Commentary Magazine


Topic: pirates

U.S. Can’t Lead From Behind on Pirates

First in Libya, and now in Somalia, the Europeans, amazingly enough, seem to be taking the lead in Western military operations. European Union warships off the coast of Somalia are now attacking pirate lairs inland, targeting and destroying pirate vessels. This is a long-overdue step to put some teeth into the anti-piracy campaign.

As long as a dozen or even two dozen Western warships are forced to police an area of ocean the size of Texas, hoping they will catch pirates in the act, they have little hope of stopping pirates. The only way to be effective is to hunt down the Somali pirates, on both the sea and on land, and mete out swift and certain justice.

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First in Libya, and now in Somalia, the Europeans, amazingly enough, seem to be taking the lead in Western military operations. European Union warships off the coast of Somalia are now attacking pirate lairs inland, targeting and destroying pirate vessels. This is a long-overdue step to put some teeth into the anti-piracy campaign.

As long as a dozen or even two dozen Western warships are forced to police an area of ocean the size of Texas, hoping they will catch pirates in the act, they have little hope of stopping pirates. The only way to be effective is to hunt down the Somali pirates, on both the sea and on land, and mete out swift and certain justice.

The U.S. has mounted a few daring operations that show the spirit required; in 2009, for example, SEALs killed three pirates who were holding an American merchant skipper. The U.S. Special Operations Command and CIA have also launched some strikes against Islamist terrorists in Somalia. But we have resisted doing what the Europeans just did–attacking pirate lairs. Presumably, this is another example of President Obama’s “lead from behind” doctrine which is thrusting European military forces, willy nilly, into the lead in all sorts of areas. It is a good thing the Europeans are doing more, but one can only imagine how much more effective anti-piracy efforts would be if the U.S. were to be as aggressive as our European partners, who have seldom been noted in recent years for a surplus of martial spirit.

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