Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Obama vs. the pirates

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's a serious problem, and Obama intends to fight it in a serious way:

President Obama vowed Monday to "halt the rise of piracy" off the coast of Africa following the dramatic rescue of an American merchant captain, foreshadowing a longer and potentially more treacherous struggle ahead as he weighs a series of problematic options.

Well, sure. There's no easy policy. One imagines that the war on piracy would be less treacherous than the war on terror, but prolonged American military activity against a nebulous foe on and off the coast of Somalia would likely prove to be, well, challenging, not least because the American people are, especially post-Iraq, unlikely to get behind a war without obvious national security interests (although American national security is indeed at risk given the threat to American trade in and around the Middle East), without a clear end (or without the possibility of clear victory), and with the possibility of significant casualties.

Nonetheless, Obama should keep all options on the table -- in the end, some sort of prolonged military action in the region is probably needed.

What is not needed is what the neocons are pushing, which is, as you might expect, full-scale war. For example, John Bolton, one of Bush's U.N. ambassadors, has called for an invasion of Somalia. While targeted strikes may work, invading another Muslim country, one in which the U.S. has had problems in the past, would be a disaster -- yet another quagmire, yet another blow to America's credibility and moral standing.

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