Before I start on this morning's post, I should note that the counter on my Blogspot home page tells me that yesterday was my 974th post. That would make this my 975th post. And that means, of course, that - barring unforeseen circumstances - sometime in the next month I should hit my one thousandth post.
I didn't realize even I could pontificate that much.
Any suggestions for a topic for the approaching 1,000th post? Suitable for a PG-rated blog, of course (yes, Mike and Fiona, I'm talking to you!).
Yesterday, after a four-day standoff, Navy SEALs on board a warship reduced the pirate population of the waters off Somalia by four, shooting three, capturing one, and rescuing unharmed the American ship's captain the pirates had held hostage. Navy 4, pirates 0.
Unless, of course, you count all the other ships pirates have seized and hostages they still hold.
I have mixed feelings about the whole piracy thing. On the one hand, I think I can understand the poverty and desperation that supposedly drives people of that region to commit acts of piracy. On the other hand, it doesn't appear that the many millions of dollars of ransoms paid by shipping lines and their insurance companies have turned into food for starving Somalis, housing to replace their shantytowns, medical care for their children, and so on. Instead, the money is creating an economic boom in coastal pirate havens as pirate leaders build huge mansions for themselves and stock up on guns and other supplies to seize more ships and extort still more money. In the Somali heartland, away from the pirate dens, life expectancy continues to be 46 years, a quarter of all children die before age 5, and radical Islamists enforce their paradise on earth with lashings and stonings for accused criminals (i.e., women, men without beards, etc).
The heroic pirates the coastal Somalis love, and whom women flock from the impoverished interior to marry, are conniving opportunists who traffic in violence and theft. They aren't Robin Hoods, they're just hoods. And the problem won't go away until two things happen:
1. Companies stop paying ransoms; and,
2. The various navies stop cruising majestically around the waters off Somalia turning fuel into wakes, and start actually sinking a few pirate ships instead of just watching and chasing them.
This is a very hard problem. The area to be policed is enormous, the pirates are hard to catch in the act, and most Western nations tend to think in the legalistic terms of arresting and prosecuting pirates, rather than just turning them into chum for the nourishment of the local shark population, and their ships into small, smoldering chunks.
The pirates are now claiming they'll "retaliate" for the deaths of the scumbags that the Navy killed yesterday. No doubt they'll try, and no doubt they'll succeed, at least in part. But if we don't start letting them know that there are consequences ... that we're not going to just roll over and pay them to keep doing what they want ... innocent mariners, and not worthless pirates, will continue to suffer.
Here's what President Bilbo would do:
1. Sail a few warships into the coastal towns that harbor pirates and hail them as heroes. Shell every new mansion built by a pirate, destroy the harbor facilities, and sink every local ship.
2. Offer to stop when they do.
3. Repeat step 1 until the pirates realize we can and will remorselessly hurt them where they live, instead of just writing checks.
Good thing I'm not the President. But that's my advice.
At one time, captured pirates were hung, and their bodies were dipped in tar and hung at the entrances to harbors as a warning to others. Sometimes, heads were displayed on pikes at strategic locations.
Those were the good old days.
It's time to stop thinking of pirates as colorful characters with tricorn hats, earrings, peg legs, and squawking parrots on their shoulders as they shout "AARRGG, matey!" It's time to start treating them like the greedy, vicious criminals they are.
That's a pretty expensive Navy we're paying for, after all. And they need target practice to stay sharp.
Have a good day. More thoughts later.
P.S. - later this morning I'll be flying out on a business trip for the next few days. I won't have access to the Internet, so my next post won't be until Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. Don't give up - I'll be back.