Free Markets, Free People

Pirate Rescue – Both Right And Left Spinning It Hard

Anne Scott Tyson, at the Washington Post, seems to have the low-down on how the mission to rescue Captain Phillips went down.

The pirates apparently were growing increasingly agitated with the situation and were making threats when they made a fatal mistake and gave SEAL snipers 3 targets at once. Feeling that Captain Phillips life was in imminent danger, the on-scene commander called the shot and the snipers took all three of the pirates out.

Okay and well done. But there seems to be a whole bunch of spin on both sides as to what role Obama played. The left seems bound and determined to spin this as some sort of “military victory” which proves Obama has stones of steel and the right seems equally as determined to deny him any credit for the rescue, claiming it was the “on-scene commander” who made the decision.

Look – Obama was most likely briefed and asked for the go ahead to use both the military and lethal force if the situation called for it. He gave his approval for both. I doubt he tried to tell them what tactics to use or how to carry out the rescue. Instead he allowed those on the scene to make that determination. His concern was Phillips and resolving that situation in a way that the captain was rescued unharmed. By approving the use of lethal force, he made it clear he had no concern for the final disposition of the pirates and placed no constraints on the military in that regard, assuming the main mission – rescuing Phillips unharmed – was accomplished.

Great – that’s what he should have done.

But a “military victory”? It was a hostage situation – albeit on the high seas with lots of drama. But at its foundation, it was no different than a situation the local sheriff finds himself in with a domestic disturbance gone bad and hostages held in a house. The reason the national command authority and the military were involved at all is because the situation developed on the high seas in international waters. But at base, it was a run-of-the-mill hostage situation that law enforcement deals with routinely without presidential input.

So? So Obama did the right thing (at the right level of visibility) and so did the military. The situation was resolved. To the right – Obama did a good job. Get over it and understand that it wasn’t his job to “call the shot.”  He gave the on-scene commander, through his authorization to use deadly force, the latitude to make that call himself without seeking further permission.

To the left – this was no more a “military victory” than was Ruby Ridge or Waco. Quit trying to make it more than it is. If you think popping 3 rag-tag pirates is going to be interpreted by Iran or North Korea as a demonstration of our military might, you’re dreaming. Obviously, had it gone bad, it would have reflected badly on the US. However it didn’t (thankfully). But it proves nothing more than in the situation presented – a hostage situation – we were able to resolve it to our advantage. That’s good and it reflects well on us. But a “military victory”? For heaven sake, get a clue.


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47 Responses to Pirate Rescue – Both Right And Left Spinning It Hard

  • I think a small amount of your arguemrnt towards the right fails a bit when apparently the CO had to ask twice for the authority to use deadly force,

    • And apparently approval was given Friday and again Saturday. The rescue was Sunday when the proper situation presented itself. So I don’t see the “failure” of the argument – such authorization is required, whether from a regional command level or the national authority. Obviously it came down in more than enough time.

      • I suppose…

        But surely you agree that the 16 year old who had gone to make that call and get his hand looked at had the luckiest day of his freaking life.

  • Thank you. This is the most reality-based post I have seen on any blog.

  • “and the right seems equally as determined to deny him any credit for the rescue, claiming it was the “on-scene commander” who made the decision.”

    Actually, despite my despising everything that The Clown™ does and stands for, I did post that I believed that this was the first thing he has done right. I do believe that he waited for too long to do it (he should have ordered it to happen ASAP), and that he should (or maybe he will) follow this up with punishing attacks on the pirate HQ in Somalia.

    But I am not going to reflexively denounce everything The Clown™ does. That is what an ideologue does, and it was the Left did for eight years to Bush, even when he was pouring more money into AIDs research and trying to bring democracy to the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • Ordered what to happen ASAP? You don’t force situations like that unless you want them to end in disaster. He deferred to those on the scene to make the call when they felt the situation called for action – that’s precisely what he should have done. The results speak for themselves.

  • The pirates were in the wrong, and they were punished. Did it mean they had to be killed?
    Not saying that.
    The punishment has to fit the crime. Luckily in the military that rule still holds true. Once the pirates made it look like they were going to kill the Captain, they were taken care of…
    We talked to them, we played nice…and with some people that works, others it does not.

    Now we already have people upset because we made the other pirates mad. Now they are going to kill Americans next time they capture them.
    To the common liberal, now their behavior is our fault.
    They don’t think about the fact the pirates are doing something wrong, that they are the ones killing innocent people or capturing ships.
    Nope, blame the big bad USA.
    Its a stark contrast between common sense and liberalism.
    Same happens everywhere.
    Liberal thought:
    “We have to understand why terrorist hate us”

    Lets see how the comments go the next few days.
    Will liberals be happy the right thing is done, and call for the end of the pirate behavior all together, or will we get them being who they are: Blaming America first and want to know why the pirates do what they do. It doesn’t matter if what the pirates do is wrong, just that it is our fault.

