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03 December 2008


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My BIIIIiiiig, biiiig question.

The geniuses at Pentagon were talking the big talk about keeping the persian gulf open. They say they can defend every single ship that come in and out of the gulf.

And the persian gulf is shallower and narrower and the gulf of aden.

All the Iranian has to do is outsource their navy to the somalian and they would have won. duh ...

Like I say before, what they gonna do? use an aircraft carrier chasing a fishing boat? The wooden one doesn't even show up on radar. And they move faster than average destroyer.

btw, It's always nice to know the two most important oil waterways are not under anybody's control. They better hurry up with those mass electric cars research.


Hey, a George MacDonald Fraser shout-out. Indeed, The Pyrates was very, very cool...and hilarious, as is the Flashman series.

As for the Somali pirates, at least there are no rumours of the Dread Pirate Roberts throwing in his lot with these swine.

Two thoughts: there has been pirating for years (decades?) in the Strait of Molucca, but it has not been in the news lately. Was there any success in lowering the tempo there that is transferable to this situation? Or did it just float off the radar?

Second, I understand the Army having little or no resources, but what exactly is the Navy doing about this? Fleet size has dwindled this last decade, but is there no task force of frigates and destroyers with air support, recon, and intel capabilities that can start cleaning up the route?

Leila Abu-Saba

Guess the obvious question is: what are we getting for our money? We spend more on guns and gunships etc. than the next 45 countries after us, combined.

Meanwhile our local schools are crumbling for lack of regular maintenance. What's the point of having nice things if we can't take care of them? And there's no money for new things, either. How is it a conservative value to throw our cash on wasteful wars that don't keep us secure, while letting our houses (and schools and bridges) fall down from neglect? Republicans wouldn't let their own houses peel, flake, and sprout holes in the roofs.


Shiver me timbers, arghhh. Harrr harrr harrr.


Dear Sir, Do you know where pirates shop for their clildren's Xmas? Why of chourse Toys Arrrgh Us. Stopping for lunch at Arrrgh bys.

Brien J Miller

Colonel; As a former US Navy officer (Lt, USNR), I couldn’t agree more and was heartened when the Indian Navy’s INS Tabar went vigorously after an alleged mother ship (although there remains some dispute about the mothership’s role: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7749245.stm). I do, however, have one observation; in all most likelihood, not unlike the funding the Army deals with, where the focus is on major weapons systems more in line with conventional battlefield doctrine, vs. budget for a single infantry soldier’s gear, the Navy’s budget still remains heavily oriented towards systems more in line with fighting blue water adversaries such as the former Soviet Navy using Carrier battlegroups (and a submarine force whose number of hulls far exceeds the threat) than against small and medium craft using covert tactics. The Navy, in my time (‘80 to ‘87), little focused on the kinds of warfare needed to counter today’s piracy, especially in such distant waters. Applying big blue water solutions to zodiac-boat equipped pirates is a mismatch of solution to problem similar to the one you have pointed up quite well in regards to applying battlefield armies to terrorism which is essentially an intelligence-blackops-law enforcement job. Our blue water warships and the Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) are well trained but not much trained for this kind of mission. I’m not even sure we have many small medium-range surface platforms (such as hydrofoil and like equipments which would be part of solution) available in the region if at all in the fleet. Methinks this is another landside intel-specops-law enforcement type of problem. Nonetheless, it nees to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

Brien J Miller

Patrick Lang


The US Navy has been halting and searching boats/ships in those waters for many years.

This is not hard to do. We already pay for the fleet units that would do it. Not a war, Leila, more like taking out the garbage.

As I say, let the Coast Guard do it if the Navy is too grand. pl

SAC Brat

Why not make up some Q-Ships? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q-ship

It would seem hard to paint the pirates as victims if they attacked a Q-Ship first, but this doesn't solve the problem of pirate bases. Maybe the US Marine Corps has some old training manuals on the subject. ;)

Or do as the european traders did with the middle east and just don't transit the area anymore.

