Free Markets, Free People


Pirates, Armed Guards and “Civilized” Popinjays

With the spike in interest about combating piracy suddenly, any number of people have been sought out and quoted concerning their ‘expert’ opinion about what to do.

This one simply mystifies me.

Cyrus Mody of the International Maritime Bureau said that his organisation had qualms about the use of armed guards on ships: “We always have been against the carriage of arms on vessels. First, we don’t think there is legal backing. Two, there’s a risk of escalation. Three, you cannot carry arms on ships carrying hazardous or dangerous cargo.

“If you permit armed guards on certain vessels, the others, which cannot carry the armed guards will become vulnerable and be targeted a lot more.”

Maybe it is just me, but I simply don’t understand thinking like this. It reminds me of the rightfully ridiculed “if rape is inevitable, lay back and endure it” school of thought.

Note how Mr. Mody seems not to understand that we have an inherent right to self-defense and thus shouldn’t be particularly concerned with whether or not exercising that right has “legal backing”. When armed thieves attack you and your property, they certainly aren’t concerned with the niceties of legal backing. They are called “outlaws” for a reason. But like all human beings, they’re looking for easy targets. Lay back and offer no resistance and they’ll happily take your property and, perhaps, your life. Although that hasn’t been the case yet, it certainly could happen now that the military of various states are killing pirates. In fact, because they are using deadly force now, the need for being able to defend one’s self would seem to me to be even more urgent than before.

That brings us to point two – escalation. I hate to break it to Mr. Mody, but as noted, the military reaction to piracy has escalated the situation. What is obvious, however, is the military cannot provide protection to all of the shipping transiting the area – it can only react to attacks. In the last two attacks on American ships, there was no way for our navy to react immediately. In both cases the USS Bainbridge was hundreds of miles away when the attacks occurred. That leaves immediate self-defense in the hands of the crew of the ship being attacked.pirates

As for three, of course you can have weaponry on such ships if done properly. And think of it this way, pirates don’t know whether or not the ship is carrying “hazardous or dangerous cargo” when they attack. So when they launch that RPG they’re much more of a danger to those cargoes (and the crew) than someone on the ship putting a line of .50 cal rounds across the bow of a pirate skiff and scaring them away.

And four, per Mr. Mody, it just isn’t fair if some ships have armed guards (Mr. Mody was reacting to a story about armed guards on an Italian cruise ship foiling a pirate attack) and others don’t. That’s just nonsense. It’s like “gun free zones” – what do they tell criminals? That no one will be able to defend themselves because the criminal will be the only one with a gun. It’s stupid. The whole point is to make the pirates unsure as to whether the ship has armed guards and whether it is worth it to them to attempt to attack such a ship. One way to take that sort of calculation out of their attacks is to ensure ships are “gun free zones”.

Certainly there are non-lethal ways to fight pirates, but as Gen. Petraeus said the other day, and I’m paraphrasing, I wouldn’t want to be on a water cannon when the guy at the other end has an RPG.

Fighting off pirates requires resistance, and resistance requires at least equality in firepower. The whole point is to make piracy less and less attractive. Right now the pirates pick a target, board it and name their ransom. The risk to reward ratio is so low they won’t consider returning to their former life. One way to help them make such a decision more readily is to raise that reward-to-risk ratio to a level that it is no longer attractive. Seems to me armed ships along with military intervention are certainly a good way to do that.

What we don’t need to be doing is listening to the likes of Mr. Mody and trying to dress up stupidity as some form of “civilized behavior”.

~McQ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks

22 Responses to Pirates, Armed Guards and “Civilized” Popinjays

  • True.  However, this nonsense with the “experts” is by no means limited to this issue.  It’s a depressing trend, but without it, cable news (and now even some talk radio) would have nothing to fill out their excess airtime.

  • ““If you permit armed guards on certain vessels, the others, which cannot carry the armed guards will become vulnerable and be targeted a lot more.””

    The great gun control logic.

    If you let people have guns then the people who dont have guns are subject to being attacked more.  IT’S NOT FAIR. 

  • I’m no expert on pirates and shipping, but it seems to me that the crew that’s defending a ship from pirates on a small boat do not need the firepower the pirates have to prevail.

    Even if the pirates have RPGs and GPMGs (PKMs or whatever) and several members of the crew only have M4s or other assault rifles, the pirates are packed on a small boat which should make a fine target.  And to achieve success, the pirates have to close with the ship and board. Hence the ship’s crew has somewhat of an advantage, and likely can make do despite being outgunned.

    Note that this doesn’t mean I think we should send them out poorly armed, if I was on the ship I’d want some M2s, GPMGs, M4s, 1911s, and maybe even a TOW or similar.

    The point is that even an outgunned crew can prevent the pirates from achieving their goal.

  • Most of these ships “hold the high ground”, that’s a good start.

    I totally don’t get the idea that “FAIR” is even being discussed.  If things were ‘fair’ there wouldn’t BE pirates.
    The fact that the guy would even bring this into the discussion makes me wonder what sort of ‘expert’ he is.

  • There is some truth now that pirates currently go after cargo (as a general rule) and leave crews unharmed.  Escalation is a concern.

    • I think the pirates should be concerned about escalation. If they start harming crews, we have a reason to escalate and perhaps start following them home.

      • Don-

        What a tremendous point. The narrative is “WE’RE afraid of escalation”, which can be properly translated as us accepting our lot as victims.

        And we see it echoed in so many places nowadays. We’re afraid of “inciting the terrorists” or “inflaming the arab street” or “angering our enemies”.

        All it really is- it’s weakness. And showing weakness is the surest way to make sure your enemies escalate. Just ask Bin Laden about the “weak horse”

        You’re 100% right- maybe a few airstrikes on pirate bases that send these garbage to Davey Jones locker will motivate them to find a different line of “work”

        • I absolutely agree.

