Obama's Accidental Success

I am sick to death of hearing about the “Success Story” regarding the pirate hostage taking off the coast of Somalia.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and here’s why:

First of all, Obama shouldn’t have been involved in the first place.  There is no reason why the President should have to personally make a decision regarding rescuing a hostage taken in an act of piracy from a US-Flag vessel.  The Skipper of the USS Bainbridge (the responding vessel) should have had the authority to make his own tactical decisions.  That he did not smacks of the same kind of micro-managerial control as the Nixon, Carter and Clinton Administrations, which is not conducive to military success.

Second, the captain of the Maersk-Alabama gave the Bainbridge an opportunity to end the situation quickly when he dove into the water shortly after the destroyer’s arrival.  At that point, the Bainbridge should simply have obliterated the inflatable dingy that the pirates had used to escape with their hostage in a hail of heavy-caliber naval artillery fire, particularly after the pirates fired on Captain Phillips in the water.

Third, Obama never actually issued any orders.  His actions were the following:  Send Secretary of State Clinton to issue a stern warning to the pirates; hold briefings and meetings with his senior staff; have his press secretary issue press releases stating that the situation was one of his primary concerns; and approve Cmdr. Frank Castellano’s request to take out the pirates if Captain Phillip’s life were in danger.

That last item, an approval of a request for permission from the tactical officer in command, combined with Captain Phillips’ bold and practically suicidal action to jump into the water a second time (and combined with the incredible selectivity and training of the US Navy Seals), is what ended the situation.

The President was right in that he approved the use of force, but his actions could hardly be considered leadership.  That he and his staff are not taking credit, but instead heaping it upon the military and Captain Phillips, is irrelevant:  The majority of the media has already chosen to tell the story as a triumph of the Obama Administration and an example of his leadership, and are labeling all detractors (such as myself) as non-credible.  This is unfortunate, since it was primarily luck and an eroding timidness of the pirates that kept Captain Phillips alive.  A few hours or minutes could have made this situation the Obama Administration’s version of the Iran hostage crisis.

Real military leader’s don’t hamstring their operational commanders by forcing them to request authority to fire in such situations.  This was not the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the pirates were not Soviet sailors.  They were pirates bent on hijacking and thievery on the High Seas.  Their lives were forfeit the moment they set foot on the Maersk-Alabama, and any reprisals or recriminations by pirates based in the Gulf of Aden should be met with massive, deadly and destructive force.

The pirates are not stupid, either.  Just because a nation lacks an education system and effective government does not mean that its people are unintelligent (if our education system is an example, quite the opposite).  The pirates understand what happened:  They know that this situation should have been over in hours, not days, were Obama’s leadership a serious threat to them.  They have since attacked several more vessels and promise reprisals against US-Flag ships.  That threat may be all talk, or the pirates may be very, very serious.  In any event, I would not wish to be a sailor in the Gulf of Aden during the next three years, nine months and six days.

Piracy is a crime of fear:  Pirates know that they are not likely to face much resistance from a merchant crew, who are frightened and not trained to deal with such situations.  The pirates are weak, so they attack only those weaker.  That the United States did not immediately destroy the pirates when Captain Phillips jumped into the water emboldens them.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, upon learning that the Soviet warships carrying nuclear weapons to Cuba had stopped, Secretary of State Dean Rusk stated that, “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”  One week ago, when Captain Phillips jumped into the water and the USS Bainbridge did nothing, the situation was reversed:  We blinked.

Sunday’s rescue, while a happy one for Captain Phillips, his crew, and his family, was Pyrrhic Victory for the United States.  One the media and the Administration are likely to expound upon as the President pushes forward his fascist economic policy (fascism in the economic sense, not the modern colloquialism for jackboots and police states).  Indeed, the very next day after Captain Phillips was rescued, President Obama gave a speech on economic policy.

Worse yet, members of the Administration are publicly discussing the possibility of attacking the pirate’s bases on the mainland.  While this is the correct action to take, it is foolish of the Obama Administration and Department of Defense to publicly acknowledge such plans.

The pirates could have been lulled into believing that no such action would take place, that this was to the United States little more than a mosquito bite.  An attack could have been made by surprise.  Instead, the pirates are well aware that plans are being made and can begin to prepare for them.  As Sun Tzu said, “Attack your enemy where he is unprepared, appear where he does not expect you.”  Unfortunately, that is no longer an option.  Our soldiers are expected, meaning more American soldiers are going to be wounded or die in the attempt.

We need to wake up:  President Obama is not a leader.  He is the product of a very powerful marketing machine that has convinced the majority of voters, most of them otherwise intelligent, that he has the skills, decisiveness and leadership ability to lead this nation.  He may in fact have them, but he has not shown us anything of the sort yet.