  • Simply put:

    Obama deserves the credit for allowing the troops on scene to make the call.

    The troops on scene deserve the credit for taking the required action to resolve the issue.

    Nothing more – nothing less.

  • Gee, President does his job – news at 7:00.

    Kudos to the Seals for doing theirs, and the commander on the scene for doing his, and everybody from the top to the bottom recognizing who’s job was who’s job.

  • The Left doesn’t believe in military force, period. Watch for articles defending the pirates and how the latest actions by the military have only “emboldened” them to be more agressive and desperate.

  • FOX had an interview with some guy supposedly ‘in the know’ who said the tow offer was made with the admonition that the raft was drifting into waters of another Somali clan who were planning to kill the current pirates (since they were a different clan) and take the hostage.  The current pirates, not wanting to be killed, agreed to the tow.

    This person also stated that the 4th pirate was on the fantail waving to his compatriots on the raft.  They started to wave back and ‘bang.’.

    If this is true, it was a nice deception plan.  The FOX source said something to the effect that it shows how stupid these guys are.

  • On reflection though.  People ought to be aware that this was the desired outcome to the problem, (short of the Pirates having a Road to Damascus moment….and them setting Captain Phillips free because they were nice guys).

    Any other outcome – Captain dead, Seals dead/wounded and captain still held, ransom paid – is the sort of thing the liberals were guilty of in Iraq – wanting the US to fail, just because they hate the President.    No matter how you slice it, it would have been a US failure if this had fallen apart or we’d paid the ransom.    You can bet the on-scene commander, and the Seals all did their best, regardless of how any of them voted in the last election.

    Anyone hoping it would all make Obama look bad at some point, you need to ask yourself,  do you really hate him THAT much?

  • As one who detests TAO and his loathesome party, I have to (reluctantly) agree with McQ: it looks like he played this one right.

  • Does anyone know why BO had to authorize it twice? That brings all kinds of micromanagement questions to mind.

    • It may be as simple as the military asking for clarification to ensure they had precisely the guidance and authorization they felt they needed to act. Or, perhaps, the situation had changed enough that they felt they needed a reauthorization.

      • I would avoided any confusion the first time round…

        “Kill people and break things as needed to secure the American.”

        I like to think that covers most any situation they might have encountered.

      • I notice “The Paper of Record” (/sarc) had this slightly different account:

        The Defense Department twice sought Mr. Obama’s permission to use force to rescue Captain Phillips, most recently on Friday night, senior defense officials said. On Saturday morning, the president agreed, they said, if it appeared that the captain’s life was in imminent danger.

        I hate to say it, but for once the old gray trollop sounds more believable than the other account. OMG who’d have thunk it!!

  • As one who also detests TAO, I readily admit I am biased.  However, it only appears that Obama played this one right.  I personally would like a little more information.

    If I was the commander in charge of authorizing a kill shot, then I would require written approval from Obama.  If Obama granted written approval in this circumstance, then he has some stones and did play this one right.  If Obama left himself room to deny any involvement whatsoever in the final decision in the event things went wrong, then he is a weasel.

    I suspect the latter, but I am biased. 

    I was never military, but surely there is a term for commanders who take credit when things go well, but hang their subordinates out-to-dry when things go poorly. 

    • So, does a hostage situation that SWAT teams across the nation  deal with every day need to have a signed presidential order to authorize a kill shot?

      None of us know what Obama’s role in all of this was, but it probably wasnt that much.

      What I want to know, is when the captain first escaped and jumped over board, weren’t the hostages taken out?  Did it all happen too quickly?  Were snipers not in place?  Did they have to wait on orders from the Pres?  Did he tell them not to shoot at first???

      • If I had to guess, it took place too quickly and, being a spontaneous act, was done without the military knowing it was going to happen. Obviously they’d have liked to have had the opportunity to act then, but as it turns out, they didn’t or couldn’t. My guess is, at the point he jumped in the water, if the SEAL team was on sight, it was still in the planning and intelligence gathering stage of the operation.

        As for your SWAT point – no, they don’t need that. That authority is delegated to the appropriate authority in law enforcement. But when the military is involved in a situation in international waters, there’s only one authority that can give the OK unless he’s delegated it to a lower level. And I’d guess that a “signed” presidential order wasn’t requested or necessary – a verbal okay probably sufficed.

