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For US, few options to prevent, fight piracy

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Apr 8, 2009.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Shut up and play! Staff Member

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    By Anne Gearan And Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press Writers – 16 mins ago

    WASHINGTON – The U.S. sent warships speeding to the scene. But they were hours away when the brazen pirates attacked, and the world's greatest sea power had to face the fact that it had only limited options to respond to the startling seizure of American merchant seamen.

    The outcome for the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama and its crew was still unclear as Wednesday night turned into Thursday morning off the coast of Somalia. The crew had retaken control of the cargo ship from a band of pirates, but the captain was still held by the attackers in one of the ship's lifeboats.

    The limits of U.S. power are a hard reality facing the Obama administration, which has so far done no better than its predecessor to thwart the growing threat of piracy along a huge, lawless stretch of African coastline.

    President Barack Obama had no public comment but was closely following the pirate-hostage drama, the first like this in modern history involving a U.S. crew, said Denis McDonough, a senior foreign policy adviser at the White House.

    "We have watched with alarm the increasing threat of piracy," McDonough said. "The administration has an intense interest in the security of navigation."

    U.S. officials said an American Navy destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, was headed for the scene along with at least six other vessels. The Bainbridge was among several U.S. ships, including the cruiser USS Gettysburg, that had been patrolling in the region.

    But the U.S. ships were 300 nautical miles and several hours away when the Maersk Alabama was seized, officials said.

    The Bainbridge is a guided missile destroyer carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles, torpedoes and two MH-60 Knighthawk helicopters armed with Hellfire missiles.

    It was not clear what the military crews would do when they got to the scene. Options could include negotiation, backed by the threat of force.

    Operations would probably include watching the ship via helicopters and unmanned aircraft overhead, as well as ships in the surrounding waters. In the past, surveillance aircraft, including unmanned drones, have flown over captured vessels to take photos and collect other information.

    The Bainbridge carries with it the ScanEagle, a 40-pound drone with night vision. It can fly as high as 16,000 feet and linger over a target for more than 20 hours. The Navy used a ScanEagle aboard another ship to detect a suspicious small boat in February. Nine suspected pirates were captured.

    Despite America's technical and firepower edge, there is too much ocean to cover, and too many commercial vessels to protect, for full-time patrols or escorts for threatened ships.

    U.S. legal authority is limited, too, even in the Maersk Alabama's case of American hostages and a cargo of donated American food. Somali pirates, emboldened by fat ransoms, have little reason to fear capture.

    "The military component here is always going to be marginal," said Peter Chalk, an expert on maritime national security at the private Rand Corp.

    According to the Navy, it would take 61 ships to control the shipping route in the Gulf of Aden, which is just a fraction of the 1.1 million square miles where the pirates have operated. A U.S.-backed international anti-piracy coalition currently has 12 to 16 ships patrolling the region at any one time.

    Along the Somali coastline, an area roughly as long as the eastern seaboard of the United States, pirate crews have successfully held commercial ships hostage for days or weeks until they are ransomed. In the past week, pressured by naval actions off Somalia, the pirates have shifted their operations farther out into the Indian Ocean, expanding the crisis.

    Oceans of that immense size cannot be patrolled completely, even with high-tech detection equipment doing some of the work.

    "Wherever the police are, the robbers will go somewhere else," Chalk said.

    There are also legal questions about where and how to prosecute pirates, and about how far the U.S. military can or should go to help or protect commercial ships.

    In December, alarmed by increases in hijacking incidents, the Bush administration sought and won U.N. Security Council authorization to expand international naval operations against Somali pirates to allow the pursuit of suspects on the ground in Somalia.

    The move, which came at a special session attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other foreign ministers, was the fourth taken by the council in the second half of 2008 alone to combat the pirates.

    Three months into the international anti-piracy campaign, as many as 17 nations are participating in increased patrols, and more are expected to join.

    But U.S. defense officials say the only realistic solution is on shore in Somalia, where money from the piracy ransoms fuels militant activities in the largely lawless country.

    Navy officials have urged patience, saying the key will be to watch for progress over the next year to see if the increased patrols and agreements for piracy prosecutions begin to work.

    Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, told the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon is looking at the issue of ordering strikes inside Somalia and said that, "ultimately, the solution to the problem of piracy is ashore — in Somalia."


    Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Pamela Hess, Matthew Lee and Steven R. Hurst contributed to this report.

