Duly Noted: Buy Into Piracy


George Handlery about the week that was. A root of troubles: The conflict between pay now and pay perhaps later. Piracy is good business. Trying to try pirates. Autocracy as an enhancer of limited means. The US’ Iraq woes: the consequence of devastating success? War, terrorism and democratic society.
1. Sometimes, like a good snapshot, a single case might reveal more about a general occurrence than a long essay can. The item below fits the generalization. Interestingly, the source is an ex CP member and a valued colleague from my professorial escapade after the (official) fall of Communism. Instead of “Marxism-Leninism” my buddy now teaches “management science”.
In a recent exchange of notes pertaining to the current crisis, the case of irresponsibly granted credits came up. This happened in response to my claim that it all started with a Clinton decision. It was that, even those who cannot afford it, should become homeowners. Translate this into mindlessly extended easy credits. The revealing reaction “…here (Hungary is meant) they insanely granted credits not only to acquire houses but also to purchase LCD TVs, cell phones, Christmas decorations and Easter bunnies. When I wanted to change cars my sales rep made a handstand to convince me to purchase something on credit that was beyond my means and needs. I told him “I prefer first to earn the money and to spend it thereafter.” His response “then you are not my type of customer.” I left him by telling, “You are not my salesman either.” He continues, “Now the irresponsibly indebted are desperate. They deserve it that their remaining assets be auctioned off.”
2. The reaction of the Somali pirates to losing their hostage and the on-shore context in which they are embedded, make a point. These people feel that it is right to do what they do. How do they know this? Their entrepreneurial activity pays and they harbor contempt for their victims who, they think, owe them something. In the light of this, there is no chance for a negotiated cessation of the attacks. They will desist only when the risks grow to be devastating and the expected profit sinks to around zero. These conditions can only be achieved by the unhesitant application of overwhelming force with the intent to cause maximal damage. Admittedly, this approach ignores “multi-culti” norms. The recommendation also violates the self-imposed restrictions that are consistent with PC rules. Some of us need to realize this: the intended beneficiaries of multi-culturalism do not believe in “diversity” or in tolerance once the procedure gives an advantage to others. Furthermore, if PC is understood, the reaction to its premises elicits contempt.
3. Taking captured pirates to the home country of the captor to expose them to criminal charges there, amounts to a guarantee of “limited risks” to the pirates. Having to prove what is rationally an established fact by virtue of the circumstances of the capture, causes higher costs than the fees of a for-free defender. Good legal minds should be able to find numerous procedural loopholes based upon democratic due process rules. Additionally, endless litigations that exploit evidentiary gaps created by the conditions prevailing in the area of capture should also be possible to point out. Furthermore, assuming a conviction, what will happen after the release of the prisoner if held in an advanced country? Will they get refugee status? Count on litigation claiming that a return to the homeland is unfair. In jail the “victim” has gotten used to the country holding him. Therefore, deportation might endanger, in view of expected retaliation, the safety of the retired pirate who, if repatriated, might become exposed to double jeopardy. Additionally, holding pirates will provoke, as it did in the case of terrorists in the past, extortion to liberate such “hostages”. Once this happens, the local support for ending the “senseless and disproportional” incarceration of “poor ignorant fishermen” will put pressure on decision makers to engage in surprising indulgences.
4. We might have to learn a new definition of what “liability” means. The corrected application of the concept will come into play when more armed pirates and their vessels are annihilated. With their mission accomplished, navies will be charged with having destroyed vessels manned by frustrated fishermen looking for a modest income. The ensuing legal action will give us a perspective on what PC-defined legal responsibility is.
5. Is it unkind to suggest that, the failure to deal with piracy has causes and symptoms that reminds one of analogies found at home? What is meant is the inability to come to grips with the growing criminality of those who claim immunity from retaliation because of their physical or religious/cultural characteristics. In both cases, some ideas are invoked that are enshrined in laws pertaining to due process and that are the product of long development. These rules fail to deal with a reality created by elements that are not bound by, and are ignorant of, this tradition. The result will really become tragic the moment when majorities are made to conclude that the (abused) principle is at fault and not its misapplication.
6. Could it be? The instinct-driven policy objective of Russia for more recognition as a major world power, is realizable only if pursued by system akin to that of the Tsars or the Commissars. In this case, the limited existing resources allotted by lacking development  (not the country’s unused potential) need to be enhanced by dictatorial methods. These can concentrate the available means to overcome qualitative handicaps. Essentially, like the sun’s ray’s are concentrated by a magnifying glass, “limited” resources become bundled by dictatorship to achieve maximal effect at a chosen point. The problem with using autocracy as a multiplier of laggard means pit against an advanced opponent, are twofold. (A) It diverts energies from stimulating general internal advancement for the pursuit of domination abroad. Thereby the developmental lag is perpetuated. (B) Playing a power-role not commensurate to the country’s comparative modernization, and not corresponding to her development, risks destroying the system. (World War One, Cold War.)
7. The decisive inadequacy in prosecuting the Iraq war might have been a consequence of its devastating success. Let us recall that, insolently contradicting the pundit-consensus, the operations to topple Saddam ended quickly and without getting caught in the popularly invoked “quagmire”. The problem might have been a consequence of the maneuvers that rapidly pulverized the Baathist system. The operations did more than to accomplish what wars need to achieve. That is the destruction of the enemy’s ability to wage war. The result of having been carried beyond this goal was that the entire Iraqi system disintegrated. This left no one in a position to capitulate and no local organization remained with the ability to implement the terms of surrender. By virtue of this, a failed state and the resulting chaos emerged. Unwilling to cow the population by indiscriminate brutality (Soviet-style, 1945 vintage) and due to the limited boots on the ground, the US could not cope with the results. The more so, since American policy vacillated between occupation, alliance, social welfare service and home-style police action.
8. There are several reasons why the armies of major (democratic) powers do better in conventional operations (such as the Golf war) against a foe (such as Iraq) than against the same conventionally defeated opponent in a guerrilla war. In “war” it is felt that all means of power need to be applied to defeat what is, in the classical sense, identifiable as “the enemy”. In a conflict with irregulars the same instruments of coercion may only be used with major limitations flowing from the legal procedures of the occupant’s home system. Furthermore, even in the case of authorized operations, politics puts a break upon military operations.
9. In the past, regarding Iran, the “moderates” argued that action against her alleged nuclear project is unnecessary. Iranian success was said to be remote and therefore there was enough risk-free time left to “give diplomacy a chance”. In the near future, those who pleaded the above, will change their tune. The claim for needing to exclude everything beyond political approaches, will receive a new justification. It will be that, it is too late for non-diplomatic measures because Iran has virtually achieved nuclear status.  Any rash move – “effective measures” are meant – will only radicalize Tehran. Possibly to the extent that it resorts to violence. Does this not sound like something that we heard and hear in the case of North Korea?

