADDED: Adam D over at Vagabond Liberty shares his thoughts - some divergent - on the ripples that he sees spreading from the pirate incident.