        I also agree with your point that Obama’s role was probably not that much – but it was critical to the outcome. He did what he was supposed to do and the situation turned out about as well as anyone could hope for.

        I don’t understand all this grousing about a success. My point is let’s not make it more than it was: a hostage situation which was resolved successfully, not some huge “military victory” as some are trying to claim.

        • If I recall, the ship was still steaming towards the site, and was not on-station to render aid.  Still, it was mighty ballsy of the man to try it.

  • Its not a “military victory” but every little bit helps. The crew retook their ship. The navy arrived. We killed three guys but also took a prisoner. No US casualties.  This stuff was in the news, and maybe the Iranians do think to themselves that maybe Obama is not Carter.

    • Actually,the captain traded his life for his ship and crew, volunteering to go with the pirates and be a hostage in order to make sure his people would be ok.

      I guess he was trusting in his country to make sure he was safe, a level of faith I’m not entirely sure was warranted.

      • Scott, I don’t think there has to be any “trust in his country” for Captain Phillips to see the right thing to do.  He saw potentially there would be bloody violence on his entire crew and he stood up to save that from happening.  It is the same kind of attitude that pushes firemen and police into buildings that others are fleeing from, or a soldier that throws himself onto a grenade in order to save his comrades.  It can’t be trained into someone – it just has to be there.  And this Captain answered the call as only he could.

        If there be a hero in all of this, it is him – and we as a society should be able to honor that self sacrificing spirit.

  • Obama’s military knowledge is so vast, he planned and executed the plan. Are you kidding me, how can you NOT give him complete credit for its success. Books will be written ,and movies made about this Obama inspired operation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama himself was the sniper!! Also, I think we should think about changing the name from “Navy SEALs” to “Navy OBAMAs.” This would strike fear into the hearts of all future pirates, and they will cease their criminal activities if they think the U.S. Navy OBAMAs will get them!! 

    • “reportedly involved coordination of military in the field, the Defense Department and (the President) President Barack Obama”

      In other news, a study today revealed that human beings have developed a nervous system that allows the brain, the heart, and the lungs to cooperate in order to provide the human body with life giving oxygen.
      Other amazing discoveries are likely to be reported soon….

  • This liberal applauds the use of military force and hopes the U.S. launches a mission to save the other 100 hostages in pirate custody, followed immediately by destroying the pirate infrastructure and any pirate that gets in the way. My liberal friends are in agreement. Liberals aren’t opposed to military force, they’re opposed to the dumb use of military force — like ordering an immediate rescue which could have resulted in Capt. Phillips’ death. Liberals want results. And that’s what we got.

    There appears to be widespread belief on the right that today’s liberals are no different than ’60s pacifists. I suggest the right get with the times. Today’s liberals advocate a muscular and smart use of military force. It should be the best option available, leading to the best outcome possible. For example, liberals would have invaded Afghanistan and stayed there until the job was done, instead of shifting focus to the deadly distraction of Iraq and allowing the Taliban to regain strength.

    • Well, I hate to disagree, but that would be a very dumb use of military force.

    • Ah, Afghanistan and the loss of focus…
      The Euro’s will be sending traffic cops and meter maids, we’ll be sending another 20,000+ combat troops.

      And now that we’re shifting back to Afghanistan (cough cough) we’ll see how long you pro-war folks are willing to stick it out in the country that has a long long history of slowly killing armies.

      And using the Seals to knock off three terrorists in a life boat is hardly a symbol of willingness to fight a war, as valiant as you might think it makes the President look.  You need a shot of him in a tank maybe?  it’ll be fake but accurate.  Again, let’s not pretend this is more (waaaaaaay more) than it is.
      When he takes action against the strongholds, and we flatten the pirate bases, THEN you can talk about his willingness to fight a ‘smart’ war.

      • And using the Seals to knock off three terrorists in a life boat is hardly a symbol of willingness to fight a war, as valiant as you might think it makes the President look.

        Well exactly – you have a life boat with 3 pirates being towed by a US destroyer – obviously they were no threat to anyone but the captain and we pretty much controlled all of the environment but the lifeboat. Not much of a fight in reality, and certainly nothing that indicates a willingness to commit to war or have the staying power to see it through. This was no “national security” test unless we give the pirates the status of members of a sovereign navy. They were criminals holding a hostage. They weren’t some sovereign nation threatening our security or even terrorists bent on killing Americans. They were in it for a buck, it went horribly wrong and they paid the price. End of story.

    • Obama’s long term opposition to the Surge is the definition of stupid.

  • After posting my last comment, I came across this post on a liberal blog that exactly mirrors, but expands, my thinking:


    It’s worth reading as a corrective to conservatives’ image of Obama and his fellow liberals as tie-die-wearing peaceniks.

