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Urging the Obama Administration To Kill Pirates:

Sounds like good advice from Kenneth Anderson (Opinio Juris):

["]International Maritime officials say at least 83 have been attacked off Somalia this year, with 33 of them hijacked. The pirates are currently holding about 11 ships, including a Ukrainian cargo vessel carrying 33 tanks.["]

I'll post more on this later, but let me put out a query now: Might piracy be a relatively easy place for the Obama administration to demonstrate its approach to use of force, multilateralism, and international law? ...

Meanwhile, the British have instructed their navy to ignore pirates, out of the remarkable fear that any captured Somali pirates might have asylum claims on metropolitan Britain. I am not alone in thinking this an ignominious day for Britain. But it is a double whammy for unintended consequences: it is unlikely that it was ever intended that asylum law would be read to create a municipal duty for Britain regarding detentions for piracy off the coast of Africa -- but it was equally unlikely that it was ever contemplated that a state would appeal to asylum law in order to abandon what might otherwise be seen as an affirmative international law duty to maintain the law of the seas....

I had a conversation with a US Navy officer ... who suggested that the best military course of action would be to equip some number of civilian vessels as decoys -- heavily armed and carrying marines. The best thing, he said, would be for Somali pirates to attack, and then be aggressively counterattacked, in a battle, not the serving of an arrest warrant -- sink their vessel and kill as many pirates as possible. It would send a message to pirates that they could not know which apparently civilian vessels might instead instead counterattack....

[T]here are a number of ways in which an Obama administration might make its mark here.

  • One is to act in a way to demonstrate that the operation is a military one within the traditional law of the sea responding to piracy -- one fights and detains any who survive in order to prosecute, but the operation is not law enforcement as such. (And the law used to prosecute could usefully be the traditional law of piracy -- common enemies of humanity, etc.)

  • Second, the US can demonstrate the traditional US commitment to the rule of international law on the high seas and freedom of the seas.

  • Third, it can act with allies and friends -- India, for example -- to create patrols and the reinforcement of multilateral sovereign duties; many countries find their vessels and interests at stake here. It might even manage to re-acquaint the British government with its international law obligations, by making clear through joint declarations of states undertaking patrols that asylum is not an option.

  • Fourth, it might even find a way that the US could support the ICC without triggering the usual issues for the US, by sending (or at least opening discussions on sending) captured pirates to trial at the ICC. (I should report, full disclosure, that I am, alas, one of those recalcitrants who think the US should stay out of it, support the servicemen's protection act and oppose its repeal, oppose de-de-signing of the Rome Statute, etc., but am interested in seeing ways in which the US might still usefully cooperate with the ICC on mutual matters of international justice; although I think a traditional customary law court-martial of pirates at sea followed by (televised) hanging has its advantages, too.)

Read the whole post.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.

rarango (mail):
I do agree this is an excellent foreign policy issue to undertake. Having said that, I am less concerned about piracy than the fact these pirates can evade the navies of five (I believe) nations. What if these guys were terrorists carrying weapons of mass destruction instead of pirates? This does not say very much good about our ability to interdict such traffic.
11.17.2008 2:35pm
FantasiaWHT:
I like it. Sudden and thorough. I've been asking for this ever since I heard about the rise of modern piracy.

Do what was done then - arm merchant vessels with marines &at least some cannon. Most pirates didn't travel in ships with more than a handful of cannons - they swarmed their targets, they didn't try to sink them.

You'd think we'd be close to the point where civilian vessels are better off hiring some security, placing some munition on the rails of the ship.
11.17.2008 2:36pm
George Lyon (mail):
Or Congress could grant letters of marque and reprisal
11.17.2008 2:38pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
When the British outlawed slavery, they sent their ships to intercept slave traders in an effort to stamp out the practice internationally. So, while Americans, Arabs and Africans (Christians, Muslims and animists) enthusiastically treated humans like commodities, the British not only outlawed it, they committed resources to blotting it from humanity's record.

They're still playing with house money when it comes to international intervention, in my opinion. Although their presence stance is pretty squirrelly, lets give 'em a break.
11.17.2008 2:41pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I think one .50 cal Browning M2 would do the trick nicely.
11.17.2008 2:42pm
BT:
What did Bill Mazeroski ever do to the US Navy?
11.17.2008 2:45pm
Tracy Johnson (www):
Letters of Marque, That's probably what it would take to arm a U.S. flagged merchantmen. Not sure Congress could or would do that for foreign flagged vessels. They're probably SOL, which is why military units are embarked, so the unit can take legal responsibility. Civilian ships are no doubt prohibited from hostile response on their own.
11.17.2008 2:46pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
I don't understand. Bush is our President, and will be until January 20 of next year. So why isn't the author urging Bush to attack the pirates?
11.17.2008 2:46pm
PhanTom:
I think the answer is to take the decoy option and raise the stakes with a couple of modern attack subs. Let the pirates attack and show their colors, then send them to the bottom quickly and decisively.

But I'm a little knee-jerk on the subject of piracy.

--PtM
11.17.2008 2:47pm
rarango (mail):
I believe letters of marque were outlawed by some mid 19th century treaty to which the US was signatory.
11.17.2008 2:48pm
PLR:
Paul Wolfowitz reports that, inasmuch as Somalia has no standing army or navy to defend Somali territory (including the territorial and adjacent, extraterritorial waters), such an operation is very doable.

To paraphrase H. Simpson: "Being President isn't so hard. You just point the Navy and shoot!"
11.17.2008 2:50pm
FantasiaWHT:
Civilian ships are no doubt prohibited from hostile response on their own.


Self-defense?
11.17.2008 2:53pm
Fub:
rarango wrote at 11.17.2008 2:48pm:
I believe letters of marque were outlawed by some mid 19th century treaty to which the US was signatory.
If you're referring to the Paris Declaration of 1856, the USA was not a signatory.
11.17.2008 3:00pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The Brit conundrum is interesting, isn't it?
Mark Steyn once remarked that the best way to get permanent asylum in Canada is to commit an act of terrorism in your home country, boogie to Canada and claim fear of horrible punishment if sent back.

Either the Brits have a well-founded fear that their law is written so that this asylum issue is likely to be as described--which could be amended--or they have some other reason to let the pirates alone and are sheltering behind a faulty description of the law.

Following some UK blogs makes me wonder if the law could actually be amended, considering the pandering to ethnic minorities and general foot-shooting which passes for public policy there.

If they have some other reason they'd rather not say, all I can think of is WOW.

I believe Blackwater has its oar in the water, so to speak, looking for clients.
11.17.2008 3:03pm
Smokey:
I believe letters of marque were outlawed by some mid 19th century treaty to which the US was signatory.
Which is yet another problem with signing any but the most essential treaties.

And L.O.S.T. is not essential.
11.17.2008 3:03pm
rarango (mail):
Fub: I was referring to it, so thanks for straightening me out!
11.17.2008 3:06pm
Archon (mail):

...US could support the ICC without triggering the usual issues for the US, by sending (or at least opening discussions on sending) captured pirates to trial at the ICC.


Hasn't the universally recognized penalty for piracy historically been summary execution? Why try them, when you can just hang 'em from the yard arm, keel hull them, and chuck them overboard.

After a few old fashion hangings I'm sure the piracy will stop pretty quickly.
11.17.2008 3:07pm
fortyninerdweet (mail):
Does anyone else think the piracy is but a symptom of a greater problem? Are we to treat the symptom and allow the problem to continue festering?

If so then we may likely deserve our fate whatever emerges as the next escalation of this Broadway farce called "The Nation of Somalia". Imo.
11.17.2008 3:13pm
Andrew Janssen (mail):
I'm generally no big fan of the death penalty, but the one exception is definitely piracy: getting caught red-handed in piracy should result in a date with a rope and yardarm; unless said pirate is willing to roll on his buddies on shore to the point where the Marines can go in and and take 'em out, in which case I'd settle for 25 to life, preferably in a Supermax.

The Somalis just grabbed a Saudi supertanker, the largest ship ever taken by pirates, 2 million barrel capacity and about 318,000 tons deadweight, about 400 miles off the Indian Ocean coast of Somalia. These roaches need to be stomped on, hard.
11.17.2008 3:15pm
Spartacus (www):
Or they could just send them to Gitmo.
11.17.2008 3:23pm
Tatil:

I'm generally no big fan of the death penalty, but the one exception is definitely piracy:

Out of curiosity: What is your reason to be against death penalty and why is piracy "the one exception"?
11.17.2008 3:25pm
fortyninerdweet (mail):
Offered in the interest of keeping things simple:

To be effective the uniform penalty for piracy must be summary execution, forthwith, [else everything on the world's plate begins turning soggy and unappetizing].
Followed, of course, by a brief video postmortem identity protocol for record keeping purposes, then prompt burial at sea.
11.17.2008 3:26pm
Fredrick (mail):
...although I think a traditional customary law court-martial of pirates at sea followed by (televised) hanging has its advantages, too.)

Actually, that hasn't been the traditional method for either the US or British in suppressing piracy. For the British, the Admiralty Courts that were authorized to try high seas piracy cases were inconveniently few (at least from the point of view of the Royal Navy) and sometimes far from the point of capture. Royal governors could try piracy cases, but only if the crime occured in their jurisdiction. In the US experience, piracy was tried in specific Federal courts, which, again were sometimes far away from where the US Navy captured the suspects. Neither country tried simple piracy cases in military courts.

In what was the US's largest anti-piracy campaign (Caribbean, 1820's) that designated court was in Washington DC, which caused no end of problems for the US commander, who had to pull ships off station to transport prisoners and send sailors to testify as witnesses. However, he did manage to get around this problem in at least some cases by coming to an agreement with the British to try some of the pirates in Jamaica (they did have an Admiralty Court there). Almost like an early form of "extradinary rendition".
11.17.2008 3:34pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Rarango: The area in question covers over one million square miles of the sea. The pirate boats are largely small wooden vessels or small power boats along the lines of a Mako or Boston Whaler.

There are not enough naval vessels in the region, under any flag, to patrol that size an area effectively. The boats used do not show up on satellites and barely register on radar.

I do agree that a uniform, harsh, and instant reprisal for piracy is desirable, but it's not easily attainable.

While we may not negotiate with terrorists--and piracy can certainly qualify under the rubric 'terrorism'--neither is the storming of a captured commercial vessel always desirable. Threats to their crews are real; threats to dump a few million barrels of oil into the sea are at least realistic. Negotiations might be useful on occasion.

I'm all for summary execution of pirates so long as the costs of doing that are reasonable.
11.17.2008 3:36pm
Houston Lawyer:
Since we are decommissioning the Warthog, we could take their 40mm cannons and mount them on oil tankers.

The Brits seem to have the same issues with Pirates that we have with the Gitmo detainees. Don't want to kill them, don't want to let them go.
11.17.2008 3:40pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I do agree this is an excellent foreign policy issue to undertake. Having said that, I am less concerned about piracy than the fact these pirates can evade the navies of five (I believe) nations."

They can't evade them. The navies can destroy them whenever they choose. However, in doing so, the pirates probably wouldn't have all the rights granted under the US Constitution, and some might not even be read their Miranda rights.

Then we could have endless discussions about using the military when there is no declared war, whether a warrant from a federal court was needed to board a suspect boat, where to detain any captured pirates, and whether they can appeal to US courts. White shoe firms could send pro bono lawyers to defend their rights, and Hollywood stars could march with sailor caps, duct taped hands, and nooses around their necks.

Perhaps some pirates actually used the internet for communications and the US intercepted a call routed through a server on US soil? If so, it would have a chilling effect on anyone sending a Mother's Day email to a Somali pirate. If one of the pirates was found to be a US citizen, the NYT could editorialize that all Americans have now lost the right to swim in the seas.

If the US acts against them, we would see world class hand wringing over the chilling effect on Somali subsistence fishermen and the lowered opinion of the US on the part of the world. CAIR could charge discrimination if he pirates are Muslim, and ABC TV could air tear jerking clips of the starving families of the dead pirates. CNN could respond with pictures of the broken pirate boat with a hastily lettered "Family Fishing Boat" on the stern.

Global warming enthusiasts would cheer the pirates as anti-bodies protecting Gaia from millions of tons of carbon lurkng in those oil tankers. And don't forget how Captain Hook is protecting all of us from that fearsome future twenty foor tide at Martha's Vineyard.

The Birkenstock crowd in neighborhood coffee houses (not Starbucks)who pride hemselves on being Citizens of the World could demand the US Navy be painted white and put under the command of a Swiss admiral. And has anyone noticed only black pirates are being targeted?

Do US Navy ships still have yard arms?
11.17.2008 3:42pm
teqjack (mail):
As with an earlier poster, I suspect the are legal restrictions keeping arms off civilian ships: recall that during both WWI and WWII accusations were made of this, and threats of sinking such shipping. Nor would companies want to be liable for misuse, or even for training (and increasng pay) crew.

