Yesterday, we received the pleasant news that a Navy SEAL team freed two kidnapping victims in Somalia, Poul Hagen Thisted and Jessica Buchanan.
I wish to express my gratitude to all of the members of the rescue team and to the many supporting units that made the rescue possible. Well done, ladies and gentlemen. Very well done. I am also grateful that the President made the decision to authorize the attempt.
A rescue team parachuted near a compound at night, walked to the compound, and killed the pirates. Then, helicopters picked up the rescuers and the victims and left.
There is never a guarantee that the victims will not be killed before the rescue can be affected. The President decided to order that the risk be taken, in part because one of the captives, an American named Jessica Buchanan, was ill and possibly in danger of dying of an infection.
One pleasant improvement over the press releases about this rescue as compared to the Osama removal operation is that, so far, fewer details are being released. My preference would be to not even state that Navy SEALS were involved, but instead simply say, “The US Military and its allies conducted a successful rescue of two kidnap victims in Somalia yesterday, and all nine pirates were killed without loss to the rescue team or the victims.” Which units? How many rescuers? How did they do it? Which allies? They did it with magic fairy dust and a light saber. Leave the world guessing.
There have been some interesting comments by members of the media in response to the rescue. One commentator focused on the fact that the US and its allies rarely visit the locations where the pirates are in Somalia. True. In my view, a few more unannounced visits by unidentified US military units would go a long way toward reducing piracy in the Indian Ocean.
Pirates have been left to live safely and comfortably in their warrens for too long, and many of them are increasing their inventories of military equipment. Saudi Arabia has openly accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of training and supplying the pirates. This would be consistent with the IRG’s past conduct, and consistent with its long-standing policy of supporting terrorism against nearly anyone.
The pirates have, in a couple of recent cases, used highly sophisticated electronics equipment to track and identify targets. It’s not the sort of equipment that one normally sees at garage sales in Somalia.
The equipment and training might, in fact, be coming from IRG units. The Iranian government would likely deny any allegations, but the IRG does not take orders from the Iranian “government.” They take orders from their own leadership and the simple-minded, bogus religious leaders who they support. These are no longer the Revolutionary Guards thugs of the eighties.
The mullahs may understand a limited number of things about the world beyond their personal harems and hash dens, but they have always clearly understood that normal Iranians would not indefinitely tolerate the sort of abuse that they intended to dish out. To deal with the fact that they have always known they deserved to be stoned to death by their countrymen, they have consistently poured oil revenues into expanding the IRG and improving its capabilities.
The mullahs have succeeded in their goal. The IRG is now very large and very capable. The one draw back to that strategy is the same one that Hitler had to deal with on “The Night of the Long Knives” in Germany on June 30, 1934. Hitler’s Nazi paramilitary, the SA, and its senior members had become too powerful, and it became a threat to the very man who it was supposed to be working for. Hitler had to use his other state police organizations to quickly wipe out Ernst Rohm, the leader of the SA, and disband his many followers.
Unfortunately, I am not aware of any pending IRG plots to replace the quirky mullahs who run Iran. It is, however, operating with increasing independence from its own unified command system, and that makes it more likely that the IRG is supplying the pirates.
The other source of weapons and technical support for the pirates is wealthy businessmen in the region. Certain wealthy businessmen are reputed to be supporting the pirates with the intent of the pirates conducting more lucrative raids and sharing the profits with them.
Given that most wealthy Middle Eastern businessmen live above the law (whatever small bit of law there may be in their country) this is a possibility. The fact that some pirates have now been operating out of Yemen supports this notion. Also, two hijackings have recently taken place far outside of the anti-pirate patrol area off of the coast of Somalia, which indicates that the pirates are vastly improving their operational capabilities.
The common thread among pirates of various culture groups is that they like profit and dislike loss. They especially dislike the loss of their own lives. By operating against pirate bases in Somalia and Yemen whenever the mood moves them to do so, the US military could, at a low cost in dollars and lives (our lives), change the profit/risk ratio in the pirating business in the Indian Ocean.
Most pirates are not suicidal. In my opinion it’s long been time to up the stakes.