          It’s very easy for people like Mody to advise that one should “lie back and enjoy it” when they are safe in an office somewhere with lots of security guards and police around to protect them.

  • Legal backing? In the open sea, can’t you carry any arms you like? Granted, when you enter port arms can become a legal issue, mostly because many countries have stupid gun laws. But in the ocean, no such laws. Perhaps he’s concerned that the ship may enter Somoli waters and violate their gun laws . . .

    Can’t carry weapons on ships carrying dangerous cargo? Might want to inform the US Navy, they should remove all the arms from the nuke subs and carriers ASAP . . .

  • A single trained shooter on these boats could easily scare off approaching pirates in a speedboat with minimal danger to himself seeing as there would be lots of places to shoot from with cover compared to a group of 5 dude huddled on a dingy. I dont see how that isnt cheaper than paying ransom.

  • There is some truth now that pirates currently go after cargo (as a general rule) and leave crews unharmed.  Escalation is a concern.”

    Correction.  Escalation should have been a concern waaaaaay back when the boats were going on their merry way and pirates decided to escalate the situation by attacking a ship for the cargo it carried.

    You’re basically saying don’t escalate things by trying to stop a thief from stealing from you.

    That’s utterly stupid.

    Sometimes, you have to have to escalate. It shouldn’t be a bad word.

  • A crew member of an American-flagged cargo ship hijacked by African pirates on Monday sued the owner of the vessel and the company that provided the crew, accusing them of knowingly putting sailors in danger by ignoring risks.

    More power to him and his fellow seaman, but I’m afraid this might not go anywhere.

    • Could you explain why you say “more power to them”?  Do you mean that you wish success to the sailor who is suing his employer?  If so, then I have to take issue: how in the hell are they liable???  The PIRATES are the cause of the trouble here, not the employer.  Suing them is akin to a delivery driver suing his employer because he got robbed while running his route.  It’s made even more ridiculous in this case because the shipping company apparently couldn’t take sensible measures (i.e. arm the ship) to defend it, but rather was forced by international law to leave the ship and crew utterly defenseless against any motorboat full of thugs who happened to come along.

  • Let the shipping companies make a simple statement to countries they deliver too.  Either let our ships which have armed crews in your port or umm we dont deliver goods to your ports.    A country isnt going to take the economic results that  would result in such an action.

    All the shipping companies have to do is play a game of chicken with the govts from those nations.  They hold the high cards.

    • retired military, nice thought but how would that work in the Mersk Alabama’s case?

      For all intents and purposes she and a lot of other vessels are on a U.N. mission delivering relief supplies.

  • Many of the commenters here are making a valiant attempt at a rational, thoughtful response.

    I, on the other hand will go with my gut.  Mr. Cyrus Mody should advance to the head of the dumb-ass line.

    People, there is no reasoning with his method of cowardly thinking.  Attempt to do so at your peril…and mine.

  • “You’re basically saying don’t escalate things by trying to stop a thief from stealing from you.”

    I’m not saying you never need to accept escalation in any situation (though my original post did sound that way.)  I’m simply saying you have to way escalation as a factor in any decision you make.  If a thief really wants to steal from you, they are not going to stop just because the stakes have been upped, they will just become more aggressive to meet the demands of the new situation.

    • I’m not saying you never need to accept escalation in any situation (though my original post did sound that way.)  I’m simply saying you have to way(weigh?)escalation as a factor in any decision you make.  If a thief really wants to steal from you, they are not going to stop just because the stakes have been upped, they will just become more aggressive to meet the demands of the new situation.”

      Really? This is cowardly, head-in-the-sand reasoning. Often times they do stop. They didn’t get into their line of work because of their desire for an honest day’s pay from an honest day’s work. They did because the amount of money or “booty” (lots and lots), if you will, is disproportionate to the amount of actual work done. Make a couple hundred thousand  or even million American dollars by waving AK-47s and RPGs at unarmed sailors. If sailors get too uppity, shoot ‘em.

      Now, lets just say, for the sake of argument, that we run across a pirate who really takes pride in a job well done and done right. Still, he initiated the fight. Still he is wrong. Still he must be fought, even more so than the lazy guy. Why? Because he’s is attempting to deprive decent indiviuals of their property and possibly their lives, and he’s quite possibly good at it.

      The thief or pirate has already escalated the situation enough. 

      It shouldn’t be the victim’s responibility make sure the situation doesn’t get out of hand. Ever.  We’ve had that cowardly ‘rationale’ take us too far already and we don’t need any more of it.

  • “It shouldn’t be the victim’s responibility make sure the situation doesn’t get out of hand. Ever. ”

    Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but in practicality, it often is.

  • It shouldn’t be the victim’s responibility make sure the situation doesn’t get out of hand. Ever. ”
    Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but in practicality, it often is.”

    I don’t understand. How could practicality make it the victim’s responsibility? I can see how a corrupt government could do so. I can see how a bloated bureaucracy could seek to make it problematic/illegal to defend oneself or an overly litigious society bury the victim under the weight of unjust lawsuits. In that sense, I can see that you could mean practical means rolling over on your belly so everyone thinks you’re the good guy.

    Maybe you mean that if a person wants to be a “responsible citizen” and do his duty to himself..uh, I mean his state, he will not fight back, not  ‘escalate’ things and not make the authorities or their raison d’etre obsolete.

    Call it aquiesence. Call it “adversarial cooperation” for all I care but don’t call it practical.

  • ” In that sense, I can see that you could mean practical means rolling over on your belly so everyone thinks you’re the good guy.”

    Since that is the case in most of the “real world” today, yes I do define that as practicality.