But "equip some number of civilian vessels as decoys -- heavily armed and carrying marines," aka Q-ships, might be an option.

Oh, and Somalia is not a belligerant here, merely one of the places unable to control such activities: I believe the government is willing to accept off-shore armed interventions by other nations, with some limits.

Once pirates have actually seized a vessel, things become difficult as long as there remain hostages. Even after, snking a ship carrying armaments - or perhaps worse a laden super-tanker - would cause an uroar.
11.17.2008 3:45pm
Archon (mail):
I would propose that those arrested while engaged in active piracy should be given an immediate hearing with some sort of mininal procedural safeguards from the highest ranking officer available on the vessel where the pirate is being held in custody. There would only be one penalty - death. If found guilty, the penalty would be carried out on the spot or as quickly as logistically possible. There would be no appeal. Bodies would be disposed of at-sea in traditional naval fashion without religious ceremony (unless requested and can be readily performed.)

All reasonable efforts would be made to identify the convict, including a brief interrogation and photographing/videotaping, before sentence is carried out. Death records would be sent to the home country of the convict if possible.

If found not guilty, the person would be discharged as soon as possible to the authorities of their home country. If the home country refuses entry then the nation state holding the person in custody would start asylum proceedings.

I would apply this procedure only to those engaged in active piracy, such as attacking a ship or holding it for ransom, and not those accused of piracy but not actively engaged in it. For those who are accused but not engaged, I would propose more of a normal criminal justice route.
11.17.2008 3:54pm
M. Gross (mail):
There are serious physical issues with arming every bulk freighter and tanker that comes along. First of all, it requires a ridiculous number of gun emplacements to even give passible weapons coverage to an oil tanker. Secondly, it's far from a given that the scant crew can man all those weapons quickly, or destroy a speedboat with them.

I'm all for the Q-boats idea, or stalking civilian vessels in the area with submarines or Predators until the pirates show up.

Of course, none of those options are cheap.
11.17.2008 3:57pm
Captain Dan:
Arrrr, mateys, we'm not scared of the nancy boys in the Royal Navy. All we must needs do is call 'em names and take their iPods, and it'll break their spirits and make them blubber like babies right enough.

Cap'n Obama be welcome to sail abord the Raging Queen anytime!
11.17.2008 3:58pm
Lighten up Kansas:
Hey, maybe I use BitTorrent once in a while, so sue me already
11.17.2008 3:59pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Dozens or hundreds of ships are seized off US waters every year, but we don't call it piracy, we call it the coast guard. Some of what is going on off Somalialand is piracy, but much of it is just the routine operation of the coast guard there. The Somalialand political set up is a very unusual one,and outsiders are often confusing the legitimate authorities with pirates. First off, Somalialand, former British Somalia, should not be confused with Somali, former Italian Somalia. The two countries were briefly united during the 1990 era dictatorship, but Somalialand reasserted its independence afterwords. There is no central government in Somalialand. Clans, kinship networks roughly equivalent to counties, cooperate with each other through a system of customary tribal law called Xeer ("hair"). So, if you want to run your ships through Somaliland waters, you make a deal with one of the tribal councils or chiefs for safe passage.
If you haven't done this, of course you are fair game for any members of the coast guard - a very distributed ad hoc group, sort of operating under letters of marque.
Can anybody show me that any of the ships supposedly attacked by pirates did have prior negotiated safe passage arrangements? If so, then they can validly claim the people they were dealing with were pirates, and file a claim for compensation with the clan that had offered them safe passage. I understand why the mass media gets this story wrong time after time. But I would hope that VC would have a better understanding of these forms of polycentric law. Somalialand is a very interesting experiment in running a society without a central government. It's no utopia. It's poor, in a desert, violent, sexist, and usually under attack by the latest UN-backed force from ethiopia or kenya or somalia or whoever, but they've been holding on for 15 years and are likely to keep doing so.
It is in our interests both practically and theoretically to understand them so we can get along in peace. That would be a better accomplishment for the Obama administration than sending the marines.
11.17.2008 3:59pm
jb (mail):
"They can't evade them. The navies can destroy them whenever they choose."

What makes you think so? Nobody else seems to think this is true.
11.17.2008 4:00pm
rarango (mail):
John Burgess: I take your point about the size of the area involved, but these ships, as nearly as I can tell, operate from a shore. I would think that satellite surveillance of a more limited shoreline would give us some advance warning. We are doing quite well interdicting drug traffic coming into the US by sea. Now if the pirates operate off larger ships at sea, then my point doesnt apply--At this point, I don't know enough about naval capabilities to offer anything substantive as a tactic.
11.17.2008 4:01pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
Everyone in this thread seems to be missing the root of the problem: Trying to push the gun prohibition model on the world. With all the usual results - more crime and defenseless, victimized, law-abiding people and businesses.

These merchant ships should be allowed to carry light weapons for security and self-defense, subject to whatever rules the companies that own the ships set and some international laws focused on making sure they are only used in self-defense. They wouldn't need many arms, basically what average small town police officers carry on their person and in their car.

And this isn't some foreign concept, even in european countries some security personnel are armed - armored car drivers, couriers for diamond merchants, etc. So it's just the ongoing march of trying to force the prohibition model on everyone. Trying to frame the issue so that the notion that law-abiding people should be able to defend themselves isn't even on the table when it is the only effective solution.
11.17.2008 4:05pm
Hadur:
On letters of marque:

The United States is not a signature to the 1850's treaty banning letters of marque. This is why there were privateers during the Civil War. However, the United States is a signatory to an 1870's treaty prohibiting letters of marque; I believe the treaty is called the "London Convention", which is, unfortunately, a name shared by dozens of international agreements during the 19th century.

However, the proposal here is to use actual marines on board merchant vessels, or even for the US and other navies to launch and operate the decoys. I don't believe either requires a letter of marque, as the merchants themselves would not be armed.
11.17.2008 4:07pm
Spartacus (www):
Dozens or hundreds of ships are seized off US waters every year, but we don't call it piracy, we call it the coast guard.

Right, those aren't pirates, they're just the local militia coast guard!
11.17.2008 4:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Elliott
Nice description of the results of brisk action against pirates.
You may think you're describing the Birkenstock Bolshies at the local indie coffee shop.
Wrong.
You're describing VC.
However, since the election, things will probably change dramatically.
What once was bad will now be good, or at least ignorable.
11.17.2008 4:08pm
DG:
Misinformation is rife here. The crews are certainly permitted to be armed - there is no prohibition. The issue is the size of the crew, small number of watchstanders, and difficulty detecting small incoming boats during night. These are huge ships with a lot of territory to cover. The pirates aren't coming along to deliver a broadside - they are scaling the hull during darkness and cutting throats.

Captain Jack Sparrow this is not.
11.17.2008 4:12pm
Archon (mail):

Everyone in this thread seems to be missing the root of the problem: Trying to push the gun prohibition model on the world. With all the usual results - more crime and defenseless, victimized, law-abiding people and businesses.


If Johnny Taliban can shoot an AK-47 effectively I see no real reason why Johnny Sailor couldn't do the same.

I was actually very surprised to find out that almost no commercial ships have any kind of firearms or weapons. In case of unrest on board while underway, how is order kept by the captain and other officers?
11.17.2008 4:20pm
Cynzia DiPalermo:
Surely it unreasonable to ask Obama to persecute these people, when their only demonstrable "crimes" are poverty and a lack of opportunity.
11.17.2008 4:23pm
wfjag:

However, the proposal here is to use actual marines on board merchant vessels, or even for the US and other navies to launch and operate the decoys. I don't believe either requires a letter of marque, as the merchants themselves would not be armed.

During the "Tanker War" (when during the Iran-Iraq War, Iran was shooting missles at tankers) didn't we simply flag tankers leaving Saudi and Kuwati ports as US flag vessels and tell the Iranians that firing on a US flag vessel was an act of war against the US, in response to which the US Navy would respond "appropriately"? As I recall, that stopped the attacks on the tankers. I'd think that something similar would work, here.

The first Law of War is "War isn't fun when the other guy shoots back". With unarmed merchant ships and lack of real response by nations with naval power, the continual pirate attacks hardly seems surprising.
11.17.2008 4:23pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
DG-

Misinformation is rife here. The crews are certainly permitted to be armed - there is no prohibition. The issue is the size of the crew, small number of watchstanders, and difficulty detecting small incoming boats during night. These are huge ships with a lot of territory to cover. The pirates aren't coming along to deliver a broadside - they are scaling the hull during darkness and cutting throats.

Are you certain? All the news reports I've seen seemed to imply the crews were unarmed.

But if they are allowed to be armed then it looks like it's a personnel, training, and equipment issue. A couple extra men per ship with the right training should be able to prevent that type of event.
11.17.2008 4:24pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Why is this a U.S. problem? The tanker is flying a Librerian flag - let the Liberian Navy protect them. Seriously, if a shipping company does not want to submit to the jurisdiction of the US (and pay US taxes) why should I pay for the navy patrols to protect them?

As far as merchantmen arming themselves, the whole Letters of Marque thing is a red herring. Letters were a license to attack other ships. I don't know of any authority which ever limited merchant mariners' rights of self-defense in international waters.

Of course, there is an argument that it is in US interests to suppress international lawlessness generally. Maybe a better approach than direct US naval action would be for the US to encourage the Gulf states, whose traffic is directly affected, to deal with this. They have coast guards, and we could supply logistical support (underway refueling and resupply, for example) if they can't get in Socotra (Yemen) or Djibouti.
11.17.2008 4:27pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Why is this a U.S. problem? The tanker is flying a Librerian flag - let the Liberian Navy protect them. Seriously, if a shipping company does not want to submit to the jurisdiction of the US (and pay US taxes) why should I pay for the navy patrols to protect them?

As far as merchantmen arming themselves, the whole Letters of Marque thing is a red herring. Letters were a license to attack other ships. I don't know of any authority which ever limited merchant mariners' rights of self-defense in international waters.

Of course, there is an argument that it is in US interests to suppress international lawlessness generally. Maybe a better approach than direct US naval action would be for the US to encourage the Gulf states, whose traffic is directly affected, to deal with this. They have coast guards, and we could supply logistical support (underway refueling and resupply, for example) if they can't get in Socotra (Yemen) or Djibouti.
11.17.2008 4:27pm
PLR:
Why is this a U.S. problem? The tanker is flying a Librerian flag - let the Liberian Navy protect them. Seriously, if a shipping company does not want to submit to the jurisdiction of the US (and pay US taxes) why should I pay for the navy patrols to protect them?

Since we can't sell the world our cars, maybe we should make the whole rent-a-cop arrangement a formal one. I've heard that some security firms pull down some decent coin (Blackwater something-or-other).
11.17.2008 4:35pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Some problems have practical aspects.
In this case, there is no practical reason that the pirates could not be exterminated with two days' planning, presuming it hasn't been done, and two hours' work.
In this case, the difficulty is entirely a matter of will.
The pirates know it. They operate in the lacuna between nations' will and nations' capabilities and seem quite sure they can carry on indefinitely. I expect they're right.
As always, there are others watching and learning. How to find that lacuna.
11.17.2008 4:35pm
Hoosier:
Why try them, when you can just hang 'em from the yard arm, keel hull them, and chuck them overboard.

No yardarms. And keel-hauling isn't really effective without barnacles.

I bet these guys don't even talk like real pirates!
11.17.2008 4:36pm
Hoosier:
I don't know of any authority which ever limited merchant mariners' rights of self-defense in international waters.

This came up as an issue in WWI. There was certaily a presumption at in 1914 and '15 that merchant marine ships would not be armed. But this was directed at submaries, which were in serious danger if they surfaced to warn a merchant crew to abandon ship, only to find it was armed; a sub was then a sitting duck.

I can't imagine how this would apply to pirates operating surface vessels. But I know nothing about law of the sea that doesn't apply to slave trades. So perhaps . . .
11.17.2008 4:40pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
arbitraryaardvark - you may want to review how President Jefferson dealt with the Tripolitanian coast guard.

Of course, you're right in a sense that the problem here is that local custom conflicts with broadly accepted international law. But I see no reason why foreign merchantment have less of a right to impose their customs (prohibiting piracy) than the locals do.
11.17.2008 4:41pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
I had a conversation with a US Navy officer ... who suggested that the best military course of action would be to equip some number of civilian vessels as decoys -- heavily armed and carrying marines. The best thing, he said, would be for Somali pirates to attack, and then be aggressively counterattacked, in a battle, not the serving of an arrest warrant -- sink their vessel and kill as many pirates as possible. It would send a message to pirates that they could not know which apparently civilian vessels might instead instead counterattack....