  2. ologan

    ologan Well-Known Member

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    If I were a large shipping company,or a major oil company with tankers in the exposed danger area,I would seriously investigate the possibility of hiring professional guards,i.e. a "Blackwater"type organization,to ride along,so to speak.You can hire lots of 'mercs' for what the going ransom is for just one of the captive oil tankers. I also like the idea of strikes inside of Somalia,but in todays appeasment climate,that probably won't be an option.
  3. iceberg

    iceberg detoxed...part 2 Zone Supporter

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    yea, we could never pose as a cargo ship and plant some navy seals in and around it. that's just silly talking.
  4. MetalHead

    MetalHead Benched

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    This is simple.
    The villagers know who the pirates are,this is not a CIA operation.
    If the pirates seize a ship,round up the families of the pirates and put them in a boat and take pictures of them and threaten to toss them overboard.
    That is your bargaining chip.
    Play like they play...only with bigger firepower...only then we will get rid of them.
  5. masomenos

    masomenos Less is more

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    You wouldn't really be ok with our government doing that, would you?
  6. MetalHead

    MetalHead Benched

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    If it saves american lives?
    I would endorse it.Let's play their game.
    Maso,you are a good guy and I enjoy our exchanges.
    But it would be naive on your part not to realize that not everybody plays by the same rules.

    Gotta break an egg to make an omelette.
  7. masomenos

    masomenos Less is more

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    Oh I understand that not everyone plays by the same rules and I think that's an important distinction. We are not them. Our actions are what set us apart from a lot of the world and I could never condone kidnapping someones family and using them as leverage. Blow their ships out of the water and make an example of them, I'm perfectly ok with that. But kidnapping their children? That's targeting civilians. I understand that there's collateral damage in military operations, but directly targeting them?

    I enjoy our exchanges too and even though we're often on opposite ends of a discussion, I think you're a good guy too. I do think that you're way off base on this though.
  8. CowboyWay

    CowboyWay If Coach would have put me in, we'd a won State

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    Where do we draw the line Artie?

    A guy gets up in a clocktower at a University and starts blowing people away with a sniper rifle. Do we round up his mother, father, sisters, wife, kids, nieces, nephews, and put a gun to their head until he gives up?

    Do we kill one every 15 minutes until he gives up? Do we start with the old relatives, or just go straight for the children?

    Stupid idea.

    Blow them out of the water, torture them, whatever you want to do, I have no problem with, but targeting their families is just plain dumb.
  9. CanadianCowboysFan

    CanadianCowboysFan Lightning Rod

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    well shiver me timbers, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, I thought all the pirates were at Disneyland and Disneyworld.
  10. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    I think we should give them some DVDs.
  11. masomenos

    masomenos Less is more

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    We only do that for our friends, get it straight.
  12. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    And see this whole time I was confused...
  13. Rackat

    Rackat Active Member

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    Shipping schedules are known. Routes are known. If a company knows it is going into dangerous waters, why the heck are they not taking more precautions? They move their shipping lanes a little further from the coast, the pirates use larger ships that can handle the open ocean to launch their attacks from. If the company is going to send a ship anywhere near they should have mercenaries on board.
  14. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    Captain Ron tried to tell you there were pirates...but you didn't believe him.
  15. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    Kill em all. Let allah sort them out.
  16. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    We simply track the speed boats by satelite to see where they go. Go there and sink every boat found with weapons on board. Seach the village and destroy every home with weapons found in it. Do that a few times and I guarantee they would leave any US ships alone.
  17. MetalHead

    MetalHead Benched

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    Let's see.
    One whacked out Charles Whitman shooting people at UT at random,vs. an organized group of thugs wanting money.
    Big difference Cowboy...not even close,not even the same sport.
    Kidnappers/hijackers want something in exchange.Money,prisoners freed....etc.t
    Killing hostages=loss of leverage...don't you know that?
    Whacked out killers who snap want death and death only.

    Poor comparison.

    See "Man on Fire"...based on a true story.
    This has been in practice for a long time.

    Too bad you were that last to know.
    Try again.
  18. ShiningStar

    ShiningStar Well-Known Member

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    Alrite, lets do it your way, now they figured it out and bring children along for the ride, what do you do?
  19. MetalHead

    MetalHead Benched

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    See post #17.
    This is not a new practice.
    It's been done before....successfully.
    The more weenie pooh we get,the more they will do it.
    Send them a disproportionate response and see this BS go away.
  20. jrumann59

    jrumann59 Well-Known Member

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    The moral high ground in todays world is worth how many lives? Please tell me or the soldiers that died in Iraq and Afghanistan from terrorists firing from mosques, hospitals, and schools. Moral high ground looks good in a press briefing until you have to inform a family member you didn't do EVERYTHING possible to save that life. Rules are for civilized people and unfortunately the rulebook goes out the window when one party reaches the lowest common denominator of uncivilized, or hostis humani genris.

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