Obviously your host is pleased that a heroic mariner such as Captain Richard Phillips has been liberated from his captivity. I am not displeased that those who wrongly held him have shuffled off their mortal coils. I’m very proud of the SEAL snipers whose precise application of firepower – 25-35 yards is no great distance for a marksman, but the shooters were on a moving platform, shooting at mobile targets who were themselves bobbing around in a lifeboat – eased the pirates into the next life without harming Captain Phillips.
The “on-scene commander” – an ingeniously ambiguous construct, I take it to mean the SEAL platoon commander rather than Bainbridge‘s CO – made a good call at the right time. And the ROE were in place for him to do so. Opportunity and capability intersected and the moment was seized.
But about that: Much is being made about the president’s issuance of authority to use lethal force against the pirates should their captive’s life appear to be in jeapordy. The Washington Post calls this “an early military victory” for the president. And senior Navy officers are doubtlessly pleased to throw laurels at the feet of our new caesar, after all, they’ll be living under his thumb for most of the next four years.
But the Navy has an inherent right and obligation to protect and defend US citizens on international waters. No new ROE guidance should have been necessary. A lethal threat is proportionately responded to with lethal force. The best we can say – and it’s not nothing – was that Washington didn’t get in the way here.
This has much to do with the eternal campaign style of today’s political class. And we must admit that had things gone another way, the president would have suffered body blows to his prestige, blows gratefully delivered by legions of those who would happily have seen him fail even if it meant that poor Captain Phillips’ family had received less pleasant news on Easter Sunday.
We saw far too much of that sort of thing over the last eight years. We here, at least, ought to have the level-headedness to see things as they are. Piracy ought not become a political issue, beause it’s not going away anytime soon, hard decisions will have to be made and there will probably be setbacks.
How to sum this up?