I wonder how many boxes of tissue and containers of hand lotion they went through during this conversation.
11.17.2008 4:41pm
Hoosier:
Archon

In case of unrest on board while underway, how is order kept by the captain and other officers?

That surprised me as well. I'm a historian, so I often work with outdata information; actually, that's the job description.

That said, I know that it was s.o.p. in the not-so-remote past that the captain and first mate had firearms under lock and key, to be taken out in case of mutiny. Does this no longer hold?
11.17.2008 4:44pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Why is this a U.S. problem? The tanker is flying a Librerian flag - let the Liberian Navy protect them. Seriously, if a shipping company does not want to submit to the jurisdiction of the US (and pay US taxes) why should I pay for the navy patrols to protect them?"

Because the ship was bound for a US port, and its cargo would generate a huge amount of tax revenue for US federal, state, and local governments. Your suggestion would let anyone cut off oil shipments to the US or any other country. Why should you pay to protect the oil you burn in your car?
11.17.2008 4:45pm
Hoosier:
But I see no reason why foreign merchantment have less of a right to impose their customs (prohibiting piracy) than the locals do.

Especially on the high seas, where local custom is irrelevant, and law-of-the-sea and rights of the flag are dispositive.
11.17.2008 4:46pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Arbitrary Ardvark,

I do not know wether the situation you describe is truthful or not, but if it is then it would seem very much a replay of the Barbary pirates. In which case I suppose the USN will get interested around the time US flagged vessels start getting attacked. Not that I suspect there are all that many US flagged vessels around, we seem to have done everything possible to discourage that.
11.17.2008 4:51pm
DG:
(That said, I know that it was s.o.p. in the not-so-remote past that the captain and first mate had firearms under lock and key, to be taken out in case of mutiny. Does this no longer hold?)

Many merchant ships do indeed have an arms locker.

Folks here are getting confused over ships being armed and small arms for the crew, which are entirely separate issues. Small arms are fine. There are issues with merchant ships having deck guns or machine guns that are turret mounted. Not that those would do much good in these cases.

Even cruise ships have well-equipped small arms lockers.
11.17.2008 4:52pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Why is this a U.S. problem? The tanker is flying a Librerian flag - let the Liberian Navy protect them. Seriously, if a shipping company does not want to submit to the jurisdiction of the US (and pay US taxes) why should I pay for the navy patrols to protect them?

Actually, this is precisely the point. One of the benefits of a ship flying the American flag is that it would be a big deal if one were captured. You can bet that these ships are not U.S. or even British flagged ships.

The shipping companies have flocked to flags of convenience to avoid the inconvenience and expense of having American crews and complying with U.S. and European safety, environmental and fitness standards. Now that piracy is back in vogue these companies suddenly want the help of the countries they turned their backs on to save a few bucks.
11.17.2008 4:59pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Regarding mutiny etc, I suspect that it is simply much less of a problem when voyages don't take months or years. Also general living and working conditions are so much better that the underlying causes of revolt against the captain of a merchant ship seem far less likely. That is not to say that individual sailors might not lose it on occasion, but organized mutiny seems unlikely.

It also seems far less likely that a modern crew could succeed in stealing a vessel and taking the cargo elsewhere, who is going to accept a stolen supertanker of crude oil? Especially when the likely destinations don't have the refining capacity to deal with it.
11.17.2008 5:04pm
Hoosier:
J. F. Thomas

Well, that's a good point. Did the shipping companies really expect that the Liberian Navy could protect against insults to the Liberian flag on the high seas? Or that Liberia has any interest in "its shipping" that goes beyond the fees that it collects?
11.17.2008 5:13pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
DG: I agree tht it is not customary now for merchant ships to carry arms other than small arms. It was, however, customary during and prior to the 19th century (when these ships operated in areas where European ideas of international law were not enforced). Do you know of any authority (a statute, or a treaty) prohibiting merchant ships from having heavy weapons?

As far as weapons/mutiny goes, there is less of a distinction between naval and merchant ships than the comments seem to suggest. Common naval seamen in the age of sail did not have access to individual arms unless / until boarding was imminent. If you visit a historic naval ship, you'll see that the sailors' arms were kept under lock and key. One of the functions of the marines (who were armed) was as a check against mutiny by the sailors.
11.17.2008 5:17pm
DG:
I know of no legal prohibition against heavy weapons on board merchant ships. However, the ability of a ship armed in that manner, to make port, may be impacted.

In this case - a deck gun would be pretty ineffective against pirates. There have been sonic weapons deployed by cruise ships, however. I imagine an active denial system could really come in handy.

All, in all, I think I'd rather have a well trained crew with semi-automatic rifles, along with a few grenade launchers. A 50cal with a sniper scope would be useful, if you've got someone who can use it. You're probably screwed if you let them board - got to dissuade them from getting on board.
11.17.2008 5:27pm
jb (mail):
"You're probably screwed if you let them board - got to dissuade them from getting on board."

That's the problem. They attack under cover of night, with several small boats and are armed with automatic weapons and RPGs. Very difficult to defend against with a small crew untrained for combat no matter how well armed.
11.17.2008 5:31pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
DG: Do you know of any port or country that restricts ships' entry based on (non-nuclear) armament?
11.17.2008 5:39pm
Bama 1L:
The Prize Rules in effect during the World Wars (and today as far as I know) envision merchant vessels carrying light armament for repelling pirates. A warship conducting cruiser warfare was not entitled to fire on a merchantman merely because she carried armament. The merchantman was protected from violence as long as she hove to when challenged.

Historically the rules broke down because even the lightest armament--say a single 3" deck gun--could be turned against a submarine. Masters of such vessels sometimes fought; submarine commanders, fearing this, stayed below and torpedoed.

I think the problems would come when the vessel tried to make port or possibly with insurers.

Most of the solutions proposed are inapt. The problem is that modern merchantmen are huge and have small complements, meaning that it's easy for the pirates to sneak aboard and overpower the crew. It's not as though the pirates sail up flying the Jolly Roger.
11.17.2008 5:47pm
Bama 1L:
Actually, I have a relative who is a merchant seaman serving aboard US-flag vessels--big ro-ros, that kind of thing. About ten years ago he told me that they would put on extra lookouts when traversing certain restricted waters. He identified some straits in Indonesia as being the danger area he'd traversed. You'd be looking for small boats coming toward the vessel.

There were small arms and ammunition in a locker. If required the master would hand them out. He said they'd never seen anything, so the weapons stayed in the locker. No indication of training. (But really, why? The pirates aren't looking for a fight; a few shots would scare them off.)

He also said the safe contained over a million dollars in U.S. currency to pay for emergency repairs or provisions. Maybe that is a sea story.
11.17.2008 5:58pm
Johnny Lumumba:
It's not as though the pirates sail up flying the Jolly Roger.


OK, how about proactively, going forward, killing the crew of any Boston Whaler-type boat, manned by bearded noisome fellows, who closely approach any legitimate merchant ship off the coast of Africa?
11.17.2008 6:07pm
Hadur:
WJ Jag:


During the "Tanker War" (when during the Iran-Iraq War, Iran was shooting missles at tankers) didn't we simply flag tankers leaving Saudi and Kuwati ports as US flag vessels and tell the Iranians that firing on a US flag vessel was an act of war against the US, in response to which the US Navy would respond "appropriately"? As I recall, that stopped the attacks on the tankers. I'd think that something similar would work, here.


There's a key difference here: credibility of threat. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a very large country with many juicy targets: large navy ships, cities, port facilities, etc. A threat to bomb Iran (or fire ship-based missiles at Iran, etc.) from the US is credible, because there is no doubt that we can do it.

The US can much less credibly make these threats against small pirate craft, because they can be difficult to find. The threat is less credible because the target is smaller and swifter.
11.17.2008 6:09pm
Bama 1L:
OK, how about proactively, going forward, killing the crew of any Boston Whaler-type boat, manned by bearded noisome fellows, who closely approach any legitimate merchant ship off the coast of Africa?

The trick is to see the pirates before they are onboard.
11.17.2008 6:14pm
A Conservative Teacher (mail) (www):
I heard he is sending a peace delegation to meet with the pirates, with no pre-conditions. I think the pirates need a bailout and improved work conditions, which Obama is sure to grant them.
11.17.2008 6:16pm
Franke G.:
There's a key difference here: credibility of threat. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a very large country with many juicy targets: large navy ships, cities, port facilities, etc. A threat to bomb Iran (or fire ship-based missiles at Iran, etc.) from the US is credible, because there is no doubt that we can do it.

The US can much less credibly make these threats against small pirate craft, because they can be difficult to find. The threat is less credible because the target is smaller and swifter.

Hey, these people are Somalians. Somalia is responsible for the acts of their nationals. If they can't control their fellows, bomb them back to the stone age.

Whoops, are they currently in the stone age?

Sorry if many feel that these gents just need more education and mid-nite basketballs, and they'd stop their gut-dam piracies.

Adopting a broader view, including Africa and the Middle East, the current American position is billions for tribute; it would "offint" peoples if we made a defense.

Anyone see the recent photo of Pres. Bush holding hands! with Arab King Abdulla? Why don't these third world dopes have persons like Laeticia Baldridge to inform them of how things go in civilized countries?

Why, oh why, do our leaders force themselves into uncivilized behaviors? They are only despised for their weakness in approving "going-native" "lifestyles."

Recall photographs of Franklin Roosevelt looking on indulgently while King Saud gutted and grilled a sheep abord our presidential yacht?
11.17.2008 6:46pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Does anyone have any idea why the countries most directly affected (the countries of the Persian Gulf) are not taking action here? The pirates don't seem to be heavily armed, so they could be contained by a minimally capable coast guard which was willing to actually fight them.

My take on it is that there is no reason for the Gulf powers to deal with the issue so long as the US, Britain, Russia, etc. seem willing to do it for them. I don't think that's an attitude we want to encourage.
11.17.2008 6:56pm
Elliot123 (mail):
This isn't happening in the Persian Gulf. It takes a blue water navy, not a coast guard.
11.17.2008 7:04pm
Katl L (mail):
Dozens or hundreds of ships are seized off US waters every year, but we don't call it piracy, we call it the coast guard.

Right, those aren't pirates, they're just the local militia coast guard!

They are not pirate because they arent at open sea. Blackbeard was not tried for piracy because he attacked only in the coastal area

Any court in the world can put them to trial under international conventions .However, some countries only would do that if they go by their own will.That is if ,like Pinochet ,they go to any western county then they can be put to trial
11.17.2008 7:05pm
Farfel:
My take on it is that there is no reason for the Gulf powers to deal with the issue so long as the US, Britain, Russia, etc. seem willing to do it for them. I don't think that's an attitude we want to encourage.

******************************

Googling can bring up a paper by a US Army officer in re: Arab soldiers' capabilities.

The so-called upper class Arab officers treat their charges with arrogance and contempt. In return, the troops don't maintain their weapons and are, in general, lazy and recalcitrant.
11.17.2008 7:07pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
jb-

That's the problem. They attack under cover of night, with several small boats and are armed with automatic weapons and RPGs. Very difficult to defend against with a small crew untrained for combat no matter how well armed.

I might be mistaken, but don't they have to climb up an external ladder or rope ladder or something to board from water level?

If so, as Bama 1L's comment suggests...

About ten years ago he told me that they would put on extra lookouts when traversing certain restricted waters. He identified some straits in Indonesia as being the danger area he'd traversed. You'd be looking for small boats coming toward the vessel.

...a couple armed lookouts to make sure no one boarded or even approached too closely would probably eliminate nearly all the risk.
11.17.2008 7:17pm
q:

The shipping companies have flocked to flags of convenience to avoid the inconvenience and expense of having American crews and complying with U.S. and European safety, environmental and fitness standards. Now that piracy is back in vogue these companies suddenly want the help of the countries they turned their backs on to save a few bucks.

Yeah, they're not Americans, so fuck 'em.
11.17.2008 7:26pm
ObeliskToucher:
Perhaps it's a radical solution, but simply announce that any ship taken by these pirates would be either boarded or sunk without warning or negotiation -- and then begin doing so withe current set of ships. Losses among the ship's crews would be compensated appropriately through insurance or some other mechanism (the ships are presumably insured, so that would be one avenue).
11.17.2008 7:38pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
What Mahan Atma said.

The reason owners of merchant vessels will not arm their crews is that that would guarantee the murder of every crew on every ship that was attacked.

If the size of the crew were doubled, the pirates would double their crew.

That's why piracy has always been treated as such a heinous crime. At sea, you have no recourse to society to help protect you.

I have read, by now, thousands of comments by gun nuts, and they never imagine that they will be overmatched when it comes to firearms.

Even putting Marines on board ships wouldn't work. There aren't enough Marines.

This is, however, the only aspect of Somalia's lack of a government that can be made to work to our advantage.