Predictable pattern # 3

Indeed the kapitein is "twisted and confused".  What this latest list of irrelevancies and media-induced pc assertions got to do with Mr Handlery's original points, is a task for Sherlock Holmes.

I will end with two points. 

1) Handlery does not seem to like Western legal and other "indulgencies" vis-a-vis pirates. The Kapitein's view on that score is anybody's guess.

2) Handlery is critical of the follies of the past 'soft' (European) approach to Tehran (hence his comparison with N-Korea).  The Kapitein, by contrast, is not ready yet to admit 'defeat' on that score, and ignores the obvious.  Hence, he changes the subject and goes off on his usual pc-mantra on 'Iraq', which is totally irrelevant to the issue raised by Handlery. 

Twisted and Confused

I. Practical considerations are first and foremost to ideological ones here. American forces have already been conducting counter-terrorist operations in Somalia for some time without any major backlash. Though Western publics have concern for civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq who may be members or supporters of paramilitaries, I have not seen this greatly extended to the pirates. However, Handlery is grimly correct in highlighting the rights and freedoms available to the captured pirate now that he is in American custody. The vast majority of immigrants and illegal aliens to Western countries can be assured of penal systems that more than surpass poverty in either country and criminal codes that proffer more rights and freedoms than those available to the average citizen in their countries of origin. I recall an Ethiopian acquaintance explaining that Ethiopian prisons consist only of an open-air ringfort, whose walls are patrolled by guards and lined with machine gun nests. The prisons are so densely packed that each half sleeps on the earth in shifts while the other stands patiently. If fights or revolts occur, the guards sweep the ground with gunfire and allow the corpses to just rot. His point being, that an Ethiopian criminal has no fear of Western justice. The need for a re-calibrated or two-tiered justice system looms much larger than Somali piracy. So long as the captured pirate has no opportunity to claim refugee status in the United States, his fate will not decide much.


II. I was referring to "international intervention" in terms of authorization not execution. And by "international" I mean consultation and possibly cooperation with Russia and China. The Somalis did not give preferential treatment to the M.V. Faina, and neither China nor Russia are eager to take on the hue and cry of global condemnation or the potential of Islamic reprisal if they exceed the current rules of engagement.


III. I was expressing sarcasm not hope. You had taken my earlier point literally.


IV. Like it or not, Operation Iraqi Freedom destabilized Iraq. The vacuum of authority permitted sectarian and ethnic strife to come to the fore. Ba'athist Iraq was neither a significant threat in and of itself, nor a contributor to Islamic terrorism. In fact, it was in this vacuum that Al-Qaeda cells emerged, drawing foreign jihadis. Moreover, after the attrition of the Iran-Iraq War, Tehran curbed its ambitions even in the face of a weakened Saddam, who managed to keep the Shias cut off from its influence.

