Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Pirates

Here is the promised piece by Mac Owens in today’s WSJ regarding lawful and unlawful combatants. John Keegan thinks that the pirates cannot be negotiated with, rather, "They needed to be hunted to extinction – and the time to start the hunt is now." But, the news from the Horn is not good, see this report in the London Times about how the US Navy missed a chance to free the hostage. Also, an Italian tug-boat with 16 people aboard has been seized. In the meantime, the Washington Post reports that the "Obama team" (once a team always a team, I guess) is mulling over its options. AQnd the New York Times is reporting that negotiations with the pirates have broken down.

Discussions - 10 Comments

After getting your fill of the "Nuke the Pirates and the Countries They Come From!" meme, here's an article offering a rather different perspective on the subject. I don't vouch for anything in it - this isn't a subject I've personally researched very far (but then, I highly doubt most of The Corner bloggers have, either). It's an interesting read, though.

...and the article I linked to MIGHT have been seen by and commented on by none other than Bill Bennett, if the commenter name left is to be believed!

Yeah Craig it must be all America's fault. Let's just surrender to the pirates right now.

Wow. Another monument to the Left's desire to rationalize the actions of groups that target Americans.

I think Mac's observations are very astute. I do, however, question him on two points:

1.) Is it really politically prudent to openly acknowledge summary execution, or other immediate punishments, for al-Qaeda members? Wouldn't we simply be making martyrs out of them and encouraging them to continue with their attacks? I'm not advocating outright humanitarian good-will, but rather political forethought.

2.) Once detained, does giving latrunculi (pirates, outlaws, etc.) rights, even if they aren't guaranteed to them, really a danger to our national security? They can do no harm while they are being prosecuted, and will eventually be duly punished. I see more harm done by stripping American citizens of their rights (i.e. wiretapping), than by extending rights to others.

The pirates have been killed and Captain Phillips freed. The article states that talks broke down due to our insistence that the pirates be arrested and brought to justice. Apparently the pirates preferred bullets to having a trial!

Hal, do you ever do a different schtick than the straw man one-liners?

From the WSJ piece:

Indeed, Attorney General Holder did not rule out trying the Somali pirates.

Apropos the previous "Pirates" blog entry, hasn't judicial process always been a part of U.S. policy on piracy, going back even to the 1790 and 1819 laws? Legislators and presidents back seem to have been a lot less softhearted and softheaded about foreign affairs than their counterparts today -- yet, even they demanded some due process about punishing piracy.

Pirates are indeed hostes humani generis by the traditional law of nations. But then, the U.S. follows the law of nations only insofar as Congress (Art. I, Sec. 8) determines it, right? And hasn't Congress -- like it or not -- traditionally said that pirates have to be proven to be such in a U.S. court?

Now, the trial requirement may not necessarily have meant that aliens accused of piracy have the same rights as a U.S. citizen accused of a crime. That's a detail for the serious legal historians to uncover, and it would no doubt be extremely useful in dealing with today's pirates (and terrorists). Assuming we wish to do so legally. But, then, the paradigm that Mac Owens intends to revive is a legal one. And even the severest laws seem to lead directly to the courtroom, not to the gallows (or Davy Jones' Locker).

In dealing with armed enemies, the courts are never the solution. Their primary object is the protection of defendants' rights, not national security, let alone national prestige.
You deal with these people with the barrel of a gun, period.

This would make a third war with a sketchy definition of who the enemy is. We have a war on drugs (loosing so bad we look like little sisters of the poor on opening day of the college football season) a war on terror where we have made some progress but the endgame is generations away and now a war on piracy. I don't think it is overly liberal to say that all three of these wars have the same root causes. People with little legitimate opportunity and nation states that can't control their people. I really don't think that someone is simply born to be a terrorist, drug cartel soldier, or a pirate. The one thing they all have in common is they get their footsoldiers from poverty. Those people are still doing wrong, but I think its just easier to rationalize when you are hungry. In order to win all three of these wars it will take more than brute force and I just don't really see it happening anytime soon, I mean how do we expand prosperity when we are in a depression ourselves? Is there a way to pull the third world up while expanding prosperity here, or is the world basicly just exploit or be exploited? Victory in these wars really is a sort of chasing perfection, something to strive for...but spending like we do on these things I just don't think we can get much of a out of it. I really think in fighting wars like this we set ourselves up to loose because victory would be some sort of Utopian thing. The most logical thing on the pirate front is just arm the merchant vessels and get the insurance companies to stop the pc crap towards the idea of doing so.

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