Pick a port, any port. Send in a landing force and burn and blow up every vessel in it, down to the last dinghy. Spread the word that after the next pirate attack, every port on the Somali coast will be dealt with similarly.

The Somalis, Eritreans etc. along that coast don't eat without boats. They'll get the message.
11.17.2008 7:50pm
Brian Mac:

Meanwhile, the British have instructed their navy to ignore pirates, out of the remarkable fear that any captured Somali pirates might have asylum claims on metropolitan Britain. I am not alone in thinking this an ignominious day for Britain.

Maybe you guys can take the lead, and we'll jump in towards the end of the conflict and claim the victory spoils, just like old times. Oh, wait...
11.17.2008 7:56pm
ObeliskToucher:
Pick a port, any port. Send in a landing force and burn and blow up every vessel in it, down to the last dinghy. Spread the word that after the next pirate attack, every port on the Somali coast will be dealt with similarly.

Unfortunately, collective punishment is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Of course, it's possible to make the argument that the pirates aren't covered by the Conventions... but their extension to other insurgencies by the International Complaining Societies (Amnesty Intl, UN, etc) suggests that this isn't a winning argument.
11.17.2008 8:20pm
Alexia:
Why does it always have to be us? Can't Russia or Britain do it, just once?
11.17.2008 8:29pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
I don't see why this problem requires a "blue water navy." None of the pirates are reported to have a vessel which could stand up to a coastal patrol craft. Most of the activity is reported to be in the Gulf of Aden, which is not more than 300 miles wide. The Gulf could easily be patroled from bases in Yemen (Aden and Socotra, both of which have good airports and harbors).

The Saudi Navy is reported to have 3 frigates, as well as many smaller craft. The Egyptian navy has 4 Oliver Hazzard Perry class frigates, among other forces. Other states in the region have well armed patrol boats.

It is not a matter of the governments in the region lacking the *ability* to suppress piracy, it is a matter of them lacking the political *will.* I can see why they'd prefer to have Western powers deal with it, but I don't think its in the US interest to take up this task, because (1) we shouldn't have to pay for it; (2) it will expose us to criticism; and (3) it is in our interest to build up the capacity of the governments in the region to deal with things like this. Strong stable allies are preferable to weak, irresponsible clients.
11.17.2008 8:31pm
Lugo:
...a couple armed lookouts to make sure no one boarded or even approached too closely would probably eliminate nearly all the risk.

Too bad all the hundreds of victims of pirate attacks every year were too stupid to think of that. Bet they'll slap their foreheads ("D'oh - we coulda posted armed lookouts!") when they read this VC entry!
11.17.2008 8:38pm
MarkField (mail):

Unfortunately, collective punishment is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.


Unfortunately?
11.17.2008 9:32pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Would it be collective punishment if you dropped leaflets giving everybody two hours to get out of town?
Or simply sank every boat in the harbor?
11.17.2008 9:36pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I don't see why this problem requires a "blue water navy." None of the pirates are reported to have a vessel which could stand up to a coastal patrol craft. Most of the activity is reported to be in the Gulf of Aden, which is not more than 300 miles wide. The Gulf could easily be patroled from bases in Yemen (Aden and Socotra, both of which have good airports and harbors)."

"The huge, oil laden prize, which is three times the size of a US aircraft carrier, was some 450 miles east of Kenya when it was boarded, he said."

Admiral Michael Mullen,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php? id=081117210253.5ytwrjh7&show_article=1
11.17.2008 9:47pm
LM (mail):
Last century we fought a war with ninjas. Now it's pirates. I don't know where the next attack will come from, but it would be minimally prudent to prepare a defense to robots and cowboys.
11.17.2008 9:58pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
wfjag: You misremember the reflagging of Kuwait tankers.

Not only did the reflagging show that it might be dangerous to attack said vessels, it was dangerous. The US Navy and Coast Guard were deployed to the Persian Gulf to physically protect the tankers.

US Helicopters flew oversight missions as well as attack missions. Several Iranian vessels were sunk by helicopters.

US Naval patrol vessels traveled with the tankers on at least the most dangerous legs of their passage through the Gulf. Those ships also sank Iranian boats and ships. Unfortunately, one also took down an Iranian civilian aircraft.

The threat was considerably more dangerous than the pirates off the coast of East Africa as it also included sea mines and the possibility of land-based missiles in addition to aircraft. The last two never eventuated, but many tankers--including the non-US-flagged ones--took hits from a variety of RPGs, hit mines, were boarded by Iranian irregular forces, etc.

There continues to be piracy in the Malacca Straits in Indonesia and the Gulf of Siam, but that threat has waned as the Indian Ocean threat has waxed.

There is also low level piracy taking place in the Gulf Stream, off the coast of Florida. Private boats have been boarded by drug runners, the owners and crew killed and thrown overboard (or simply thrown overboard a 100 miles off land), and the boats then used for drug running. The US and Bahamian Coast Guards try to control that. I think the UK's Royal Navy may have a hand in that as well.
11.17.2008 10:02pm
ReaderY:
It would appear a better way to avoid liability for harming tha pirate's human rights is to shoot them. Only if one lets them live they might get onto ones territory where there human rights could be harmed and they might apply for asylem. Shooting before this happens avoids this possibility and seems a reasonable enough way to avoid the liability involved.

If courts decide to call off liability for these sorts of things, perhaps the shooting could stop and another policy could be considered. Until then, the shooting ought to continue until morale improves.
11.17.2008 10:07pm
XON:
You really can't talk about this problem until you grapple with the issues discussed here
11.17.2008 10:08pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I neglected to mention the role that crew size plays in self-protection.

The Saudi tanker seized today is reported by CNN to be three times the size of a US aircraft carrier. But it has a crew of only 25, versus the near-5,000 of an aircraft carrier.

The crew would have to patrol 660 meters (the ship is 330 meters long), greater than the length of six football fields, 24/7.

Maybe the crews are too small. Maybe the owners need to add 50 watch-standers with arms and night vision equipment. As currently constituted, though, the crews are incapable of providing the level of surveillance necessary to assure safety.
11.17.2008 10:09pm
ReaderY:
If it were me I'd prefer the one-hour common-law-trial-and-hang-them-from-a-yardarm approach, and I posting video in these circumstances has obvious value where the point is to send a message.

The problem is that courts might consider U.S. vessels, like Guantanamo Bay, to be U.S. territory.
11.17.2008 10:12pm
Ricardo (mail):
Dozens or hundreds of ships are seized off US waters every year, but we don't call it piracy, we call it the coast guard. Some of what is going on off Somalialand is piracy, but much of it is just the routine operation of the coast guard there. The Somalialand political set up is a very unusual one,and outsiders are often confusing the legitimate authorities with pirates.

First, most of the pirates operate out of Puntland, not Somaliland so this doesn't apply. Second, these acts of piracy take place in international waters outside the jurisdiction of any coast guard or ragtag bunch of thugs who want to declare themselves a coast guard.

Why is this a U.S. problem? The tanker is flying a Librerian flag - let the Liberian Navy protect them. Seriously, if a shipping company does not want to submit to the jurisdiction of the US (and pay US taxes) why should I pay for the navy patrols to protect them?

Will your opinion change if the pirates start beheading the American citizen crew members and posting the videos on youtube? Also, to the extent those American crew members spend most of their time on international waters, I believe they still pay federal income tax on their earnings as they would not qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion.
11.17.2008 10:13pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Seriously, if a shipping company does not want to submit to the jurisdiction of the US (and pay US taxes) why should I pay for the navy patrols to protect them?"

How about police protection for the 40% of Americans who don't pay income taxes?
11.17.2008 10:29pm
DG:
{...a couple armed lookouts to make sure no one boarded or even approached too closely would probably eliminate nearly all the risk.}

heh. I think you grossly underestimate the size of these cargo vessels. You would also need a huge amount of lighting and an actual increase in crew sizes. Not impossible, but costly. The insurers will make them do it.
11.17.2008 10:37pm
DG:
{Last century we fought a war with ninjas. Now it's pirates. I don't know where the next attack will come from, but it would be minimally prudent to prepare a defense to robots and cowboys.}

Robots and cowboys? Dude, thats us.
11.17.2008 10:39pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
When I was in the Army, forty years ago, Ground Surveillance Radar was pretty slick.
By this time, the technology is probably more sophisticated, smaller, and cheaper. I wonder if it could be programmed to differentiate between boats and waves and beep or fart or something if it got a positive hit. Nobody would actually have to be watching the screen.
Hell, fishfinders for lake fishing are sonar. Could that be filtered to pick up the high-frequency noises of small, fast craft without interference from the merchie's own engines and wash? I don't mean going to Cabela's for it. But the technology is cheap.

But, again, we talk of ways and means without referring to will. There is a surfeit of one and a shortage of the other.
11.17.2008 11:17pm
JKB:
Well, the pirate issue just got to be a big deal. Pirates took a Saudi supertanker well out to sea and south of the naval patrol areas.

At a minimum, the Saudi and other Gulf intel agencies should start getting active and not worrying about the liberals back home.

Somali pirates hijack Saudi tanker loaded with oil
11.17.2008 11:28pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
For an interesting map of reported pirate attacks, see

http://www.icc-ccs.org/
11.17.2008 11:37pm
Elmer:
According to one of those linked articles, some attacks were "repelled". If such repulsions didn't kill lots of pirates, and successful captures get a million dollar ransom, it is unsurprising that piracy is a growth industry. Killing 100 pirates per megabuck payout may well be a sustainable loss for the pirate management. Refusal to pay ransom, as the Ukrainians are doing so far, would destroy their industry, thus qualifying them for a bailout.
11.18.2008 1:21am
Harry Eagar (mail):
'collective punishment is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention'

All the more reason to withdraw from the convention, which has never protected Americans.

Fighting piracy isn't rocket science. The effective method has been known and used since the time of Julius Caesar.

Pirates have the same advantage of seapower vs. navies that navies enjoy against land powers: mobility, surprise, ability to avoid strong points and attack only weak targets.

Consequently, the only effective attack against seapower of state navies is also the only effective method against pirates: deprive them of bases.
11.18.2008 3:40am
Brian Mac:

At a minimum, the Saudi and other Gulf intel agencies should start getting active and not worrying about the liberals back home.

Unintentional thread winner!
11.18.2008 4:07am
Litigator-London:
Houston Lawyer wrote:-

"Since we are decommissioning the Warthog, we could take their 40mm cannons and mount them on oil tankers."

Oh yes, and who on board is going to see the bad guys coming, how are the cannons (manned by whom?) going to fire down a 10 metre vertical wall of steel and do you want to see the consequences of using shells around a LNG carrier? With all the oil and gas expertise in Houston, I would have expected a better appreciation of the issues.

PDX Lawyer wrote:-

"Why is this a U.S. problem? The tanker is flying a Liberian flag - let the Liberian Navy protect them. Seriously, if a shipping company does not want to submit to the jurisdiction of the US (and pay US taxes) why should I pay for the navy patrols to protect them?"

Answer - because the oil the US needs to import comes in such vessels. The Liberian Registry, is administered by the Liberian International Ship &Corporate Registry (LISCR, LLC), a U.S. owned and operated company headquartered in Vienna, Virginia (outside Washington, D.C.). After Panama, Liberia is the second largest FOC registry in the world -- with well over 2,600 ships of 80 million gross tons, which represents 10 percent of the world's ocean going fleet. The US Merchant Marine presently numbers just 465 ships of about 10 million tons, just 76 of which are tankers. Most vessels ultimately owned by the US oil companies or used to transport oil and gas to US refineries are on FOC registries. Check the registration of the M/V "Condoleezza Rice".

John Burgess wrote:

"There are not enough naval vessels in the region, under any flag, to patrol that size an area effectively. The boats used do not show up on satellites and barely register on radar. I do agree that a uniform, harsh, and instant reprisal for piracy is desirable, but it's not easily attainable. While we may not negotiate with terrorists--and piracy can certainly qualify under the rubric 'terrorism'--neither is the storming of a captured commercial vessel always desirable. Threats to their crews are real; threats to dump a few million barrels of oil into the sea are at least realistic. Negotiations might be useful on occasion."

I agree - here are some facts:

1. There have thus far been 66 pirate attacks off the coast of Aden, 9 off the coast of Somalia and 11 off the coast of Kenya/Tanzania. But if one looks at the International Maritime Bureau's data in particular its piracy incident map IMB Piracy Map there are quite a number of piracy hot-spots and piracy is a major problem in a number of areas, such as the Malacca Straights. It will be seen that all the hotspots are at choke points where vessels have to pass or undertake a long and costly detour.

