Monday, April 13, 2009

Shiver Me Timbers: Pirates' Righteous Indignation

[N.B. This entry started off as a comment on Right-Side-of-Lowell but I decided to spell it out a little further here].

I have no idea as to the exact, 100% morally and practically *right* way to deal with piracy, and you don't either. No one does. Policymakers have to deal in the real world, however, and that's a lot harder than blogging or opining in a bar.

What I do know, however, is that if I were a Somali pirate, the cost-benefit analysis of my activity still weighs pretty heavily in my favor, but if I see an American or French flag, all bets are off -- this is my livelihood, and the key root word there is "live," so I'll just take someone else's cargo and crew hostage next time.

I have no idea what exactly happened in the waters off of Somalia, but it's clear that three of the armed hostage-takers are now dead. What I find mildly amusing today is some of the quotes from their pirate comrades that are making their way into the Western media.

They killed our friends on the lifeboat and we thought helicopters would bomb us in Eyl last night," a pirate in Eyl, who called himself Farah, told Reuters. "We were mourning for dead friends and then roaring planes came -- grief upon grief. America has become our new enemy."

Reading this guy's quote, you can't help but notice that "thinking you're going to be bombed" is cause for if we're continuing with line of logic, then every paranoid schizophrenic in America walking down any street in America has a legitimate grievance with just about everyone they see -- after all, they may really believe that everyone they see "might be ready to attack" at any moment. Stop signs and parked cars might also be guilty, too.

The second thing that amazes me about the quote is that it makes no reference to the events leading up to the shooting. I mean, you would think the Navy woke up one day, decided it needed to drum up some business (because you know the Army and Marines take all the headlines these days) and decided to shoot at some Somalis for target practice.

To me, it's analagous to someone walking into a bank with a gun, threatening everyone's life and demanding money, but then somehow feeling aggrieved for getting shot.

Again -- I'm not writing this to argue the moral right and wrong here -- and even in the bank analogy it could be an unnecessary escalation if a police officer were to suddenly shoot the robber...but c'mon -- if you don't want to be put in that situation, don't walk into a bank with a loaded gun and threaten to kill people.

As to the "America is the new enemy" stuff, I think that's something the Susan Sarandon/Sean Penn crowd can easily grasp onto as "proof" that the Navy, the military, or the National Command Authorities acted foolishly in regards to our long-term interests. The family of Captain Phillips -- people who actually have to go out into the real-world and earn their living in ways the Hollywood crowd can only sneer at -- might beg to differ. Their husband and father will be home with them, thanks to rough men who stand ready to commit violence on our behalf. The Sean Penn idiot parade will never understand that. The 'our' in that sentence is intentional, because it includes you, me, and yes, even Sean Penn.

Call me a crazy, trigger-happy American here, but if someone who points a gun to my head and threatens to kill me can't be considered an enemy already, I don't know who can.

As someone who will spend much of the next couple decades away from loved ones, earning a living trying to capture the "hearts and minds" of people in war zones and quasi-war zones, I understand and appreciate the importance of non-kinetic operations as much as anyone. As I've written before on this blog, it means a lot more than just handing out soccer balls and beanie babies. I think it's absolutely the way forward for this country to win the Global War on Terror, or the Overseas Contingency, or whatever the heck the rose is by any other name.

But sometimes -- just sometimes -- the cause of freedom and justice will be advanced with a slight adaptation to the motto -- with two to the heart and with one to the mind.


Matt said...

I agree with you completely about the use of force and it's amazing the job the SEALs did in saving Captain Phillips' life. Also, re: the "America is our new enemy" stuff, it seems quite apparent that America already WAS your enemy.

I do, however, take issue with the way you conflate the beliefs of vocal anti-war celebrities like Sean Penn with an implied class derision that I'm not sure exists:

"The family of Captain Phillips -- people who actually have to go out into the real-world and earn their living in ways the Hollywood crowd can only sneer at -- might beg to differ."

I'm no Sean Penn completist, but I doubt he's ever mocked the way troops earn their living (in fact, when I've heard him speak he goes out of his way to praise them). And even if he did, I think to equate his beliefs with a mythical "Hollywood crowd" is facile; I live and work in Los Angeles, and people here don't live in any less a "real world" than people in Bergen County. Most are primarily concerned with the health and happiness of their families, making enough money to send their kids to college, and the continuing success of their country. And the dirty secret is that actors' aren't as rich as people think -- Bill O'Reilly earns more annually than most of the artists he derides as out-of-touch.

I don't agree with everything Sean Penn says, but he should be held accountable for his specific beliefs instead of dismissed and villified as part of a mythically liberal and hedonistic bunch that bears very little resemblance to the reality that is life in Los Angeles.

The New Englander said...


As to the blanketing argument, I admit I have to enter a nolo contendre plea. I've never lived in -- and barely even been to -- LA or Hollywood, and admit I generalized based on some pop culture/commentariat influences.

If the shoe were on the other foot, and someone started a sentence (esp. a negative one) with "The thing about the military..." or "The problem with these military types..." I would be offended if it came from someone who didn't have firsthand experience.

Also, fair point about the "real world" thing -- as someone who's been on the wrong end of some of those "not in the real world" groupings, I've always resented it, and am yet to see any evidence that the "real world" in somewhere like LaJolla is any less real than the world in, say, El Cajon. Nor have I seen good justification for why some champion the opinions/dreams/beliefs of people born under rougher circumstances, but try to belittle those born under more favorable ones, ipso facto, as if one were somehow chosen by the person but the other not.

Looking back at the entry, though, rather than single out Hollywood or any other one group, I should have reserved my ire for the Far Left in general (wherever they might be!) as opposed to singling out any group or industry.

I know the Far Right is equally obnoxious, but it's on issues like this where the Far Left goads me a lot, because by absolving the people they claim to speak up for/care about of all responsibility/blame for anything they do -- in the end, of course, this has the exact reverse effect from the one they ostensibly desire.

When an Ed School professor says that it's okay for a child of color at English High to fail or act out because he's "expressing himself" but it's unacceptable for a white kid from Newton to act that way, all they're doing, in my opinion, is perpetutating the inequalities they bemoan.

And that's the problem I have with the Far Left when they talk foreign policy (celebrity or not). To draw moral equivalency between Saddam Hussein and George Bush, for example, or to say that it's okay for a Somali person to use violence on the high seas but NOT okay for a westerner, is ultimately a formula for increased -- not decreased -- suffering in the world.


Matt said...

Something that seems specific (and frightening) is the Far Left's role in education policy. I was just thinking today that you hear things/read things about every Obama cabinet member except Arne Duncan. I know very little about education policy, but it's fascinating how underplayed such an important issue is. Would love to read some of your thoughts about this stuff in a future blog...