Somali Pirates: Shootout at the OK Corral

David S. White
Principal of the Law Firm of David S. White & Associates, West Los Angeles, specializing in litigation, arbitration and mediation of real-estate-related disputes and litigation since 1977; www.dswlawyers.com

Need a diversion from obsessing over the economy? I have just the story for you.

When we last left off, Somali Pirates, actually ragtag Somali teens and twenty-somethings in flip flops and shorts, armed with automatic weapons, boarded the US flagged Maersk Alabama 300 miles off the East African coast, took it over for a bit, then lost control back to its crew but got off the ship and into a lifeboat, taking the Captain as hostage. US Navy destroyer Bainbridge got to the scene and incongruously faced off against a handful of these Somali Pirates in a lifeboat holding the Captain.

The Maersk Alabama went on to its port in Kenya with its load of food and relief supplies and, back at the scene, at night, the Captain made a daring escape from the lifeboat where the Pirates held him captive, but, a couple of Pirates jumped overboard, re-captured the Captain and brought him back onto the lifeboat. Media covered all of this incessantly and we learned that another UD destroyer was, I wanted to say “steaming” toward the scene a few hundred miles off the humid East African coast, but 21st Century US destroyers don’t “steam” anymore, they have ultra high tech propulsion systems now.

Media also reported that the Pirates had called back to their bases in Somali and other Pirates were coming as reinforcements, in other ships they had captured like that German container vessel that Pirates are using as a floating headquarters, with others they held hostage aboard. All heading for what could be a most lopsided Shootout at the OK Corral live and right there on our HD screens in your living room and mine.

Let the Hollywood bidding for screen rights begin!

As Ken Kesey said in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ paraphrased for piracy purposes, these Somali Pirates either have cohunes of high tempered steel or they are just plain “bullgoose looney” to be taking on the might of the US Navy, splashed across the world’s Media. Or are they? The Pirates, like most of the non-state actors wreaking havoc today on the worlds’ stage today, from Hamas and Hezbollah to Al Queda’s various franchises, are betting the farm on our ‘Western Humanitarianism,’ for lack of a better word.

They are threatening to take the Captain of the Maersk Alabama back to their Pirate Havens in Somalia, to disappear amid the chaos and failed state madness there and they are betting that we won’t blow them out of the water and to Kingdom Come with our military might because we will do literally most anything to avoid harming innocent life.

And, so far, it has been a very good bet on the Pirates’ part, which will soon need investment advisors to help them handle the millions they are receiving in ransom money from nervous ship-owners. Western Humanitarianism doctrine says that we will go to great lengths to avoid harm to the innocent; so great, in fact, that we will risk the potential embarrassment of a showdown on the high seas with Somali Pirates in a lifeboat at a standoff with US Navy destroyers, as two of them had now reached the scene with other US Navy ships.

Now, let’s pause a moment and think about that. We sent FBI negotiators, a la ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ and Al Pacino’s famous cinematic bank standoff, to try to use ‘talk therapy’ techniques to get the Pirates to release the brave Captain of the Maersk Alabama from his lifeboat captivity with the Pirates. Will this persuade the Pirates to come to their senses, assuming Pirates have ‘senses,’ so to speak?

May I venture an idea? What exactly would ensue if the US Navy waited patiently for all the other Pirates and hostages in captured ships and on that German cargo ship to arrive on scene and then, methodically, blew each one of the Pirates out of the water with focused firepower? How upsetting would it be to publically sacrifice hostage lives while blowing these Somali Pirates to Kingdom Come to give the message to non-state, bad actors everywhere who wish to dare the US and call our bluff while strutting on the World Media?

Here’s the message: take a ship by piracy and take hostages, and ‘eat lead’ and die?! Will that hurt or help our image on the world’s stage, I ask you? What would Gen. Patton do?

Or, alternatively, should we all just hunker down now, wait to see who flinches first, and stay with our theme of always protecting innocent life and limb in situations like these, over all other considerations? And, by so doing, do we give the message that Americans are ripe for the plucking worldwide? Shipping owners are paying millions in ransom (‘tribute,’ in Pirate-speak) for the return of their ships and hostages. Doesn’t this just reinforce bad behavior by Pirates? Are we nuts?

If you were a self-respecting Pirate, minding your business in Somalia, watching this drama play out, would you be emboldened to go out off the Horn of Africa, capture ships, take hostages, and in so doing, make big money, wealth beyond dreams of avarice, or would you be afraid of the might and power of the US Navy and stay home?

I respectfully submit that we need to seriously consider our message to non-state, bad actors, worldwide, who are emboldened to commit acts of piracy and hostage-taking. If we cave in to the pressure of harm to innocent life, don’t we embolden and endanger many more innocent lives in the process? Or, should we just pull our high tech triggers, Shootout at OK Corral-style, and blow these Somali Pirates right out of the water, unfortunately, along with their hostages, now to give the loud, clear and unmistakable message: Don’t Mess with the US? That is the question du jour. Comment away there, faithful readers.

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