Monday, April 13, 2009

The Somalia Rescue - And The Unanswered Questions

The drama in Somalia is over for now, as our navy freed the hostage captain by the simple expedient of shooting the pirates.

While most Americans are certainly gratified at this turn of events, the way this went down has some worrying aspects..

While the dinosaur media apparently wants to award President Obama a Medal of Honor for ordering the use of deadly force to rescue Captain Phillips ( quoting unnamed 'Administration officials' as their source)a few details seem to contradict that.

First of all, as milblogger Uncle Jimbo at BlackFive notes, the standard Rules of Engagement in force did not require a presidential order:

If there are innocents about to be slaughtered the same reasoning that authorizes self defense also covers an imminent execution unless the ROE specifically forbid it.The AP is making it sound like there was an active rescue ordered by the President. It was not, there was an imminent threat and the local commander gave the order to fire.

Now, we already know that the US forces involved (either Marine Scouts or SEALS) were under orders to hold off while negotiations with the pirates were continuing.Aside from this factoid being released by the Department of Defense, this was confirmed by the fact that Captain Phillips made an escape into the water and started swimming for the USS Bainbridge. The Naval/Marine forces involved thus had a clear shot to take out the pirates, but held off and did nothing to interfere with Phillips being recaptured by the pirates.

They were obviously under orders not to shoot. So if there was a White House call, it was to remove previous restrictions on our military placed on them by personal order of the President.

I still give him kudos for that if that's how it went down, but it leads to other questions.

I wonder... just why did this drag on for so long? Piracy is the only thing Somalia can claim as anything like a growth industry, and in the past they've hijacked cargoes and collected ransoms with impunity. Was President Obama planning to emulate the Europeans and pay ransom? Was that why the pirates were allowed to chat with CNN and their cell phones were not jammed?

What if the lifeboat Captain Phillips was being held on had started to make for shore? Were the men on the Bainbridge authorized to stop them? I have a feeling they weren't., based on the rules of Engagement and the probable orders from the President.

And finally, why exactly is Somali piracy still a problem?

The locations of the pirate bases are known, and the President has supposedly pledged to work with other nations to stop Somali piracy and protect the international waterway at the Horn of Africa. So why haven't there been decisive attacks on the pirate bases and the pirate's Islamist protectors like the local al-Qaeda affiliate Al Shabab, which takes a share of the loot as 'taxes'? It could easily be done from the air or the sea.

Why haven't the navies of interested parties participated in a joint naval blockade, with instructions to interdict any ship approaching Somalia with suspicious cargo or to blow any Somalian craft that strays out of a clearly marked safe zone out of the water?

I've already documented the connections between Iran, Hezbollah and Al Shabab, and the pirates and Al Shabab are getting their arms from somewhere. And Iran signed an alliance with Islamist Eritrea to the north of Somalia last year that grants Iranian Revolutionary Guard units bases in the country, which abuts the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait controlling access between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

Iran's presence in the region is undeniable. Could the lack of decisive action be a symptom of the general fear on the part of the US and the West to confront Iran in any fashion?

I think there's a connection.


Anonymous said...

lot of un-answered questions.This article might shed some light on your last question.

Freedom Fighter said...

The site you linked to is a leetle questionable ( Stephen Walt as a 'foreign policy expert' ???) but the actual article seems to point to a NATO/EU rivalry as the reason for the unchecked upsurge in policy.

I think not wanting to confront Iran and general cowardice on behalf of th eWest has a bit more to do with it.

Oddly enough, on the same site this piece has a lot firmer grasp on what is not being done to solve the problem by the Obama Administration, with or without Europe...although it doesn't go into the all important question of `why'.

Thanks for dropping by.