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The conversation on piracy continues...

I sent CDR Salamander's screed on the issue of piracy to my Representative, Nancy Boyda, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee. Why not? I told him that I had done so. He wrote back:

Neat-O. Thanks. Methinks that it will take Congressional WTFisms. I sat in on a brief where a 4-star's JAG sat there with a straight face and defended the " is ok if we bluff pirates and they call us on it and we let them go. They don't have the habit of killing any of their hostages. We shouldn't endanger ANYONE by acting rashly."


I was too junior and way in the cheap seats to open my mouth (can't do it at work, have to do it here) on that line (I do know my place).

Honestly I get the feeling that we are encouraging piracy in a classic appeasement mindset; hoping that if we are nice enough the bad guys will become good or will go away (get bag of fairy dust now) - and we are too busy to do anything else.

Right now, no civilian at sea can expect anyone to come to their rescue. Blows my mind that is where we are right now. We would rather pirates and terrorist organizations be funded by ransoms than to remove their threat to international shipping.

Like a couple of yachtsmen now do - I wouldn't go to sea outside US territorial waters without a few long guns or shotguns well hidden in the hold for use if needed. They come in handy.

Let me know if you hear anything back. At least of the higher levels of the military that I have seen, there is a lot of resistance to taking on piracy. Make a show, fine. Do something about it? Just don't have the desire.

Heh. As I said, the shade of Decatur glowers in the darker corners of Pentagon, shaking his head. For that matter, so is Eagle1.

So, if the Navy, who's job it arguably *is* to do this sort of thing doesn't want to do it... then who?

My old buddy Kevin, a former Marine and now a merchant, piped up in my mailbox.

Piracy problem? K, agreed with the points regarding Nato/EU/whomevers forces aggressively policing international waters (Nato and EU kinda far from home and original missions aren't they?). However, if you are gonna assign these types of missions to your military, then let them be carried out. It's a foolish waste of assets otherwise. The current ROE as usual are BS!

I would agree with the above policy and in addition, I would encourage the civies to take measures to actively protect themselves. Armed merchantmen etc.

I'm sure that after a few Q-ships (presumably crewed by Blackwater types) lit up the zodiacs, trawlers, dhows etc that these human vermin use..... that this sort of activity would come to an immediate halt.

Nothing says leave me alone like dropping the false superstructure of a Q-ship and deploying a few QF cannon and mini-guns. Don't tell me it can't be done.... The means are there, but is the will?

Hell, for what it will cost them in ransom payments, insurance premiums etc, not to mention the actual cost of the cargo and vessels themselves, the price for a squad/platoon whatever, of trained and armed merchant... marines would be minimal.

I just want to see the Youtube video of what happens when the mini-guns open up on the pirates. Preferably with a closeup of the exspressions on their faces when the sidings are dropped and the guns are run out....

I would also advocate these same tactics be employed in SE Asia as there is evidently a growing problem with pirates there as well.

As a side note, I wonder if the old laws regarding the penalties for piracy are still in effect? Wonder what the world media would make of an armed merchantman, much less a US Navy ship steaming into port with a few dozen corpses hanging from the yardarms?

They would no doubt holler to high heaven, but the message would have sent. And aren't our govt officials always talking about sending messages?

Oh well.

Perhaps we can look forward to a long forgotten phrase; "Stand by to repel boarders!" in the not so distance future. Hopefully followed up by the ripping sound of miniguns.........

Mmmmmm. Queen ships... better known as Q-ships (some good pictures here). Disguised as regular merchantmen, they were armed with camouflaged weapons, intended to lure in the commerce raiders and U-boats. In a purely military sense, they didn't work out as planned, because essentially the enemy response was to just sink everything from a distance, not close and seize the vessels. In other words, the Q-ship was of limited military utility because the intended target just needed to sink the vessel, not capture it.

Pirates, however - pirates are after the prize. Sinking the vessel is counter-productive.

There's lots of legal issues with the idea, but it's an idea that has merit - it's worth discussing, anyway. History shows - if you stand up to the pirates with sufficient force, they tend to go away to do other things, just like most criminals.

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Pulling Pirates from CDR Salamander on June 11, 2007 3:59 PM

Both here and at The Castle Argghhh!!!, Eagle1, MilBlogs, The Commissar, the subject of the pirates of Somalia has gained a lot of interest - and a wide variety of ideas. One of John's readers and blogger himself, HeartlessLibertarian, in the comment... Read More