2. There is no way a vessel like the "Sirius Star" can defend itself against a boarding party in fast boats equipped with rocket powered grappling irons. The "Sirius Star" is a VLCC of 318,000 DWT. That compares to the USS "Carl Vinson" which is, I believe of only 97,000 DWT. But while the USS "Carl Vinson" has a complement of 3,200, in the ship's company and 2,480 in the air wing and an operating speed above 30 knots, the "Sirius Star" has a completement of 25 and will have an operating speed of around 12-15 knots. It would not be able to take any evasive or defensive action against assault from fast boats with a low-or non-existent radar signature.

3. The cargo on the "Sirius Star" will be about 2 million barrels of oil worth about US$100 million. The vessel and cargo will be insured - in fact the recent spate of incidents around the Red Sea has meant that the insurance premiums for passage through the Gulf of Aden have risen about 10 fold. The very last thing the insurers will want is an ill-considered naval assault on the vessel - they will negotiate a ransom. Consider the consequences of the cargo being released into the Red Sea. The Exxon Valdez was only carrying 1.2 million barrels of crude. Then consider the possible impact of assaults on LNG carriers in the same sea lanes.

I think that if proper consideration is given to the problem, t will be appreciated that given the vast sea area and the size of the world's navies, naval patrols on the high seas can only be a relatively ineffective part of the solution - the real requirement is to have stable and effective government in the littoral nations and patrols along the littoral so as to intercept the pirate boats before they get out to the shipping lanes. If the littoral nations are stable, then there is no problem with boarding the pirate vessels, or sinking them if they resist and transporting any survivors to the nearest port to get their just deserts.

The promotion of such stability in the littoral nations is primarily the task of the institutions of the international community of nations. i.e., those very institutions the USA has done so much to weaken over the last 8 years (particularly while John Bolton was US Ambassador to the UN). Hopefully the next Administration will pursue a more rational and less unilateralist policy.
11.18.2008 5:59am
Litigator-London:
PS: The Royal Navy does not ignore pirates:

See: Navy hands over pirate suspects - BBC
11.18.2008 7:02am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Litigator-London.
How were the international organizations of nations doing in promoting stability before the hated Bush showed up?
Not so hot, is how.
But you had to get that last graf in.
Give it a rest.
Things are going to get worse, not better, and you're going to have to swallow and pretend to like it, because Bush is gone.
Gonna be tough to be you.
11.18.2008 7:52am
Litigator-London:
Richard Aubrey:

The answer is that the UN has never been perfect at any time since its formation in 1945. But an imperfect solution is better than none at all.

At least prior to Bush 2, there was some effort on the part of the USA to foster international co-ordination of peace enforcement and good government. For example in Bosnia, which although still not perfect, is progressing.

Things may well get worse before they get better by reason of the damage which has been done in the last 8 years, but, as this pirate issue shows, abandoning efforts at promoting peace and good government by other nations can give rise to problems.

Until now, the anarchy in Somalia seem to have of no interest to the US other than for the purpose of making Hollywood movies. Now, perhaps, there is an understanding that out of the way places can impact on national interest.

Unfortunately, Bush is not yet gone, but the clock is ticking and the world will be mightily pleased to see a US Administration less prove to act as a rogue state with nukes.
11.18.2008 9:47am
Litigator-London:
correction - "less prone to act" penultimate line.
11.18.2008 9:49am
Bama 1L:
Maybe the crews are too small. Maybe the owners need to add 50 watch-standers with arms and night vision equipment. As currently constituted, though, the crews are incapable of providing the level of surveillance necessary to assure safety.

I suspect the cost-benefit analysis has been done and we are living with its results.
11.18.2008 9:58am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Litigator
Neither Bosnia or Kossovo was addressed with any degree of success until the Americans decided to get all cowboy.
I live near Canada and got the CBC where the UN commander-Canuck name of McKenzie-after his tour was over--was explaining just exactly how incredibly counterproductive and ineffective and generally stupid the UN command was. So let's not try to kid a kidder, okay?
Somalia go okay?
I recall a Brit officer in the Balkans saying, in frustration and no doubt humiliation, when a UN chopper had been shot at and hit, but fortunately not destroyed, "I hope they try that with the Americans. They have big helicopters with big guns and they can see in the dark." That was about the time that the First Armored Division was moving south.

As I say, you're going to get a lot of practice pretending to like what's coming.
11.18.2008 10:16am
Hoosier:
but it would be minimally prudent to prepare a defense to robots and cowboys

Cowboys? I don't know what you do.

But the robot problem was solved by Dwight Schrute III. You just make them all AC, and give them 6' extension cords. That way, when they turn on us--And they will--they can't chase us.
11.18.2008 10:35am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Then there was Rwanda where the UNcrat in charge of looking for genocide was spiking reports of genocide. He was rewarded by being elected SG.
And Clinton ordered his minions not to use the "g" word because that would legally require action he didn't want to take.
And the UN was driving Gen. Dallaire literally mad.

And a UNcrat said they wanted scarier troops in Haiti, which is to say, US soldiers. I guess the hope was the Yanks would get all medieval on the tontons' ass and the UN could say, "we never envisioned that level of brutality", while congratulating themselves on solving the problem.

Practice, Litigator. "Yum yum." Say it over and over.
11.18.2008 10:48am
Hoosier:
Litigator-London

I like you. You're really a caricature of the anti-American European. I bet dollars to doughnuts that you read the Guardian. Keep it up!
11.18.2008 11:10am
Litigator - Madrid (mail):
Quoting Litigator - London:


Now, perhaps, there is an understanding that out of the way places can impact on national interest.


Such an understanding already exists in the United States. This is why the President has phone lines and a big jet.


Things may well get worse before they get better by reason of the damage which has been done in the last 8 years, but, as this pirate issue shows, abandoning efforts at promoting peace and good government by other nations can give rise to problems.


You are hedging. If things get better, it's because Bush is gone. If things get worse, it's Bush. I know it's gray in London, but I suspect it's not so simple.
11.18.2008 11:26am
Wahoowa:
Wow, over 100 comments on attacking African pirates and only a single mention of Thomas Jefferson. History and precedent anyone?
11.18.2008 11:59am
wfjag:
John Burgess:
You're correct that I was relying on memory. However, I don't think I was that far off -- if the report on NPR this morning is accurate. Among the facts stated on NPR (in an interview of a merchant ship's Captain) is that merchant vessels are being escorted by naval vessels through the Gulf of Aden, and the naval escorts have fought off attacks by pirates. According to the person interviewed, he said that during the 40 hour passage, he'd seen that both as to ships ahead and behind his. The NPR report did not, however, identify which navies were providing escorts, or provide any insight into Rules of Engagement, Rules on Use of Force, or coordination between the various navies. Still, the current situation is somewhat analogous to the Tanker War.

Hadur, you are correct that the differences in potential targets for retaliation in Iran is a difference. However, that may be more a difference of scale than of quality. The NPR report also revealed how lucrative the piracy is. The operations seem to be centered around one port. A year ago, that port was a dusty, forgotten, backwater. Today, the people living there are building luxury homes, importing and driving upscale 4 wheel drive vehicles, and also buying ever more sophisticated weapons systems. The latest attack was on one of the largest ships afloat carried out over 400 miles from the pirate's home port. Further, apparently the tanker stopped on its way to where it is currently located and the pirates "changed crews". That's a very sophisticated operation. The NPR report also indicated that there's a fairly sophisticated international negotiation network, to not only negotiate the ransom, but also to deliver the ransom in cash to the pirates. Further, the pirates have learned that many of the vessels' crew members are Filipino, who have trouble with the local food. The pirates want the crews to remain healthy. From the pirates' home port operate small vessels that bring out to the captive ships foods that are the national foods of the captive crew members. This is a very sophisticated operation.

For retaliation to be effective, the trick is to identify targets that matter to the opponent. A threat made to Iran, which apparently got the Mullah's attention, was that if the attacks didn't cease, the US would knock out the control rooms of their refineries and blockade all shipments of refined petroleum to Iran. While Iran exports crude, it imports most of its refined petroleum products and only has a few refineries. Cutting off its refined petroleum products, like gasoline, would likely result in food riots in about 2 weeks as it became impossible to ship food into the large cities. Riots like these brought down the Shah. During the initial air operations in Kosovo, military targets and strategic economic targets (bridges, power plants, etc.) were targeted. We bombed the hell out of Serbia and Kosovo, without apparent effect on the will of the political leaders. After a few weeks you may recall that the US and NATO started bombing targets that appeared to have no military or any significant economic value. The first of these targets was a disco owned by Milosevic's son. The press didn't report much on such targets, but, if you understood the political power structure of Rump-Yugoslavia, you'd have realized that businesses and holdings owned by Milosevic's key supporters were being targeted. Fairly quickly he then came to the negotiating table.

As to the current situation, I don't know enough about the facts or the pirates' culture to guess at what would be targets that would get their attention. Right now, I do believe that PDXLawyer pretty much nailed it -- there's a lack of political will to respond. However, I suspect that if there was the political will to respond, there are people who know what targets would get the pirates' attention -- or the attention of the people in other countries who handle the negotiations and money transfers.

Oh, and Litigator-London, re: the effectiveness of pre-G W Bush international peace-keeping -- please read up on UNPROFOR. Start with the words "Vukovar", "Zepa", "Srebrenica", "Foca", and "Prijedor". If you're not a reading sort of person, but enjoy a good snuff flick, I suggest the BBC miniseries The Death of Yugoslavia (or the book by the same name, by BBC correspondents Allan Little and Laura Silber). And, keep in mind that while UNPROFOR was by most measures a failure, as a UN run operation, it was better than most. The quick answer to your assertion is that international standards and cooperation mean nothing and accomplish nothing unless the national interests of a nation with enough military power to deal effectively with a situation warrant upholding the "international standards" or ensuring that the "international cooperation" succeeds. NATO, primarily under US leadership, but also involving significant French, UK, Italian and German leadership and national interests were the basis for ending the slaughter in former Yugoslavia and essentially keeping a lid on it since then. If international cooperation and international organizations worked so well, you would never have heard of Liberia or Charles Taylor, and wouldn't be hearing about Darfur or the Dem. Republic of the Congo. Interesting, isn't it, that the nasty old US and G.W. Bush administration have pretty much stayed out of those places.
11.18.2008 12:31pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Somalia hasn't had a government for 20 years, and the government it had before that was nothing to write home about.

I'm sure Litigator-London can figure out how Bush was responsible for the first 12 years of that. I await his effort.
11.18.2008 12:48pm
Litigator-London:
Bama1: Yes. A standard work on the economics is Martin Stopford's Maritime Economics Routledge, 1997
ISBN 0415153107, 9780415153102. Crews on tankers are pared to the bone.

Hoosier: Wrong again. I'm not a regular Guardian reader. I prefer the Independent. And no, I am actually pro-American and look forward to it rejoining the world community.

Richard Aubrey: As someone who spent 6 years with my boots on the ground in various parts of the world, I probably know as much as you do about the realities of peace enforcement and peace-keeping. So spare me your anecdotes, or I'll offer some of mine.

Litigator-Madrid: I would suspect that some of the damage done in the last 8 years will not be undone in what's left of my lifetime, nor indeed for at least a generation.
11.18.2008 1:00pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Litigator.
So, with your boots on the ground you saw the international community do better than the news reports about Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans.
You should write a book.

As to "damage". Specify. Some things were necessary and some of the folks who were against us got angry. I suppose that's damage.
My definition of damage is that nations with the capability to influence instability and fix it decided not to because it would mean working with Americans.
There are any number of other things going on, but only that would qualify as something Bush did wrong. Presuming, of course, that it wasn't Clinton.
11.18.2008 1:11pm
Litigator-London:
wfjag: Warships now in the zone are from the USA, UK, Canada, France, Turkey, Germany, Russia and India.

The EU is commencing the deployment of further vessels from France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway (Non EU) Portugal,Spain and Sweden under the overall command of Vice-Admiral Philip Jones RN (UK). The task force commander is Commodore Antonius Papaioannou (Greece).

UNSC Resolution 1838 (October 2008) authorises the use of "all necessary means", meaning force if need be, to stop piracy in international waters. There is also another resolution UNSC 1816 which allows anti-pirate operations within Somali waters. See also the UN Law of the Sea Convention. Basically, under Article 100 of the Convention a warship may stop and search a suspected pirate ship.
11.18.2008 1:27pm
Litigator-London:
Aubrey/Wfjag: I'm certainly not saying that Bush2 is solely responsible.

Reluctance to put boots on the ground and excessive reliance on air-power has been a characteristic of more than one administration and more than one UN sponsored operation.

US doctrine on operations in urban territory (street-fighting) has been problematic, but some lessons have been leaned in Afghanistan/Iraq as has the need to provide more training in local customs and language.

