Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Some Thoughts on Piracy

FPRI, which publishes Orbis, the journal I now edit, has sent out my short essay on piracy and what to do about itas an "e-note." It is reprinted on the Ashbrook site here. The essay is a more complete version of what I posted recently on NLT.

I am indebted to one of those who commented on my earlier post for reminding me of Locke’s agrument on behalf of the right of self defense.

I must make a correction to my piece. It was Decatur who set fire to the USS Philadelphia but the naval squadron that bombarded Tripoli was commanded by Commodore Edward Preble.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Great article. I agree with Dr. Derek Reveron with the exception that our current millitary must be seen as a fixed cost, obviously howhever it is safe for me to assume that he has already considered this in his position.

"Piracy, a scourge once stamped out in the 19th century, still flourishes in those Hobbesian areas of the world where order and the "rule of law" do not exist."

This is the Lockeian state of Nature, or state of war. Also according to my sense of what Chicago economists are saying, and Locke himself it might better be conceived not as an area where the rule of law does not exist, but that the rule of law never exists completly. Just as the legal theoretical speed limit is 55 miles and hour the enforced or actual speed limit is 62 miles an hour. With greater enforcement we can bring the actual speed limit towards the theoretical.

What we are talking about then is how far afield we can enforce the rule of law. My guess is that we can and do enforce the rule of law even in Somali waters. We rescued the captain and killed the pirates.

Somalia is a failled state because it cannot afford to take the steps necessary to prevent crime from paying. Somalia has the problem of not enough government. It could tommorow declare the most wonderous set of laws ever dreamed up by moralists like Matt, but without means of enforcing such laws they would empty, and because they would be empty they would not exist.

If I was to indulge in conspiracy theories I might wonder if the german finanace minister cooked up a deal behind the scenes so that pirates would attack The Maersk. Obviously with the ballanced budgets and tight fiscal policy they like to run, wouldn't it be nice to provoke american thumos, and free ride on the public good created by the ensuing elimination of pirate lairs in Somalia?

This entire question really is Lockeian on many different levels. While those employees of the Maersk where safe they were under the auspices of international law and US law and personal moral law and shipping company/insurance company doubt much of this already prescribed for actions to be taken and force escallation...but once the pirates took control the sailors rallied around a leviathan/leader of sorts while retaining Lockeian rights of self-preservation to include the right to take back the ship and deal with the lantruculi as they saw other words every ship sailling in Somali waters is already under a tremendous body of Law, the rule of law only ceases to exist when that same law no longer provides any protection.

My worry is that "empty suits"/chateau general in washington, brussels, Ashland, or even the Naval War college will think themselves capable of spelling out law, and having spelled it out feel affronted that it is not always and in every nook and crevice of the planet carried out. That the law does not always exist in so far as it is not capable of being executed, is a Lockean concern. Another Lockean concern is that the executive and the legistlative functions not be combined in a single person...Hobbes and Locke may or may not disagree, but Locke is not happy with the idea or even the possibility of a Leviathan.

Please tell me kind sir, that the right of self defense wasn't honestly a right you had forgotten. Tell me also that you are aware that such a right is never completly given up in a state of civil society, and that this right comes into full force and was demonstrated by the sailors who recaptured the ship.

In other words Lockeian rights exist especially in Somalia.

But if you had forgotten it simply demostrates how burried in lawyers you guys are, and why the american millitary depends to a greater extent on the NCO... I digress and there is too much to think about on this front...but keep up the good work.


You miss my point. Of course, I had not forgotten the right of self-defense. I had just neglected to use this great citation from Locke in my earlier post, written in haste.

And what this "you guys?" As a Marine officer for 30 years, I didn't need anyone, espcially a lawyer, to tell me or my Marines that we possessed the right of self defense.

At higher echelons, there ARE too many lawyers. But that's in reponse to perceptions about how we fought in Vietnam. This has provided an opening for "lawfare," the use of the law, international and domestic, by our adversaries to hamstring us in conflict. If we went back to making the distinctions we should be making, which the Obama adminstration is refusing to do, then lawfre might not be so prevalent as it is, and we woudn't have so many lawyers looking over combatant commanders' shoulders.

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