I'm sure that after a few Q-ships (presumably crewed by Blackwater types) lit up the zodiacs, trawlers, dhows etc that these human vermin use..... that this sort of activity would come to an immediate halt.
Not gonna happen. Unfortunately. For one thing it would probably be very effective. We can't have that now can we? Maybe I'm being too cynical but it seems that every time something like this comes up the discussion centers on why our hands are tied. It would be nice to think someone would take appropriate action, but I just don't see it happening, I hope I'm wrong.
A commercial vessel with mini-guns on the sides would make quite a prize for the other team, now wouldn't it? Once they know it's out there, some will avoid it, some will assault it (the stupid and soon to be dead), and some will try to figure out a way to get their filthy little hands on it. God help shipping in the region if those last ones manage to shimmy up an anchor chain with a dagger between their teeth, slit a few throats, and sail some decent weaponry off to their dark harbour to lie in wait for the next unsuspecting victim. Not that fear should immobilize us, but given the fact that these baddies are in the business of stealing ships, it's worth thinking about.
True enough, Damian - but that kind of thinking is what leads to the paralysis. It's the kind of thinking that gave us McClellan - who built a fine army but was loathe to use it because it might get broken. That's the sort of thing that would have to be taken into consideration when undertaking the operation. 24/7 security, etc. We're not talking about merchant crews doing this stuff as much as Blackwater-style, or national government personnel. Professional people doing it professionally.
The only legal issue I could think of is whether of not Letters of Marque have fallen out of favor with the international law crowd. Because the Constitution still says Congress has the power to issue them.
Thanks for the link, John. Did a post on Q-ships a while ago here, in which I express some doubt as to their efficacy in modern times, my point being that Somali pirates are using small boats and crews perhaps tended by a "mothership" over the horizon from where the action is taking place. Q-shipping to zap few guys in small boats has an emotional appeal, but not much in the way of economic rationale, given that warm bodies are cheap in the area and easily replaced. Trolling the same waters over and over looking for pirates will just lead the pirates to wonder why that one ship never seems to go anywhere. My suggestion is that merchant ships stay well clear of Somali waters (240+ miles) and that some form of convoy op be set up to cover some protected sea routes in the area. In addition, the UN chartered WFP ships carrying food to the starving Somali masses (redundancy?) have armed escorts to get them safely into port. From my position, the U.S. Navy needs to get creative in acquiring some cheap but effective coastal patrol craft this sort of work because, as Salamander and I and others have been discussing over at Milblogs and our own sites, there is serious shortage of "small boys" to chase pirates- which is why a large, slow (20 knot max) amphibious ship with minimal weaponry ends up as the last line of defense after a hijacking at sea. And we don't need a $300,000,000 Littoral Combat Ship to chase guys in $900 dinghies, much less a billion dollar cruiser. We just some outside the box thinking and a plan. One more point on Q-ships - who will pay for one?
Hey, I'm just asking the questions... you sailors can provide the answers! I specialize in taking down small countries and conventional armies, ept, or inept...
Hmmm... how's restoration of that Fletcher-class DD coming, John? Perhaps you and those guys could pull a 'White Rajah' on the Horn of Africa... Nah. You've got packing to do. Heh
They don't have the habit of killing any of their hostages. That a$$hat needs to do some research.
Shipmates, Well, I'm up for commercializing the anti-piracy business. Grant me the Letters of Marque, and I guarentee you I can raise a crew and most likely the vessel and weapons. There are a huge number of very well trained greybeards sitting around waiting for something to do, and the Anti-Piracy gig sounds just the ticket. Not only that, there are still a number of greyhounds out to pasture that could be brought back for the tasks at hand with very little money and sweat. But Mark has it absolutely correct regarding the mother & chicks approach. A large vessel running laps way over the horizon and small boys bad enough to run out from her for a few days at a time on random patrol areas (or not-so-random if the intel firs). It's very doable, but like the 'mander says, you gotta WANT to get it done. I think that the gubmint might well be surprised how much support it could get for such a project. Respects,
Tim! Excellent! Is there a position for me? I will have John forward you a photo from the MilBlog conference that demonstrated that I would make an excellent model for a figurehead.
Hmmm...can the Soviet/Russian Lebed type assault hovercraft fit in a US Navy LSD? With a few SeaCobras (ever wanted to fly off a ship, Bill?) and SeaHawks spotted on the flight deck? The hovercraft and attack helos can go after the little boats, and you can use all three, plus SEALS or embarked Marines, to attack any motherships you find.
HL -- I *have* flown off of ships! I worked from an LST (the USS Monmouth County, I think) off Chau Doc in 1970 during the Cambodian Excursion, I supported SEALs from Sea Float (more of a city-on-a-raft than a ship, but WTH, it had water under it instead of land -- see the Twitchy Bill photo on the Castle coffee mug), and I landed and took off from the Intrepid before she became a full-fledged museum. Never had to use arresting gear, either (Lex was soooo bummed about that). When the squids get the Q-ship cranked up, I'm there. Sank five pirate sampans in the Gulf of Thailand in 1970 and I wouldn't mind doing a repeat performance off the Horn of Africa...
I volunteer to crew a gun on any of 'em.
Oh, Heartless? I read tell that most of the big boys signed the Declaration of Paris back in 1856, or so, but the USA didn't, which meant the CSA hadn't, either. There was some legal business afterwards, about the "Alabama Claims", and UK had to pay money to USA. M'self, I think UK shoulda told USA to FOAD. (Yeah, not the same thing.) As far as I know, it's still legal for the USA to commission privateers, and there are traditional rules and standards for that, e.g. posting a large bond against kp&r outrages and such-lik
Really, I think we should bring back privateers and prize courts because that would result in less killing and devastation. If you're trying to capture something and sell it, you're going to be careful not to do any unnecessary damage to it. Boys do like to destroy things, I think that's widely known and understood, so a financial incentive to capture stuff and preserve it needs to exist. IMHO.