The less said about Rwanda, the Congo and other African conflicts the better. I suppose the Reagan Administration could say it did well in Grenada even though it pissed of Mrs Thatcher.
11.18.2008 1:49pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Litigator.
Yeah. The less said, the better. If you're a fan of international communities of nations bringing peace and stability to the benighted.
11.18.2008 2:04pm
Hoosier:
Hoosier: Wrong again. I'm not a regular Guardian reader.

Right. Like you were going to concede the point. But, hell, I can't prove you wrong.

Still, you didn't claim that your favorite paper is the Telegraph. Had you said that, I'd think you were insulting my intel-uh-jince. So I'd have to get you banned for being a big meanie and a poo-poo head.

What I find risible, though, is the current European focus on Bush as the focus of evil in the modern world. The euro-complaint about Americans has always been our short-sighted, a-historical, over-simplified version of world events, in which right and wrong seem clear categories, always discernable. See, e.g., later Graham Greene novels.

When did Europe become the European caricature of us?
11.18.2008 3:11pm
Hoosier:
Crews on tankers are pared to the bone.

By the pirates?

Ouch!

Litigator-- I forgot to ask: Do y'all in the UK also celebrate September 19 as "Talk Like a Pirate Day"? Or is that more of a New World thing.
11.18.2008 3:15pm
Hoosier:
wfjag:

Impressive post. You some kinda lawyer or sumpthin'?

Probably also worth mentioning that it was the Bush Administration that pushed for multi-lateral intervention in Darfur. Alone, as it turns out. Britian, France, and the African Union didn't want to use the term "genocide," since to do so would mean that there was a legal obligation to do something.

But your nom de blog suggests that you're JAG. So I'm sure you'd know this all better that I would.
11.18.2008 3:20pm
Litigator-London:
Hoosier: This clip from Yes Minister pre-dates both the take-over by the Dirty Digger (Murdoch) of the Times (which is no longer a newspaper of record) and the birth of the Independent Who reads the Papers but it's still fun.

I had to ask a nephew but, regrettably, the infection appears to have spread to the Old World: UK HQ Talk Like a Pirate Day

wfjag: No, not JAG - poor bloody infantry - the law came later.
11.18.2008 3:51pm
ohwilleke:
An emphasis on piracy would also strengthen the budget case for the Littoral Combat Ship, a new design with bipartisan support -- one of the few major military programs about which there is such a consensus.
11.18.2008 4:12pm
wfjag:

Impressive post. You some kinda lawyer or sumpthin'?

Hoosier -- Isn't it obvious? I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. (That, and having one of my undergrad majors in History and being fortunate in having several Profs. who taught me to trace back to source documents whenever possible.)

Probably also worth mentioning that it was the Bush Administration that pushed for multi-lateral intervention in Darfur.

And also worth mentioning is that within DoD, deploying to Darfur is looked on like the dog catching the truck --"OK, I did it. Now what do I do with it?" as it bounces me down the street.

Litigator-London: I appreciate the update on which nations are deploying warships. But, what are they going to do? With the exception of Russia and India, the countries providing ships looked like a NATO operation (or at least familiar with NATO command and control doctrine and procedures) - but since the additional deployment of ships is EU, that omits the US, Canada and Turkey (&Russia and India) from the command and control structure. As an EU operation, it can be taken as a further sign that some within the EU regard NATO as irrelevant (or as should be irrelevant). Demonstrating that the EU is important and NATO is not is a political objective, that can be achieved without doing anything about the pirates. The EU commanded naval forces merely show up and sail around for a while, and waive every time they see a US or Turkish warship. I suspect that the Greek Admiral will take a certain amount of satisfaction in demonstrating to the Turkish navy "We're EU and you're not."

Going back to the UNPROFOR example, there was nothing wrong with the military units from the various nations that served with UNPROFOR. As a Brit. Army vet. I suspect that you either know some of the people who'd drive their Warriors in between militias that were fighting each other (or between a militia and the civilians the militia was shooting at), or are one of the people who did that. A lot of the IFOR/SFOR units had been part of UNPROFOR. The difference was that the IFOR/SFOR Rules of Engagement allowed use of lethal force in response to "hostile intent", whereas the UNPROFOR Rules of Engagement gave UN political officials and bureaucrats a veto over all use of force (including, it appeared, in self-defense). There was enough political will to allow the use of force for IFOR/SFOR (and the local populations were tired of killing and being targets). So, the fighting was almost completely stopped very quickly and with seldom more that a mere show of force. (The analogy to former Yugoslavia clearly breaks down here, since there's no evidence that the local populations in the African Horn area (or Darfur) are ready to stop fighting).

The naval and marine forces of the countries you named are quite capable of dealing effectively with pirates. However, is there any evidence of the political will to allow them to do so? UN Resolutions are nice, but only as effective as there is a national will (and means) by one or more nations to enforce them.
11.18.2008 6:10pm
George Smith:
Omar: Steer the boat up to that freighter, Hassan, and we'll board and seize her.

Hassan: Look, Omar, that crate on the foredeck seems to house a quad .50.

Omar: I've always loved you.

Scratch one.
11.18.2008 6:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
George.
Surfeit of means, shortage of will.
11.18.2008 7:48pm
LM (mail):
Hoosier:

But the robot problem was solved by Dwight Schrute III. You just make them all AC, and give them 6' extension cords. That way, when they turn on us--And they will--they can't chase us.

Typically arrogant dismissal of our adversaries. How long do you figure it would take them to catch on and install AC outlets on themselves?
11.18.2008 8:42pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I think that if proper consideration is given to the problem, t will be appreciated that given the vast sea area and the size of the world's navies, naval patrols on the high seas can only be a relatively ineffective part of the solution - the real requirement is to have stable and effective government in the littoral nations and patrols along the littoral so as to intercept the pirate boats before they get out to the shipping lanes."

Or, we could blow their ports to hell.
11.18.2008 9:26pm
Hoosier:
Linking London Litigators, Batman!

Thanks for the Yes Minister link. I had totally forgotten about that show. Well, the second part--Yes Prime Minister--which used to be shown on PBS in Chicago when I was in college. I've never seen Yes Minster. Now I'll have to pursue it.

Re: Talking like a pirate--A student asked me a question a few days ago that left me stumped, to wit, don't pirates have a piratey way to say "Goodbye"? We have "Ahoy!" as a friendly greeting. We have "Avast ye!" is they plan on plundering your ship and ravishing your wench.

But did they just say "Bye now"? "Ta?" ("Ciao"?)
11.18.2008 10:37pm
Litigator-London:
wfjag:

Having spent some interminable winters of my life on the plains of North Germany supposedly to stop the Soviets getting to the Channel in less than 48 hours in order to give the politicians time to decide whether to initiate a nuclear exchange, I happen to think that NATO became an organisation without a real role at about the time Reagan developed the doctrine of "graduated response". There was a lot of truth in the Yes Prime Minister - Nuclear Deterrent sketch. NATO's search for a continued role has resulted in its so-called "out of area" operations and, unfortunately, also in NATO being used by US Administrations to influence EU politics - for example by holding out NATO entry as a prelude to EU membership.

The EU as a political entity is now operating on much more equal terms with the USA. For example take civil aviation: previously, the USA used to negotiate bilateral agreements with each EU state separately. So the USA could protect its own airlines and obtain for them commercial advantages denied to EU airlines. Now there is a negotiation of equals. Likewise on other trade matters US firms are increasingly finding that they have to comply with EU standards or see their products refused entry to the EU market.

While the EU is never going to devote the same proportion of GDP to its defence as does the USA, and thus does not aspire to be a "world hegemon", there is an increasing realisation that the EU has (i) to strengthen its Defence posture and capability (ii) be prepared to take responsibility for its own back yard (eg the Balkans) and (iii) be able to intervene out of area where the USA is unwilling or unable to act.

That is no bad thing. But it requires political structures to co-ordinate expenditures and tasks. For example, a significant weakness in Bosnia and elsewhere was the shortage of European heavy lift capabilities. There is no point in aspiring to act independently without such capabilities.

There is also growing realisation that we need to be able to say "no". Blair was dragged into the abysmal failure of the "Enterprise of Iraq" because of his vanity and sentimental attachment to the so-called "special relationship" which is only "special" when it is in US interests not vice-versa.

Likewise Afghanistan. The absence of a unified command relationship between some of the US forces and the UNPROFOR elements has been in part patched up, but there have been some fundamental differences on policy and tactics at the political level which may yet result in ultimate failure.

As to will, there are of course some constraints, such as treaties to which Europeans have subscribed such as the ECHR, the Torture Convention, the Geneva conventions and the UN Charter and so forth, which European nations are not going to throw overboard as easily as the USA has been prepared to do of late. But that was also true of the last Republican President for whom I had any respect, Dwight D Eisenhower (remember his stance on Suez where he was right and Britain, France and Israel wrong?).

So we are not going to bombard ports in Somalia - at least not yet - and we are not going to hang pirates.
11.19.2008 2:35am
LM (mail):
Hoosier:

But did they just say "Bye now"? "Ta?" ("Ciao"?)

"Arrgh-revoir."
11.19.2008 4:18am
Litigator-London:
Hoosier:

After diligent research, I can offer the following:-

"Smooth sailin', an' fair winds t' ye!" - (this from the UK Talk like a Pirate Web site)

"And now I resign, by thunder! Elect whom you please to be your cap'n now; I'm done with it." (R.L Stevenson, Treasure Island, Chap 29 )
11.19.2008 7:03am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Litigator-London:

The proper response for a navy is not to hand over pirates to anyone, but to execute them on the spot. That was the fate of Edward Teach (Blackbeard) after he boarded Royal Navy lieutenant Robert Maynard's sloop.

Piracy is an old problem with an old solution. I don't understand the reluctance to use force against these pirates. Show them that their activities won't be profitable and they will stop. If necessary destroy their base of support with air power. If for some insane reason they won't stop then keep killing them until we run out of pirates. Forget about the rules of war, dealing with pirates is a different matter. No one like pirates.
11.19.2008 8:02am
Elliot123 (mail):
The Indian Navy Frigate Tabar just sent a pirate mothership to Davy Jones Locker. No word on whether the pirate ship was really a wedding party barge.
11.19.2008 1:48pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'So we are not going to bombard ports in Somalia - at least not yet - and we are not going to hang pirates.'

Sounds familiar. Distant people of whom you know nothing, I imagine.

But no one will describe his fecklessness more elegantly.
11.19.2008 2:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Litigator.
Nov 22 is V-I Day. Put it on your calendar.

Right next to the abysmal failure that is the Enterprise of Iraq.

Now, there's nothing anybody can do to make your change your mind about what you want to say. But you might want to think about what it makes you look like. Or not.
11.19.2008 2:43pm
wfjag:
Two good articles in the Times On Line, today (NOV 19). One is the one Elliot refers to: Indian Navy sinks pirate mothership during bold stand-off in Gulf of Aden. The other is Iranian grain ship seized as Somali pirates hold world to ransom

Reading the story about the INS Tabar sinking the "mother ship", you have to wonder whether the Indian Navy was a little fast with the facts - possibly to avoid protests by PC minded peoples or lawyers. According to the story, the INS Tabar acted in self-defense after being told by radio from the "mother ship" that it would sink the INS Tabar, and when people on the "mother ship" were seen bringing out automatic weapons and RPGs. The INS Tabar was built for the Indian Navy by Baltiysky Zavod in Russia, based on a proven Russian navy design, was launched May 25, 2001 and commissioned April 19, 2004. At a little over 4,000 tons with a top speed of around 30 knots, its both much larger and faster than the "mother ship." Its main gun is a 100mm A-190(E) gun that fires 60 rounds a minute and its secondary armament includes, two Kashtan Air Defence Gun/Missile Systems. Each system consists of two GSh-30k six-barreled 30mm Gatling guns. It's a modern, very formidable warship. Anyone within the visual range needed to fire a RPG would be able to see these, and its other, weapons. This appears to leave 3 choices: (1) the pirates were all blind; (2) the pirates were terminally stupid; or (3) there's a certain level of puffery as to the threat reported by the Indian Navy before it acted in "self-defense."

The article about the Iranian ship's seizure starts:

Somali pirates struck again yesterday, seizing an Iranian cargo ship holding 30,000 tonnes of grain, as the world's governments and navies pronounced themselves powerless against this new threat to global trade.

The article also notes that

. . . The hijack, the seventh in 12 days, took place near the Yemeni coast, underscoring the new tactic of evading foreign warships by simply sailing beyond their area of operation.

Operations undertaken by the coalition fleet are fraught with legal difficulties, ranging from restrictive rules of engagement to rights of habeas corpus, as the British Navy discovered when it detained eight pirates after a shootout last week. Yesterday the detainees were passed on to Kenya, where efforts to prosecute them will be closely watched for precedent.

It's nice to know that lawyers are contributing so much to the safety of the world.

Litigator-London concluded:

So we are not going to bombard ports in Somalia - at least not yet - and we are not going to hang pirates.