Predictable pattern # 2

@ KA

1) Handlery writes a paragraph complaining about "multi-culti norms" (and/or "pc rules") being applied to the issue of Somali piracy, and you now claim that the issue is not "merely one of eradicating Somali piracy"?  So, what is the issue then?  A semantic distinction between "coalition-based intervention" and "international intervention"?  How quaint!   International intervention is always coalition intervention, and most past intervention (against terrorist outrages of one kind or another) by virtually all powerful countries has been unilateral and often 'covert' too.  There is a reason why Somali pirates will be more careful with Russian or Chinese hostages than with Western ones.  Or, is it the feelings of the Ayathollahs, that is supposed to be the issue?  No wonder they display contempt for Western leaders!

2)  Indeed, Handlery was not expressing hope. How could he?  He was sarcastically expressing despair about the same Western pc-norms, and justifiably so.

3)  Semantics again?   "Breathing life" is not the same as "responsible".  Yes, the words are different, the implication (given the whole context of the paragraph) is not.

4)  True, you did not advocate said "manacles", but you surely laid blame for failing to overcome them.  It was not "the war" that was prosecuted through an ideological prism, rather it was the 'post-war' that was handled ideologically and that surely was unnecessary.  If Arabs/muslims want to murder each other, the US should NOT make it its problem, and neither should Europeans blame it for said muslim behavior. 

5) You will have to explain why Handlery's para 8 contains "unaffordable luxuries" before I can judge whether I twisted anything.

6) We disagree.  The German government (and particularly its SPD component) lives more in a "fantasyland" than the North-Korean one.  And, I have no doubt that the time will come when these roles will be reversed.   But, you did manage to divert attention from Mr Handlery's main point under para 9, which was - I repeat - "the folly of Western policies vis-a-vis Iran" in the recent past.  And, anybody with a good memory, should know that that policy was largely a 'European' folly that undermined American attempts at a concerted 'harder' line.  Given that Obama thinks like naive-left Europeans, Tehran's nuclear weapons are now secured, unless...another Black Swan will interfere with complacent history.  

Predicatable Pattern? No. Twisting Words? Yes

I. You misunderstand me, yet again. Were the issue merely one of eradicating Somali piracy, I would advocate severe military reprisals incl. the littoral deployment of special forces. However, there are strategic and tactical obstacles. Firstly, it would continue the precedent set by Washington/NATO for unilateral and coalition-based intervention rather than international (i.e. Kosova, Afghanistan, Iraq); secondly, any littoral combat would be observed intently by Tehran, given that the US Navy would assault Iranian shore-based forces in the event of a war. As for inconsistency, one can only point to Kosova, Ruanda and Somalia.


II. Sarcasm is not expressing hope.


III. I never claimed that the United States was responsible for Russia's ills; in fact I excluded this possibility. Nevertheless, American foreign policy has a direct bearing on Russian politics, and it is in the American interest to wisely wield this influence.


IV. Noting the "manacles" and advocating them are two different things.


V. Again, you are twisting my statements to conform to your false ideological dichotomies.


VI. North Korea is a very frustrating "piece of work". Unfortunately, the Chinese are neither inclined to permit an outside party to resolve the situation nor intervene directly themselves. Much of diplomacy is reducible to problem management rather than solving, and this fact is only becoming even more salient in light of economic interdependencies and security considerations that must account for WMDs and the MAD scenario. Personally, I always found Pyongyang's provocations to be the worst. Even Saddam Hussein appeared to have some reasonable goals for his state and strategies to achieve them; Kim Jong-Il on the other hand, is under the misguided impression that he is in a fantasy-land where North Korea and likely the entire world are his playthings.

Predictable pattern

By now the pattern has been well established:  (a) Handlery presents generally sensible opinions (in somewhat cryptic English) on current events, (b) the Kapitein responds with silly comments that reveal a disturbingly naive worldview shared by most Europeans and many leftist Americans as well, and (c) the Kapitein gets 'corrected' on some of his worst pronouncements.


2. What's wrong with "gunboat diplomacy" in parts of the world that are manifestly lawless and uncivilised? "Sovereignty" involves both rights and duties, and the Somalis cannot expect to have one without the other.   Also, North Korea has NOT been "permitted" anything; it just behaves the way it does.  Rogue states come in many shapes and forms, and the fact that they get away with terrible behavior over a long time invites further terrible behavior and additional rogues elsewhere.  Somalia won't be the last.  And, "consistency" is perhaps the last concern one should have when deciding on how to deal with rogues; such dealings should be determined by the particular circumstances. 

