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Pirates Humble the West

Yesterday, a NATO spokesman announced that the organization has no plans to go to the rescue of the Sirius Star, the Saudi supertanker captured by pirates on Saturday in the Indian Ocean. “I’m not aware that there’s any intention by NATO to try to intercept this ship,” said spokesman James Appathurai.

The organization, he noted, could prevent interceptions but has no mandate to board boats that have already been hijacked. Moreover, the Sirius Star, the largest ship ever taken by pirates, was outside the alliance’s area of operations at the time of seizure. Presently, two NATO vessels-supplied by Greece and Italy-are escorting World Food Program shipments into Mogadishu pursuant to a U.N. mandate and two other warships-from Turkey and Britain-are on deterrence patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

If NATO is not permitted to help the crew of the supertanker, how about Britain? No help here: the British Foreign Office is reported to have warned the Royal Navy in April not to detain pirates so as to avoid violating their human rights.

This leaves the nation of last resort in the international system. But you would be mistaken if you thought the global superpower is able to defeat a ragtag group of high-seas bandits. Pirates know the U.S. Navy is no threat to them because it did nothing in September when it surrounded-with five warships-the hijacked Faina, a Ukrainian freighter loaded with heavy weaponry. The finest sailors in the world merely watched these criminals shuttle back and forth between the captured boat and the Somali coast, even after the captors threatened to blow up the vessel and kill its crew to obtain a ransom. In short, our navy was merely making sure that negotiations between the pirates and ship owner proceeded smoothly.

Now, emboldened pirates are beginning to cut a critical lifeline by taking an oil carrier and holding it hostage. But don’t ask Western navies to do anything about this unfolding situation. The West, even in the face of obvious criminality, has made itself powerless to act, paralyzing its armed forces with talk of “mandates” and “human rights.” So forget about stopping nuclear proliferation or preventing invasions of our friends. We are even unable to protect shipping in open waters.

By the way, the Faina and the Sirius Star are now both anchored near each other along the Somali coast.



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