I completely agree. This is not the result of any well-thought out strategy or action based on national (or international) self-interest. Rather, it looks like the effects of overly lawyered, poorly lawyered military actions are not merely a problem of the US.
11.19.2008 3:05pm
Litigator-London:
A. Zarkov:

1. According to the account purportedly (according to Wikipedia) carried in the Boston New-Letter, Teach was killed in battle, not executed.

2. This is confirmed by the web site of the
Royal Navy National Museum
:

"The punishment for piracy was death by public hanging. The bodies of executed pirates were often tarred to preserve them to be hung from a gibbet. The corpse would be chained into an iron cage to prevent relatives from burying the body. The notable pirate, William Kidd, received this fate and his body hung for three years at Tilbury Point in the Thames estuary as a warning to seamen and pirates. A condemned man was measured for his iron cage before his execution, and many pirates feared this more than the hanging. After Blackbeard was killed in battle, his head was cut off and tied as a trophy to the yardarm of HMS Pearl."

3. Whatever may have been the law in 1718, matters have moved on in the criminal justice systems of the west since then. None of the countries of the Council of Europe now has the death penalty. None of them will extradite or surrender a criminal to a place where the death penalty is used unless the receiving state has given an undertaking that the death penalty will not be imposed. None of them will surrender or extradite where the person would be at risk of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. Thus, so far as the UK is concerned, captured pirates can be handed over to the Kenyans but not to warlords in Somalia.

4. I accept that US human rights standards lag behind the western consensus, but your allies have a right to expect that your country will at least attempt to catch up.
11.19.2008 3:37pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I accept that US human rights standards lag behind the western consensus, but your allies have a right to expect that your country will at least attempt to catch up."

How does one determine a western consensus? If the largest western coutry, with 300,000,000 people, is not aboard, what is the standard for claiming a consensus? Number of coutries in agreement? Aggregate population of agreeing countries? What makes the consensus here? What's the standard? What marginal change would be required to lose the consensus?
11.19.2008 4:57pm
richard cabeza:
I accept that US human rights standards lag behind the western consensus


Yes, when will we realize that self-defense is not moral, but intercourse with animals is?
11.19.2008 5:09pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I completely understand why Europeans would not trust themselves to administer the death penalty, why they have become accustomed to letting America do the heavy lifting and why they sneer at us for accepting responsbility.

I don't accept one single solitary word of Litigator-London's precious morality.

As soon as Europe gets back to morality-based morality and gets over its preciousness, we'll all be better off.

As far as I know, Europe has no human rights standards that it practices. The biggest country in Europe was still trading slaves almost within my lifetime.
11.19.2008 5:21pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
What, exactly, is the Euro consensus on the DP?
Polls show substantial numbers of ordinary folks for it, approaching or exceeding half.
But the Euro governments are considerably less pervious to popular input than the US government is. So Litigator's consensus must consist largely of the self-anointed elites.
11.19.2008 7:21pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
wfjag.
You left out a possibility wrt the Tabar vs. the pirates:
The pirates thought the Tabar had Euro or NATO ROE.
11.19.2008 8:17pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
Harry Eager-

If the size of the crew were doubled, the pirates would double their crew.

They still have to climb up ropes to board from water level.(On the large vessels we are talking about.)

I have read, by now, thousands of comments by gun nuts, and they never imagine that they will be overmatched when it comes to firearms.

Again, they have to climb up ropes. This limits how many can board, how fast they can board, and what they can carry. There's also the little problem of the defending crew being able to cut the ropes. It's all about awareness and response time - if you had a core number of trained, armed personnel able to react quickly you would remove a lot of the risk.

And that's what the experts are recommending:

"NATO and the U.S. Navy say they can't be everywhere, and U.S. officials are urging ships to hire private security."
11.19.2008 8:18pm
bbbeard (mail):
A couple of points:

One, George W. Bush is President until next January 20th, and I fully expect him to encourage the U.S. Navy to continue to fulfill its mission.

Two, that mission is "to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas." There is no mention in the mission statement of freedom of the seas applying only to U.S.-flagged vessels.

Three, just as an aside, U.S. Navy vessels still have yardarms. Here is a nice picture showing yardarms on the superstructure of the USS Enterprise.

Four, there's not much left to hang from a yardarm once you've been hit with one of these.

Fifth, if there are any Somali (or Somaliland) pirates left after January 20, I strongly urge President Obama to meet with them face-to-face. After all, there is no sense trying to punish them by withholding a Presidential meeting, right? I also urge him to take Vice-President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid with him. Oh, and as a gesture of good will, I think he should make sure that his entourage is completely unarmed. Because, after all, it's about a new kind of politics, right?

BBB
11.19.2008 9:13pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Prediction: The areas patrolled by the Indian Navy will be very peaceful.
11.19.2008 10:10pm
Litigator-London:
Elliot123:

The Council of Europe consists of the following 47 states: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland, FRY Macedonia, Turkey, the Ukraine and the United Kingdom, states comprising some 800 millions of Europeans, all signatories to the European convention on Human Rights.

Canada and a substantial number of Central and Latin Ameican counties have abolished the death penalty completely. Some retain it only for wartime use.

Therefore, whether by number of states or by reference to population of those states, the consensus is established. Insofar as we are speaking of representative democracies which entrust such decisions to their elected legislatures, the fact that Neanderthals are to be found in some of them, is nihil ad rem.

Singapore, Japan and the USA are the only fully developed countries that have retained the death penalty.

The principal countries that still use the death penalty are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, followed by the USA and Iraq - nice company you keep.
11.20.2008 3:04am
Litigator-London:
Richard Aubrey wrote:

"What, exactly, is the Euro consensus on the DP? Polls show substantial numbers of ordinary folks for it, approaching or exceeding half. But the Euro governments are considerably less pervious to popular input than the US government is. So Litigator's consensus must consist largely of the self-annointed elites."

Opinion polls very widely depending when or where they are carried out. They can be much influenced by passing events - for example a poll taken after a widely publicised savage killing will see a temporary rise, a poll taken after a widely publicised judicial error will show a dip.

That is why the choices of electorates exercised at elections are more reliable. In that context it is worth noting that participation rates in the democratic process in the USA are usually significantly lower than in Europe where voter turn-out generally exceeds 80%.

Further, there is something of a democratic deficit in your system where the executive can be elected on a minority of the popular vote and the apportionment of senate seats is so grossly unrepresentative of the populations of the states the senators represent.

So let's not have any steaming piles please - our legislatures in Europe are not "self anointed elites" but democratically elected by a population which participates more in the process. Nor are our representatives quite so much in thrall to the big money interests and single issue groups which enable yours to run for office at all.
11.20.2008 3:08am
Harry Eagar (mail):
"NATO and the U.S. Navy say they can't be everywhere, and U.S. officials are urging ships to hire private security."

They don't have to be everywhere, they only have to be in the pirate bases for a few hours. Then finish.

Europe still has the death penalty, Litigator. Killers, left unkilled, kill again. So by pretending not to have a death penalty, you condemn more innocents.

I like our system of condemning the guilty better.
11.20.2008 3:14am
American Psikhushka (mail):
Harry Eagar-

Read some of the articles, there are not going to be many "bases" to speak of. And when you destroy one, three more will probably pop up in it's place. And even if you caught their ships docked they would just buy or capture more.

Maybe companies moving assets worth up to $100 Million or more in a manner that can easily be seized and redirected ought to invest a little more in security.
11.20.2008 6:07am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Something that occures to me on the armament/crew size argument, hasn't remote control advanced enough at this point that mounted guns could be used effectively? Even the B-52 features remote controlled guns though I don't know whether they actually do any good. Firing solutions for near 2D at under 100kt ought to be a much easier problem than fully 3D at potentially 1000kt.

Not sure about wooden boats, but I do know that fiberglass shows up fairly well on radar, though I suppose large vessels would face the problem that having higher mounts things close to the surface become harder to see.

All of this is to say that fighting off any attack from a strongpoint would seem preferable to meeting them with men at the rails. And it wouldn't require nearly the increase in crew size that exterior manned positions would take.
11.20.2008 8:05am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Right, Litigator.
And the soft on crime approach in the UK is wildly popular with the population at large.
Sure.
11.20.2008 8:22am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Psi.
Can bases be established faster than they can be destroyed?
Can pirates killed in the destruction of the bases be resurrected or replaced fast enough to keep the tempo of piracy up?
These are not hardened soldiers defending their homeland. They are businessmen (with some military skills). When there's no profit and a high probability of an early death, they'll find something else to do.
11.20.2008 8:34am
bbbeard (mail):
Litigator-London:

...our legislatures in Europe are not "self anointed elites" but democratically elected by a population which participates more in the process.

Don't you still have a MONARCHY in Britain? Who did you vote for king last time around?

And I gather you are arguing that the House of Lords, on which our Senate is modeled, is more representative of your population. My understanding is that those folks also get their jobs in a somewhat less democratic fashion than our Senators get theirs....

Go ahead, keep digging.

BBB
11.20.2008 8:40am
wfjag:
Litigator-London:
The Council of Europe was founded in 1949. Granting its members public and de jure opposition to execution isn't the same as concluding that its members have "abolished the death penalty". Quite obviously its members' governments look the other way when convenient. Examples: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia during the time period 1989 to 1999; and Romania, on Christmas 1989. Both France and Germany have used the "capital punishment is not authorized" wink, wink, nod, nod approach. The German security forces' handling of Red Brigade members was -- well, even the idea of "summary execution" doesn't do it justice. The French Interior Ministry forces also are known to act with dispatch to dispatch.

At least in the US, capital defendants can expect due process of law (and quite a few, perhaps most, die of old age or disease long before the judicial review processes are complete). So, while I'm not a great fan of capital punishment, I'd rather it be subject to full judicial control, as in the US, than public pronouncements against it, coupled with looking the other way when convenient, which occurs among CoE members.

You also wrote:

Further, there is something of a democratic deficit in your system where the executive can be elected on a minority of the popular vote

Please -- we're tired of hearing complaints about Bill Clinton.
11.20.2008 10:24am
Elliot123 (mail):
"That is why the choices of electorates exercised at elections are more reliable. In that context it is worth noting that participation rates in the democratic process in the USA are usually significantly lower than in Europe where voter turn-out generally exceeds 80%."

Wouldn't that be a function of whether the DP was an issue in the elections? Is it a major issue in European elections? How about the last round of UK elections? Was the DP a major issue? Just as opinion polls vary with events, I'd suggest elections are a reliable indication of DP support only if the DP is a major issue.

In terms of representation, I seem to remember Ireland just sunk the EU Constitution all by itself. Is that a democratic deficit?
11.20.2008 4:56pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Read some of the articles, there are not going to be many "bases" to speak of. And when you destroy one, three more will probably pop up in it's place. And even if you caught their ships docked they would just buy or capture more."

Ports don't just pop up. It would be nice if they did. The geography and sea have to be configured right, and the facilities have to be built. This especially true for the type of vessel capable of going 450 miles off the coast of Kenya.

When you destroy their ships, it's much harder to capture more.

We can all learn from the Indians here. They learned from a previous generation of British, preserved the tradition, and are now returning the favor. Mothership sunk and no prisoners to deal with. And we haven't even heard from Amnesty International, the Red Cross, or Sean Penn.
11.20.2008 7:47pm
Litigator-London:
bbbeard:-

In common with her counterparts in other European democratic monarchies, HM the Queen reigns but does not rule. Nothing the monarch does in government takes place save on the advice of minsters accountable to parliament. That is also true for the other democracies of which she is also Queen (eg Australia, Canada, New Zealand). Thus the effective head of the executive is the Prime Minister accountable to Parliament. It seems to me that this is actually more democratic than the US system where at present we have the spectacle of your President taking decisions with an approval rating which has been around 26% for months without there being any effective means of holding him to account to the people by their elected representatives.

As for the House of Lords, remember that it is essentially a consultative and revising chamber. It can delay but cannot prevent the enactment of legislation the elected Commons wish to pass. It is an expert chamber - some of our most eminent scientists, judges, army officers etc are appointed for life. It is non-partisan. When the Commons finally agrees on the electoral system to be used, it is to be replaced by an elected chamber (most probably with a variant of PR). As a believer in evolution rather than revolution, while I accept the theoretical improvement of substituting an elected for an appointed 2nd chamber, I do have concerns that a great deal of expert input into legislation may be lost.

