Another 444 Days?
Thomas Jefferson dealt with a similar situation with such finality and effectiveness that his policy was enshrined in the marine hymn ‘…to the shores of Tripoli…’ and for 200 years, nobody – state, individual, or pirate crew – desired to threaten American shipping because the results were entirely predictable.
Now suddenly, the results are not so predictable to our discredit. Or at least, they are not predictable until put in context by VP Biden’s recent prediction. We all knew Biden was correct when he made that prediction, although we knew the outcome would be that Obama would fail the test. And now he has.
Obama can’t risk his newly re-established world popularity by dealing with the current hostage situation off the horn of Africa for obvious political reasons. In a situation that seems perfectly engineered to support his success and freedom to operate toward a favorable outcome, Obama has chosen to place 300 million citizens at future risk due to his lack of action. And has heaped scorn upon the American flag he refused to wear earlier in his campaign.
Mistake #1: Dispatching additional vessels besides the smallest of our destroyers to the scene. Even my 11 year old son spotted the problem this would create: the public juxtaposition of all our nation’s power helpless against four pirates in a drifting lifeboat with one hostage who is a sworn officer of our country.
Mistake #2: Failure to take decisive and final action against the pirates.
Mistake #3: Giving the pirates freedom to dispatch other pirate vessels to the scene to consolidate hostages and gaining additional bargaining power (thus creating a multi-state interest ‘preventing’ the opportunity for unilateral action).
The French, of course, recently took appropriate action, as regrettable as it was that one hostage was killed, in their recent commando action to demonstrate that the rights of their citizens to safe passage will not be infringed with impunity. Now many US vessels will we now see re-flagged to France because of this?
Harsh Moral Calculus Warning!
We are about to examine the harsh moral calculus of this (and many other situations) so if you prefer not to examine difficult truths and remain in denial about some realities, then you should stop reading now. (Another admission: I am not an attorney and do not know Admiralty law – so if you are more of an expert at this, your comments below are very welcome!)
Let me start by saying that we all want to protect innocent life.
Today we are presented with the perfect lesson of balancing the rights of one man against the rights of safe passage of 300 million others who expect to be protected under the American flag. The French just examined this moral calculus, produced the correct answer, and acted accordingly. Obama has not, and has thus ensured that when Americans travel under the American flag, they are at risk. Crimes against the American flag can be conducted with complete impunity. Just as the Iranians did with 52 hostages for 444 days under Carter.
Innocent? Citizen? Militia?
In Heller, the Supreme Court justices’ questioning of Walter Dellinger (the attorney for DC) drew him into admitting the ‘the people’ and ‘the militia’ were one and the same. This argument was apparently accepted by the Justices, even though many 2nd Amendment observers were amused that he was apparently ‘trapped’ into this admission by the Justices’ questioning, because this argument supported the 2nd Amentment advocates position, something Dellinger was loathe to do.
All the same, this suggests that any member of ‘the people’ who wishes also to be a member of ‘the militia’ should be so considered. But does it also mean that a member of ‘the people’ is also considered a member of ‘the militia’ even involuntarily if events demand it? Could events in effect ‘draft’ an innocent of ‘the people’ into being considered a part of ‘the militia’, and therefore a little easier to morally risk that person’s life in service to the rights of other citizens under the same flag to enjoy safe passage?
I think the true calculus of situations like this reveal that even though all us us like to enjoy our rights as Americans, there are duties and obligations that go along with those rights.
In this case, the question does not fully obtain, because the hostage in this case is not entirely ‘an innnocent’ but the master and captain of a US flagged vessel. He has taken an oath to defend our constitution (I just checked).
Captains of vessels are granted extraordinary authority – and they also are placed under extraordinary obligations as we used to see when captains (even civil ones) went down with their ships. That was a rather useless demonstration of the obligations a captain must observe – a more realistic fulfillment of the obligations of a captain granted extraordinary authority are being acted out now in the Indian Ocean.
He has volunteered once by becoming a US merchant marine seaman. He volunteered again by becoming an officer and taking the oath. He volunteered again when he accepted command of a US-flagged vessel. He volunteered yet again when he offered to become a hostage to protect his crew. This officer knows well the tasks and responsibilities he has engaged.
This officer has bravely lived up to his oath and is drifting on the Indian Ocean waiting for Obama to live up to his oath.
Obama, of course, does not realize that these facts support his freedom of action to forcefully engage the pirates and resolve the situation. A militia member (the captain) is far easier to risk than a true total innocent, yet Obama does not see this. Obama thinks in terms of innocents and victims; not in terms of service and the risks that genuine service sometimes entails.
I honor this Captain and his family.
In many areas where we have seen Obama disappoint us, I have told my friends who voted for him ‘Why are you surpised? He told us exactly who he was and what he would do in the campaign!’ Now we see the promise he made by refusing to wear a flag pin on his lapel earlier in the campaign fulfilled.
When Obama learned that the absence of a flag pin on his lapel might threaten his election, like a coward, he sought the protection of that flag by pinning it on his lapel.
Like a coward, he refuses to extend the protection of that flag to those who deserve it more than he does.
Obama is a physical coward.
Obama is a moral coward.
I think that 8 or 12 properly armed and led SEALs approaching the lifeboat from underwater could have resolved this situation days ago. But Obama chose not to take the risk and thus is placing uncounted Americans at greater future risk.
He should remove the American flag from his lapel, and lower the American flag from above the White House until he shows us all that he is willing to extend the protection of the flag to all US citizens.