In what almost seems a gleeful pronouncement, The New York Times trumpeted America's powerlessness over the recent capture by pirates of a captain of a U.S. run freighter on the high seas. With an April 9 headline that blares, "Standoff With Pirates Shows U.S. Power Has Limits," the Times almost seems to revel in that taking down of an arrogant America by mere pirates in power boats.
It's quite hard not to feel that the Times is celebrating the enfeebling of the "world's most powerful military," here.
The Indian Ocean standoff between an $800 million United States Navy destroyer and four pirates bobbing in a lifeboat showed the limits of the world’s most powerful military as it faces a booming pirate economy in a treacherous patch of international waters.
But, does it really show "limits"? or does it rather show an American administration that is acting with extreme caution, instead? Don't get me wrong, I am not sticking up for the Obama administration here, but just because something hasn't been done as of yet does not mean that the U.S. military is showing its "limits."
What we are seeing here is not a "limit" to the military but a limit to political will. Why the Times puts the onus on the military is anybody's guess... unless, of course, the Times is going out of its way to absolve Obama from any criticism here.
After going on about the story, though, there is one little paragraph at the tail of the story that reveals something that is far more to blame than military "limits" or even a lack of political will.
Shipping companies victimized by the bandits have been wary of a military confrontation that could disrupt the crucial shipping lanes that run from the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean. Experts said that companies would still rather pay large ransoms than arm merchant crews and pay hefty liability insurance premiums. In 2008 alone, experts estimate that merchant shipping companies paid some $40 million to the Somali pirates.
Instead of sensibly arming crewmen or hiring forces to protect ships, these companies have routinely paid ransoms, an action that merely encourages more piracy. And why is this the case? Insurance. And why is insurance keeping these companies from employing common sense? Lawsuits.
And now we are drawn to Will Shakespeare's famous prescription for what ails us: " First... let's kill all the lawyers."