The situation in the Indian Ocean is getting not only worse but more bizarre. Four pirates are holding an American ship’s captain hostage in a small boat that is shadowed by American war ships; the pirates have sent for reinforcements by other pirate vessels also “armed” with hostages; one at least of those reinforcing vessels has reportedly been turned back; and the pirates have hijacked yet another ship, this one containing a mostly-Italian crew. For now, as so often happens in hostage situations, there appears to be a standoff.
It is easy and tempting to ridicule the Obama administration’s inability to take decisive action, as some have done: e.g., Obama Reaches Out to ‘Moderate’ Pirate Community. In truth, though, there is no good solution to a hostage situation, and patience is probably as good a virtue as any, at least for now.
Whatever happens to Captain Phillips, when the immediate crisis is over President Obama should lead an international effort to rid the Indian Ocean of pirates. This appears an easy call from both a policy and a political point of view. For a while, at least, it will dispel growing talk that there is a new surrender monkey on the block. And as far as I know, there is no support for piracy anywhere.
This could be a sort of acid test: if the Obama administration can’t bring itself to visit harsh retribution on pirates, when will it ever be willing to use force to defend American citizens and American interests? Let’s hope that this test, at least, is one the administration passes.
UPDATE: This interview with a pirate by Sky News is highly interesting.
FURTHER UPDATE: Mark Steyn puts the pirates in historical context and adds this observation about Barack Obama:
When all the world’s a “distraction,” maybe you’re not the main event after all.