Commentary Magazine


Naval Gazing

This is bad news : “The American sea captain held hostage by Somali pirates tried to escape Friday and was recaptured, a U.S. official said, with no action from the U.S. Navy destroyer monitoring the situation from nearby in the Indian Ocean.”

But why didn’t the Navy act? Well, they are “waiting out the pirates.” Perhaps that will work. Nevertheless it is a bit unsettling to hear the Navy explain, “Our job is to make sure the negotiations can continue.” Perhaps they are coyly setting up a rescue effort.

Meanwhile, with regard to southern Somali terror fighters (“Al-Shabab”), you see the Obama administration is conflicted. You can only imagine the conversation. (Are they misunderstood? Would it be too, you know, provocative to attack terror camps?)  This is hardly surprising coming from an administration which is perfecting the art of apology and self-flagellation rather than military might and political will. The Washington Post explains the angst gripping the Obama team:

Senior Obama administration officials are debating how to address a potential terrorist threat to U.S. interests from a Somali extremist group, with some in the military advocating strikes against its training camps. But many officials maintain that uncertainty about the intentions of the al-Shabab organization dictates a more patient, nonmilitary approach.

A patient, nonmilitary approach to terrorists? There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about this terrorist group:

The Bush administration asserted that some of al-Shabab’s original leaders were responsible for the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and maintained ties to al-Qaeda. Last year, it added the group to its list of terrorist organizations. “There are indications that al-Qaeda has provided support for training activity” in the camps, said a U.S. counterterrorism official.

American officials do not discount the threat of an attack on the United States or Europe. “To the extent that the al-Shabab leadership talks to the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan,” the counterterrorism official said, “if that occurs with increasing frequency, then our concerns will grow even stronger.”

So America’s foes look on, observing a president hesitant to act in robust defense of American interests. Let’s hope the Obama team is simply perfecting its plans to recapture the captain and send an unmistakable signal that American ships and seamen should not be trifled with. Let’s hope they are not afraid to strike terror camps wherever they may be. Over two hundred years ago another American president realized it would be folly to remain passive as pirates tormented the civilized world. It would be a welcome development if the current one comes to his senses — soon. We could use more Thomas Jefferson and less Jimmy Carter right about now.