    • No one has ever argued that American liberals are not willing to get us embroiled in what they think will be brief, easy, egalitarian little police actions. After all, that is what Korea, Vietnam, Desert One, and Somalia were — all launched under Democrat administrations. “Stupid war” and liberal is practically synonymous. This not something I would be espousing on a libertarian site as a demonstration of liberals’ “tough stance” on national security.

      I don’t think most Americans, liberals included, are realistic about the practical application of warfare as an extension of diplomacy. They don’t weigh the worst-case costs against the potential benefits before embarking on these wars, and don’t have the intestinal fortitude for prolonged war amidst temporary setbacks, or if they cannot see direct results or an endstate close at hand. This is why liberals, especially New Yorkers–once directly affected by the outside world–wanted to make Afghanistan a punitive expedition. And it would have solved absolutely nothing. There need(ed) to be a greater investment of time, money, and, sadly, human lives to make a lasting impact that will permanently improve the situation for American interests.

  • MSNBC has a story about Obama passing a National Security test because of this pirate incident.  National Security test????  I think not.

  • One of the members of the Alabama’s crew states the ship was under attack for a week.

    The crew of the Maersk Alabama spoke with the media after news broke that Captain Richard Phillips had been rescued from the Somali pirates that attempted to overtake the cargo ship. From aboard the Maersk Alabama, the crew answered questions and issued details on what went down between the crew and the pirates.
    “We want to clarify something right now,” Second-In-Command Shane Murphy said. “We never lose control of this ship. We never took it back from them. They never had this ship. They had Captain Phillips, but they never had this ship. This is our ship.”
    “We’ve been under attack for a week before they got on this ship,” Murphy said. “Tell the president to get these guys. Tell him to get the Navy down there. It shouldn’t get to that.”

  • Not that a ‘neutral’ military man cares, but the right is complaining more about the fact that the left is using as yet another reason to call the Sleeper in Chief a Messiah, a military Messiah now.

  • Obama deserves credit for not getting in the way and essentially letting the chain of command work, both up and down.  He could have ordered no action be taken except negotiations but he didn’t.  Maybe he chose wisely on his own, or maybe he listened to advice from the military, but the end result was correct and he was the boss so he gets at least some of the credit.

    But I keep thinking we are missing the obvious here.  In my 20 years in the Navy, basic ROE and rules of self-defense said I had the right to use deadly force if necessary to protect my life or the life of another.  This seems to be the case in this instance.  The Seals and the CO of the Bainbridge never did need Obama’s or anyone else’s permission to fire if Capt Phillips life was in danger.  All the reports indicate that is what they did.

    It seems that the reports of DoD requesting permission to use force to rescue Capt Phillips were probably DoD asking for direct permission to mount an armed, aggressive rescue.  They did not ask for permission to shoot if Phillips was in imminent danger, that authority was already in place unless revoked.  The Navy did this one right, and Obama let the professionals do their jobs.  He deserves credit for that.  I have no confidence in Obama’s leadership abilities, but sometimes good leadership means getting out of the way of your people and letting them do their jobs.

    Commander Castellano is a former shipmate.  We were  junior officers together 20 years ago, his first ship, my second.  He has always been dedicated and professional and “good people.”  I am proud to call him a friend and shipmate, and glad to have CO’s like him, along with his crew and the Seal team, in place to make these kind of calls.

    • So, if they were in fact asking for permission to launch an agressive rescue, it sounds like that permission wasn’t given. Implying Obama in fact was restricting the Navy’s response.

      I think you are correct that they would not need permission for what they did.

  • My take, for what it’s worth, is simple as usual, the brave captain is safe, our military excelled and the President did the right thing because those three dead SOB’s aren’t going to have the opportunity to f**k up anyone else’s lives a world away ever again.
    That’s a good thing.

  • Good post, McQ.

    I’d also like to add that it makes me proud that the unarmed American crew actually fought off the pirates, instead of taking the situation lying down. Some nation’s militaries wouldn’t do the same…

  • Well, kudo’s to the SEALs for getting the job done, and to Obama, et al. for letting the right people make the decisions.

    As I end the post on my blog,

    “As to what this might portend for the future, one data point does not make a trend.”

  • After posting my last comment, I came across this post on a liberal blog that exactly mirrors, but expands, my thinking:
    It’s worth reading as a corrective to conservatives’ image of Obama and his fellow liberals as tie-die-wearing peaceniks.

    How can you trust anything that President Obama has said in the past or present as acurately reflecting anything he might say or do in the future. His track record of broken promises grows weekly.