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Somalia Pirate Drama Becomes The First Major International Crisis For The Obama Administration To Address

Last week's missile launch by North Korea was hardly as serious of an event as some would think. Once again, North Korea proved that it could not launch a missile into a high orbit or display the range necessary to threaten the mainland United States. Probably, only Iran might be interested in such failed missile technology as it might be able to target Israel with such a short range, if Iran could improve the guidance of these missiles. But, otherwise the North Korean launch was largely a failure on many levels.

But an even lower tech crisis over off the waters from Somalia has many dangers for the Obama Administration. Once again, a low tech group of criminals have proven that they can best the United States. Just like Iraq and Afghanistan, low tech bands of terrorists, criminals and thugs have been able to proven that they can match the U.S. in many ways. the American military is prepared along the lines of fighting high tech wars with unlikely opponents such as China or Russia, neither of whom probably want to really destroy their societies economic gains in a nuclear war. Both nations also have substantial investment in the U.S. as well, so it hardly makes a great deal of sense to destroy so much of their investments here. But the low tech wars with small bands of thugs remains as the most elusive and difficult sort of war to fight for a higher tech military like the U.S.somali-pirates1.jpg

Somalia has no real government, where warlords, gangs, thugs, criminals and others simply arm themselves and become a government with their own rules unto themselves. Th excellent film BLACKHAWK DOWN was a pretty graphic reminder of the serious situation caused by gangs of fighters loyal to a warlord in Somalia could cause American forces. During the Clinton Administration, it was hoped that a small number of American soldiers could act as peacekeepers in Somalia, but their mission only ended in failure as they were attacked by bands of fighters loyal to a warlord.

The Obama Administration in the short-term needs this hostage drama to work out. But in the longer-term the navies patrolling the Somalia coast need some military plans to sink and destroy the pirate vessels and remove them as a threat. And the UN needs some real action to help to establish some sort of real government in Somalia and set some real laws to end the actions by criminal gangs. But the reality is that perhaps none of these three things may be achieved. The hostage drama may not end well, pirate gangs will continue to threaten international shipping, and the UN will never act to establish some government in Somalia, where anarchy will continue to be the rule of law.

Unfortunately, all of this only presents an opportunity for the U.S. to appear to be weak, although American, British, French, German, Chinese and Russian warships are all involved in the international effort to make shipping safe in the waters near Somalia.

Somalia is one of those frustrating low tech warfare foreign policy messes in which it is very difficult for the U.S. to emerge with a really good solution. It must be highly frustrating for Washington as well as other world governments to fail in efforts to protect their shipping from small bands of criminals. However, this seems to the nature of modern conflicts. Small bands of thugs will likely continue to oppress and humiliate the major nations of the world until the great nations of the world can figure some way to counter this low tech violence.

For now this standoff off the coast pits just four armed pirates vs. the power of the American Navy, proving the power of small bands of low tech thugs to bully large nations. A Shocking modern warfare development indeed.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (6)


Paul, the fact of the matter is, the US military is more than the equal of any low-tech threat. They don't beat us, our politicians do. There's a $4.00 solution to this problem. Put the seals on the chopper or in the water, roughly a $1.00 a piece for shells. Piracy like this needs to be dealt with fast, not negotiated or ransomed out. That is strictly a losing proposition. If you negotiate it's strictly from a position of weakness. They know they can continue what they are doing at any time. Ransom just encourages them to strike more often, and gives them more money to get better weapons and boats. Put the special ops guys in place, let them work. There were four main reasons that we didn't succeed in stabilizing Somalia the first time around (in my opinion). First was that we left too small of a force in place to complete the mission. When you have ops going on, it's a bad time to downsize the forces available. Second, They weren't allowed to have air support on hand from the air force. Third issue was the rules of engagement and general interference from Washington that were handed down to the guys on the ground. I understand collateral damage, civilian casualties, and why they must be avoided at all costs. But they tied the hands of the operators on the ground as to when, where, why, and how operations could be performed. Had American troops been able to guard the food distribution points (meaning more troops available) the warlords would not have been able to use that as their own private stockpiles, and to keep people hungry. Fourth issue was the fact that our intelligence, command authority, and upper echelon planners were not thinking of this as a military operation, they considered it a law enforcement or "peacekeeping" operation. When you have a large heavily armed force opposing you, you need to think wartime or military operations. No other force on earth would have come out of Mogadishu that day with fewer casualties. I honestly and firmly believe that. If given the tools to do the job, our military can meet and defeat any threat, even a low-tech insurgency. Look at Iraq, check the casualty figures. Sure there's still violence, there always will be (if I recall, isn't Detroits murder rate right up there with Mosul's?). What wins an insurgency fight is perserverance. We pulled out of Somalia when we should have put in more troops and stayed.


Chad, you hit the nail on the head with that comment. I agree with you, but lets take it a step further, any time troops are dispatched to any country/area, the elected critters should lay out what the mission is suppose to be accomplished, and then let the military decide on how to do it to get the end results.

No more of understaffed personal of military troops, or weapons, and the rule of engagement should be full force if needed. And have the supplies and backup forces ready if needed.

I have personally seen the politicians screw up operations they have tasked the grunts to do, and every time, the grunts have lost their lives because of the elected critters.And it doesn't matter which party controls the White House, they are all the same.

Christina Viering:

A big problem.

j east:

You wrote: Once again, North Korea proved that it could not launch a missile into a high orbit or display the range necessary to threaten the mainland United States.

Wow, this is amazing. So, yeah...that's how it works genious. You try what you got, make changes, try again...until you get it right. But the fact that NK is violating the precious UN precipts...well, that's not serious at all.

Nope, O failed his first test in International affairs, he has failed his second test ...he is neck deep in his third...I certainly hope he gets this one right.


Get rid of the JAG lawyers that are in each unit. That way the troops can do what is necessary to get the job done. These parasites are what one of the symptoms of the politically correctness that permeates the military and the government as a whole. Make them carry a weapon and send them out on a patrol with the front line units.


Stan, I agree with you that Political Correctness is not suitable for the military mindset, however, Jag lawyers, military discipline, and the rule of law are necessary to maintain a humane and civilized military. If the "legionaires" become the "barbarians" what good are they? Yes, it takes "rough men", but when you become less human than the enemy you fight, you have already lost.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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