3.  Handlery writes sarcastically on how Western pc-governments tend to deal with "captured pirates" (extend that concept to terrorists in general).  The kapitein, in typically naive-left politically-correct fashion, expresses the hope that "the Chinese" will deal with the problem.  Adults of course know that the Chinese don't give a hoot about (European concepts of) legal niceties pertaining to terrorists, and won't get involved with pirates until the latter will try to blackmail them.  Rest assured the pirates are not fools, they know the difference between the contemporary German government and the Chinese government.  They wouldn't even confuse Obama with Sarkozy.  

6.  The "vast majority" of Russians believe what they are told to believe by their own government-controlled media (reinforced by absurdly anti-American Western media).  Instead of seeking to be 'loved' or liked by captive peoples - a typical naive-leftish goal - Western policies should be focused on freeing these peoples and especially their media.  Current western policies tend to do the opposite, i.e. they tend to strengthen the grip of authoritarian elites over their captive peoples.  It is the return of the old head-in-the-sand mentality of 'see no evil' (except imagined US evil), and the victory of eternal hope (youthful wishful thinking) over (old) experience.  And, of course, it would be too easy or simple to blame Russia for "KGB embers"; it's so much easier to blame "American foreign policy" for Russian KGB traits. Just like it is easier for the Belgian parliament to pass resolutions against the pope-in-Rome (no employer of suicide bombers) than against islamic fatwahs or calls to murder.             

7. It is a great mystery what all this facile monday-morning-quarterbacking of Handlery has got to do with "the week that was" (a lot of interesting stuff actually did occur in Iraq last week, but surely that was not to be covered).  But, it is always fascinating to read how regular defenders of dictatorships (like the kapitein) want to tell the US how the removal of an atrocious tyranny actually should be done with "manacles".  I guess that is like under point 3, i.e. waiting for the Chinese to deal with the pirates.   Mon Dieu, one can only hope that Merkel does have better advisors...

8. Strangely enough, under point 7 the kapitein wants to impose manacles on the US, but under point 8 he calls those things "unaffordable luxuries" when it comes to Europe and Russia.  We should add that under point 2 he demanded "consistency", but that was probably only demanded from...you guessed it.   

9.  Handlery writes a paragraph on the folly of Western (mainly European) policies vis-a-vis Iran in the recent past, and the kapitein responds with hawkish comments on.... North Korea.  Moreover, these particular comments of his read like they could have been written by, say, Donald Rumsfeld (but not by a softie like GWBush).

We definitely do live in a 'crazy' world.  

RE: "Buy Into Piracy"



2. NATO must tread carefully with the Puntland pirates, not out of concern for human rights and criticism, but out of consideration for setting any precedents i.e. a return to gunboat diplomacy. If NATO strikes pirate bases and vessels with no concern for collateral damages or Somali sovereignty (even if Somalia is a defunct state), what happens when the CSTO decides to follow suit e.g. human trafficking in the Ukraine, Kosova or Albania, which often involves Russian citizens? Pyongyang has been permitted to launch military/terrorist operations against South Korea, to murder American citizens (e.g. the Poplar Tree Incident) and to abduct scores of foreign nationals. Where is the consistency? Whereas North Korea is a "child who plays poorly with others", Somali piracy began as a response to illegal fishing off Puntland mainly by Egyptians. Unfortunately, the industry is now controlled by warlords and criminals.


3. Perhaps we should leave it to the Chinese to capture pirates. I am certain that their prisons would not be so hospitable as those in Europe.


6. Agreed. However, the desire for "recognition" is not confined to the Kremlin, and is is inextricably linked to Russo-American relations. The vast majority of Russians had a highly favorable opinion of the United States following the dissolution of the Soviet Union; today, they are a minority and most Russians regard it as an aggressive competitor. Putin and United Russia have proven far abler managers of the country than their corrupt and inept predecessors, but successive American foreign policy mistakes have breathed life into their KGB embers. The American people are not responsible for Russia. But Russia is not Cuba, and the United States has serious interests in Russia; ones that both coincide and compete with Russia's.


7. Agreed. The fault does not lie with the military, but with the White House, which prosecuted the war through an uncompromising ideological prism, without an effective post-invasion management system, without a long-term plan and with the manacles of budget constraints and human rights concerns.


8. Agreed. However, such considerations are luxuries that are unaffordable in an existenstial struggle as that which is bearing down on Europe and Russia.


9. North Korea should have been bombed into the Stone Age a long time ago - but would they notice? If an entire people is willing to allow themselves and their country to be used as a toy by irrational and possibly insane despots and juntas, then there must be consequences. If I was Japanese and a relative of mine was kidnapped or killed on the orders of Pyongyang for no apparent reason, then I would be radicalized.