While the Constitution devised by the reluctant bourgeois revolutionaries who were the US Founding Fathers was an improvement on the UK constitution as it stood at the time (insofar as it related to the treatment of colonies), the constraints imposed by a written document which is hard to amend and update seem to be proving less satisfactory than arrangements which enable the constitutional settlement to evolve.

wfjag:-

I suggest you look at the dates when the constituent parts of the former Yugoslavia acceded to the Convention! You wrote At least in the US, capital defendants can expect due process of law (and quite a few, perhaps most, die of old age or disease long before the judicial review processes are complete). It is a long time since I ceased the practice of criminal law, but given the regularity with which most criminal justice systems, including ours have to acknowledge error which has survived all appellate process, I do not think your 'judicial review' argument is tenable, especially given the state of the criminal justice systems in many US states.

Different aspects of reform takes place at different speeds. (i)It took the USA 150 years more to abolish slavery than the UK; (ii) there may be a lesser time dispararity for the continuing US military discrimination against lesbians and homosexuals to be abolished; (iii)while we have civil unions for gays, I doubt somewhow they will ever easily be termed "marriages" because the importation of religious connotations into the word make that too contentious; (iv) although I think the UK is more secular and religious groups are less influential in politics, we still have an established church (wholly illogical) but disestablishment may take another 25-75 years.

Elliot123:-

Capital punishment is no longer an issue in UK elections. The last candidate for PM to run on a hard line right wing "law and order" platform was Michael Howard and he went down to such a resounding defeat that it has taken the Conservatives years to recover some standing in the polls (rather akin to what has happened recently to the Republicans). When all is said and done, I think democracies like their outcome to include the centre - not too far right and not too far left.

BTW - Ireland, as usual, with probably vote in favour of the EU constitutional treaty on the next referendum.
11.21.2008 1:59am
Litigator-London:
The whole point about the Somalia piracy problem is that it has arisen because there is no functioning state there.

Any functioning state in control of its ports and littoral can prevent eradicate piracy from its territory with relative ease and any state (whether democratic or not) can be coerced. But when there is no state apparatus to coerce, it is much more difficult for other nations to remedy the problem by establishing control over the much vaster area of the oceans.

We all know "nation building" became unfashionable because of some well-known failures (usually explicable by a failure to provide the financial and human resources really required to accomplish the task)but the US domestic and political reaction to the casualties of Operation Gothic Serpent (2 MH-60 Black Hawks shot down, 1 seriously damaged and 19 US military fatalities) now has to be seen in the light of the "butcher's bill" for US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The myths that (i)military operations can be accomplished without casualties; (ii) air power is a substitute for "boots on the ground"; (iii) that arming tribal war-lords is a substitute for slowly building a functioning government and (iv) that "instant democracy" can be established by simply, as it were, pouring hot water on the granules have now, I hope, been exposed for the myths they always were.

Either there is now international action to impose some order in Somalia itself, or the alternative will be far more costly naval operations - which will still end up with the need to have order on land as well as on the high seas.
11.21.2008 3:07am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Big piracy means big targets for anti-piracy forces.
Small targets means small piracy.
Once the big targets are destroyed and their replacements destroyed and the bankers involved are bankrupted, the remaining pirates will be reduced to seizing fishing boats.
That will mean, possibly, many small boats, but small in whatever numbers. And not much profit.
The problem can be reduced without building a functioning government ashore.
It would be nice if there were to be a functioning government ashore, but until that time, insisting little or nothing can or should be done--or that lawyers should be allowed to do their thing and screw it up with absurd ROE--are both silly.
11.21.2008 8:13am
wfjag:
Litigator-London:

I suggest you look at the dates when the constituent parts of the former Yugoslavia acceded to the Convention!

And, I suggest you look at who were in power in the former Yugoslav nations when they acceded to the Convention, and what their roles were during the Conflict. Granted, few of then directly had blood on their hands. Slobo apparently never ordered anyone killed. He merely ordered the JNA and police forces to stand aside while militias like Arkan's Tigers looted, burned, raped and murdered. Clean hands are hard to find among the living.


but given the regularity with which most criminal justice systems, including ours have to acknowledge error which has survived all appellate process, I do not think your 'judicial review' argument is tenable, especially given the state of the criminal justice systems in many US states.

And after appellate review, there are also the habeas corpus reviews in the federal courts. Appellate review is only the first review.


(i)It took the USA 150 years more to abolish slavery than the UK;

150 years? Depending on how you start counting, the US has existed since the Declaration of Independence - 1776, or the Battle of Yorktown - 1783, or the final treaty in which the UK recognized the US's independence (which arguably was the one negotiated in 1814 and ratified in early 1815). The Emanicipation Proclamation was effective Jan. 1, 1863 and the 13th Amendment ratified in 1865. I'm having a bit of trouble finding 150 years in there.

In any event, unlike in the UK, slavery was profitable, at least in the large plantation areas of the US South. It was not profitable in the UK. So, abolishing slavery in the UK was primarily a relatively small financial matter. In the US, over 600,000 died (on both sides) and millions more were wounded -- and, the disease that accompanied armies of the time caused even more deaths among civilians and suffering. Using a religious analogy - the sin of slavery was atoned for in blood in the US. The UK made a similar sacrifice? The EU or its members made a similar sacrifice?


(ii) there may be a lesser time dispararity for the continuing US military discrimination against lesbians and homosexuals to be abolished;

"Don't ask, don't tell" was enacted in 1993, when Democrats controlled both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives and signed US President Bill Clinton. In the US the military obeys laws enacted by Congress and the President is Commander in Chief. If you object to this law, write your Congressman and Senators, but don't try the dishonest tactic of blaming the "US military". Oh, that's right, you don't have a Congressman or Senator. Guess you're not part of the debate.


(iii)while we have civil unions for gays, I doubt somewhow they will ever easily be termed "marriages" because the importation of religious connotations into the word make that too contentious;

While we likely personally agree on this, this fire is being stoked by the courts. If the California Supreme COurt, instead of ruling 4 to 3 to redefine "marriage", had instead said "this is a political issue, go back for a vote, just like the law defining marriage as between 1 man and 1 woman was enacted", it appears that the people of California would have voted to change the prior law and SSM would have become the law. Legislating from the bench is of grave concern. I have seen no evidence that the wisdom of judges is greater than that of legislatures -- although, when elected representatives get too high handed or screw up enough, they get voted out of office (and we await the replacements to repeat the process -- but, with the sometimes fulfilled hope that for a while, their replacements will remember who elected them and will try to do what is best for their constitutants. Not a perfect system -- just better than any other alternative. An oligarchy, whether called an aristrocracy or a judiciary, still acts like an oligarchy. It seeks to increase its power at the expense of the rights of the citizens, and falls into the fallacies of group-think).


(iv) although I think the UK is more secular and religious groups are less influential in politics, we still have an established church (wholly illogical) but disestablishment may take another 25-75 years.

It's your country, so I don't have a dog in that fight. Still, I'd question getting rid of some of your best and most famous tourist attractions. Westminister draws large crowds. Do you really think bureaucrats would maintain it?
11.21.2008 11:25am
Smokey:
Litigator-London:
I accept that US human rights standards lag behind the western consensus, but your allies have a right to expect that your country will at least attempt to catch up.
You, sir, come across as a snide little fairy; a limp-wristed Euroweenie fop with your panties all in a bunch, looking down your faux aristocratic nose at the U.S.A. because we readjust the finite lifetimes of a few vicious criminals every year.

One Somali pirate has more balls than a hundred pansyass London litigators like you.

Now ask me how I really feel, weenieboi.


We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
11.21.2008 12:26pm
Litigator-London:
wfjag:

1. Which is why Slobodan Milosevich was on trial for war crimes as he died and why others have been or will be tried and if convicted sentenced - with all approriate due process guarantees. The very best way of deterring future such conduct by others. And by the way probably the most eloquent exponent of that truth was the American Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg.

2. Do not forget the terrorism trials in the UK where jury convictions had to be set aside after many years or convictions being set aside in the USA thanks to DBA evidence - the trouble with the death penalty is that a posthmus pardon is not much good to the deceased. I've been a lawyer for long enough to have come to the conclusion that any judicial system devised by humans may fall into error and therefore the ultimate sanction is best left to the Almighty.

3. Count from Somersett's case. Also consider how long it took to get rid of segregation. Of couse, it has to be recorded that it was Britain which originally brought the evil of slavery to the colonies and that great families built their fortunes (and stately homes) on the evil trade. I have no wish to re-write history in this respect. And no, I do not think the sin of slavery has been atoned for yet - neither in the UK nor the USA - as witness the continuing differential treatment of minorities in the educational and criminal justice systems of our respective countries. Still, the election of your president-elect seemingly without any so-called "Bradley effect" testifies to remarkable progress.

4. Dont't ask don't tell is not relevant. Both your and our millitary historically discharged homosexuals on discovery of their orientation. When this was questioned our armed forces leaders campaigned vehemently against any change. When change came in the UK, wonder of wonders, the heavens did not fall in and the military coped very well. But, about 15 years before it happened, I remember meeting up with an old comrade on Remembrance Sunday and after a pint or six in the Sergeants' Mess he told me he was jacking it in: "When I signed up," he said, "buggery got you a life sentence. Then it became optional except for us. Now it looks as if that's about to change, so I'm getting out and going to Australia before it becomes effing compulsory!"

5. I happen to agree in that I prefer to see such matters dealt with through legislative change rather than through the Courts. This is true both for the abortion issue as well as other human rights issues. But the Courts do not get involved upon their own motion. Litigants come before the Court and if a justiciable issue is disclosed on the case, then the Courts cannot abdicate their duty to decide it.

6. I certainly don't wish to see the Monarch abolished. Not only because of the pagentry which is as you say a tourist attraction, but because I took the Queen's Shillinng and swore allegiance to Her, her heirs and sucessors according to law. And as a lawyer, I am pleased that in Court our Judges are "Her Majesty's Judges" and no-one, not even a secretary of state is immune, from being called into court to give an account of his doings. A tradition your country inherited and adapted - the writs still exist - habeas corpus - certiorari - mandamus etc.
11.21.2008 1:28pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Capital punishment is no longer an issue in UK elections. The last candidate for PM to run on a hard line right wing "law and order" platform was Michael Howard and he went down to such a resounding defeat that it has taken the Conservatives years to recover some standing in the polls (rather akin to what has happened recently to the Republicans). When all is said and done, I think democracies like their outcome to include the centre - not too far right and not too far left."

If DP is not an issue in UK elections, then there is little reason to consider election results superior to surveys in detemining popular opinion.
11.21.2008 1:51pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"But when there is no state apparatus to coerce, it is much more difficult for other nations to remedy the problem by establishing control over the much vaster area of the oceans."

Agree. That's why the alternative of attacking the ports is a good idea. Ports don't extend over vast areas.
11.21.2008 1:53pm
Litigator-London:
Smokey wrote:

"You, sir, come across as a snide little fairy; a limp-wristed Euroweenie fop with your panties all in a bunch, looking down your faux aristocratic nose at the U.S.A. because we readjust the finite lifetimes of a few vicious criminals every year. One Somali pirate has more balls than a hundred pansyass London litigators like you."

Smokey: When you will have racked up, as I have, have more than 6 years' military service 2 as an enlisted man, and 4 as a NCO,and put under your belt a total of two years peace keeping in Northern Ireland and several tours in some fairly nasty places elsewhere and ended your active service under the colours as a sergeant instructor in a school training chinless wonders (i.e. young officers) in urban warfare techniques, by then you will have acquired a degree of fluency in the effective use of invective which you plainly do not presently possess.

Any British Garrison Sergeant Major could do wonders for your vocabulary and style and I suspect some of their US colleagues could too.
11.21.2008 1:53pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'(i)It took the USA 150 years more to abolish slavery than the UK;'

'count from Somersett's case'

Uh, no, count from 1837 to 1865. I make that 28 years.

Of course, it's true that the United States passed the first law against the slave trade, 20 years ahead of Britain and Denmark.

(I'm told that Akbar anticipated everybody, but his legislation was ineffective.)
11.21.2008 3:34pm
Smokey:
Litigator-London:
Smokey: When you will have racked up, as I have, have more than 6 years' military service 2 as an enlisted man, and 4 as a NCO,and put under your belt a total of two years peace keeping in Northern Ireland and several tours in some fairly nasty places elsewhere and ended your active service under the colours as a sergeant instructor in a school training chinless wonders (i.e. young officers) in urban warfare techniques, by then you will have acquired a degree of fluency in the effective use of invective which you plainly do not presently possess.
Little Lord Fauntleroy, I enlisted and served four years' U.S. military service, three as an NCO, including 13 months in Viet Nam, 1967 - 1968 -- which is certainly a bit more of a risk than someone laying back and drinking in Irish pubs -- but unlike you, I was never a REMF [Rear Echelon Mother Fuc... well, you get the idea].

"Instructor." heh. Do you need to buy those extra large ladies' knickers to fit you?

You're a Euroweenie fop, and your self-puffery is a joy to read.

Now, explain to us the 'invective' that you claim I don't possess.
11.21.2008 10:23pm