So, pirates in the Gulf of Aden today bagged another U.S. trophy: an American-owned, Italy-flagged tugboat. According to Reuters, the boat’s 16-man crew included 10 Italians. What will we do? What should we do?
As to the former question, who knows? The Age of Obama is shaping up to be another age of “negotiation,” i.e., an age of accommodation and capitulation.
As to the latter question, John Keegan, writing in the London Telegraph, got it exactly right: “our campaign must be ruthless and pitiless: pirate ships must be sunk on sight and the crews left to swim to safety, if it can be reached. . . . [Pirates] needed to be hunted to extinction – and the time to start the hunt is now.”
Declare Somalia’s coast to be a no go for small boats, or boats of any kind. Offshore or tied up at the dock. On trailers, on the beach. Send whatever airframes may be appropriate to the task … UAVs, helicopters, Warthogs, F-16s, whatever … and destroy every boat along the coast. Wait a day or two, repeat. Wait a week or two, repeat. Destroy any boat launch, repair, storage or harbor facilities as may exist while you’re at it. A few quick Marine shore parties, naval missile barrages and close-in naval raids may also be helpful.
No boats, no piracy.
Crittenden has some (slightly) more emollient policies to suggest for those who consider his first recommendation “too draconian,” but since I do not so consider it, I won’t bother to burden you with the extraneous details. Piracy on the high seas is an atavistic barbarism that England and the United States all but stamped out in the 19th century. That it is making an enormous comeback now is just one more reminder of the extent to which the world is more and more succumbing to the pressures of retribalization. The point is that civilization is never finally achieved: its triumph is always temporary, always subject to renegotiation, to erosion from the forces of anarchy without and existential fatigue within. Writing in 1938, when the world was undergoing another period of retribalization, Eveyln Waugh noted that
Barbarism is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly will commit every conceivable atrocity. The danger does not come merely from habitual hooligans; we are all potential recruits for anarchy. Unremitting effort is needed to keep men living together at peace; there is only a margin of energy left over for experiment however beneficent. Once the prisons of the mind have been opened, the orgy is on. There is no more agreeable position than that of dissident from a stable society. Theirs are all the solid advantages of other people’s creation and preservation, and all the fun of detecting hypocrisies and inconsistencies. There are times when dissidents are not only enviable but valuable. The work of preserving society is sometimes onerous, sometimes almost effortless. The more elaborate the society, the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete its collapse in case of defeat. At a time like the present it is notably precarious. If it falls we shall see not merely the dissolution of a few joint-stock corporations, but of the spiritual and material achievements of our history.
What is so dispiriting about the current scene is the awful sense that we are replaying a terrible drama. Haven’t we been down this road before? China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and God knows what other nasty regimes are ratcheting up their military spending. A week or so ago it was reported that China has developed a special “kill weapon” to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers. Meanwhile, the U.S. is slashing its military spending, abandoning, for example, further production of the F22 Raptor, the world’s most advanced fighter.
On the economic front, the U.S. and other governments are endeavoring (in Daniel Hannan’s apt phrase) to “spend [their] way out of a recession,” with the predicable consequences that anyone with eyes to see and a smidgeon of historical memory knows is a recipe for economic catastrophe.
The Obama administration has launched a societal Blitzkrieg against individual initiative, against inter-generational wealth, against the institutions of private property. His plans to nationalize the health care industry and to hamstring the U.S. economy with so-called “green” (really, they’re pink) rules and regulations, threaten to cripple not only the productive bits of our economy but also the spirit of independence and responsibility that fuelled America’s astonishing achievements in the past. The ultimate horror of the scenario is that we all know how it ends. The sleepwalker careens uneasily along the edge of a precipice. Who among us has the courage, who commands the rhetorical magic to wake and warn the sleepwalker before it is too late?