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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead

In May of 1904, a sometime American citizen by the name of Ion Perdicaris was kidnapped by one Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli while living in Tangier.  Since a US citizen was believed to be in danger, President Theodore Roosevelt sent a fleet of seven ships and a small marine* detachment to demand that the Moroccan government obtain his release.  (This Wikipedia article had a decent description of the facts at 11:30 am today.) At the Republican convention in 1904, the Secretary of State famously said, “This government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.”

Today, we have a civilian from a US-flagged ship being held hostage by Somali pirates.  With any luck, the situation will be resolved without the loss of innocent lives, but since this situation might recur or deteriorate, I think it would be well to consider a longer-term policy.  I submit that Roosevelt’s solution is the correct one.

The Wikipedia article previously mentioned goes on at some length (in rather sniffy tones) about how the US was just pressuring the Moroccans to accede to the kidnapper’s demands.  What that article fails to consider, however, is the value of forcibly changing the ownership of this sort of problem—what I’ll call “Big Jake diplomacy"**.

In 1904, the US didn’t particularly care about Moroccan politics or the justice of the claims of a “rebel”.  The US cared about the safety of its citizens and about future credibility in the eyes of the world.  To that end, one of three results was acceptable: Perdicaris released, Raisuli killed, or Morocco punished (in pretty much that order of preference).  The policy was simple: the safety of people in Morocco was the responsibility of Morocco, and if Morocco did not see to the safety of US citizens, it would pay.  How the safety was secured was the responsibility of Morocco.

The same calculus should apply in “Somalia”.  The Somalis would like the world to consider the lands they claim and the waters off their coast as their territory.  If that’s the case, anything that goes wrong there, anything at all, is their responsibility.  They can stop the pirates (possibly with the assistance of other nations), abjure responsibility for the territory entirely (and thus allow others to police it), or be punished.  There should be no fourth option.

* Yes, I do know about the USMC’s preferences for capitalization; it can require whatever style it wishes in internal documents.  I do not fall under the purview of the USMC.

** John Wayne as Jacob “Big Jake” McCandles: “And now *you* understand. Anything goes wrong, anything at all… your fault, my fault, nobody’s fault… it won’t matter - I’m gonna blow your head off. No matter what else happens, no matter who gets killed I’m gonna blow your head off.”

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And the people said, “Amen.”

on Apr 09 2009 @ 02:26 PM

Imagine my surprise to learn that Obama is not Teddy Roosevelt’s equal.

Yep, its a trick since obviously I knew that Obama did not compare well to Teddy long before this week.

on Apr 09 2009 @ 02:30 PM

Well, I think the capitalization thing is determined by whether you’re using “Marine” as a proper name, or a generic term. I suppose that gets maybe a little muddier when you compare it to “soldier” and “sailor”, or maybe not.

Howdy, Sailor!


Letters of marque and reprisal?

I’d have no problems blowing them to smithereens. In addition to Roosevelt, we might consider Thomas Jefferson. I might even be willing to consider an act of piracy an act of war. We do, after all, have the “war on terror”, amorphous as that is. I suppose we could consider whether an act of “war” can commited only by a sovreign state. (In today’s vernacular, certainly not.)

on Apr 09 2009 @ 04:23 PM

I can’t believe I messed up the linkage that badly. Sorry about that. Maybe I can get it right this time.

We’ve dealt with pirates before. There’s a famous painting about the action. I always enjoyed looking at it when I had the opportunity.

on Apr 10 2009 @ 08:57 AM

We know who these people are. We know where their ports of operation are. We know where they spend their money. There is no effective Somalian government that could stop us, in any way, from wreaking whatever revenge we cared to.

This absurd situation is entirely a failure of political will. In fairness, the failure began in the Bush years when these guys first started acting up. It would have taken Teddy Roosevelt about ten minutes to draft the orders that would allow the Navy to resolve the situation, semi-permanently for us, permanently for the pirates.

on Apr 10 2009 @ 12:33 PM

All the necessary tools are in place and available for use.  Including the time necessary to draft the mission orders, fuel and arm the aircraft, and fly to the area, it would, I suspect, take less than four hours to finish the current incarnation of this problem.  (Fuel-Air explosives are remarkably good for erasing unfortified areas.)

on Apr 10 2009 @ 03:27 PM

No argument from me. This has been a clear issue for years, and no administration has done jack-all about it.

But it’d be better to send in the SEALS rather than FAE-armed aircraft. Less collateral damage in built-up areas.

on Apr 10 2009 @ 07:58 PM

This is one of those missions where collateral damage actually enhances the mission success. The pirates cannot operate in a vacuum; they can thrive because the Somali infrastructure (such as it is) welcomes pirate money and provides pirates with active collaboration. Melt a few warehouses and that might start to change. Also, these guys aren’t worth risking US lives on the ground.

on Apr 11 2009 @ 06:26 AM

OMG. The French are showing us the way. The shame of it.

on Apr 11 2009 @ 08:25 AM
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