Leila Abu-Saba

I was making one of my usual leaps, without specifying. I guessed from Col Lang's post that our boats are not doing these stops on the seas because they are tied up supporting the effort in Iraq? Are you saying that despite Iraq the fleet units are available?

I am just assuming that anything our government "can't" do lately due to "budget cuts" can be blamed on our war in IRaq and the financial bail-out. Perhaps I paint with too broad a brush - I often do.

Leila Abu-Saba

P.s. I'm just mad because my son's public school is being closed down. The facility is 60 years old and has had little or no maintenance for half that time. It's crumbling and dangerous and although it's devoted to special education children, it is not fully handicap accessible. !!! Would cost "too much money" to make things right. Also, it's an "integrated" program offering great education to typically developing children - lots of extras like art, music, gardening, dance - enriched curriculum as good as any private school. But local middle class parents won't send their darlings to this free program because the facility looks so miserable. 30 years ago it was a fine, handsome building on a still-beautiful campus in Oakland's foothills. But now the folks in this very prosperous neighborhood send their dearies to private schools. And the building will probably get leased to a charter which will hire inexperienced teachers willing to work for no pension and no benefits, while the facility crumbles further into the ground, until it's condemned and bulldozed one day in the future.

Such a waste.

Leila Abu-Saba

The school's relationship to the topic at hand - every time I see those peeling walls I think of all that money we dumped into Iraq. They say there's "no money" to fix up our school but there was plenty of money to go to Iraq, and to what purpose? I say my kid (and all the kids of Oakland) got ripped off.


The Coast Guard might have been a more appropriate choice, if they could deal with the logistical issues of having a base 5K miles from home. The Navy's been built around carriers, as has much of NATO's fleet.


Colonel, Special Operation Forces aboard the Danish frigate HDMS Absalon (currently operating as flagship for the CTF 150) earlier this year boarded a pirate ship of some sort and arrested a bunch of alleged pirates and held them imprisoned aboard the ship for a week or so. Eventually they had to land them on a Somalian beach and let them go - nobody wanted to handle the legal issues involved (including Denmark, to be fair) and there is no international body of law to handle these cases.

As of yesterday Danish authorities decided against allowing the Danish commandos aboard Absalon to board what has been described with 100% certainty as a pirate vessel which Absalon had been following close for a couple of days. Because of the lack of somewhere to actually send any arrested pirates for prosecution. Again - noone want's the hassle of actually prosecuting and imprisoning these guys.

What to do about this? Let the pirates walk the plank and be done with - or establish some international "pirate court"? Who's going to pay?

Tom S

The problem is that there are more US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf than there are outside of it.


Send in the Ninjas, the pirates' natural enemy.


Seems the Mumbai attackers also used a pirating technique - they reportedly flew an SOS flag on a small boat of some sort and then hijacked a trawler when it responded to their signal. Using a commercial trawler then allowed them easy access to Mumbai's port. Remember that the 9/11 hijackingx succeeded only because of unsecured cockpits on commercial aircraft. That loophole was pretty simple to fix (though the Orwellian security at US airports these days is probably overkill). Looks like the US Navy (and other Navies) needs to start securing commercial shipping in some fashion as part of its mission. Probably could be done with an international mandate from the UN. Not sure, but perhaps wiser heads at this blog might care to comment?

Mark Logan

SAC brat:

A very entertaining and interesting book on this is The Barbary Pirates by CS Forester. It documents that
long chapter of history quite well. They existed for centurys, and our Tripoli landing was not their end, it was the French invasion in 1830 that finally did them in.
I don't know why they left that part out of the Marine Corps Hymn....

There are a lot of things these Somalians have in common with those pirates of old. I would predict that they won't go away until either it becomes impossible for them to win
booty (Aaargh!) or the basic
conditions in Somalia that permit their existance are changed. They won't be intimidated by mere raids
or losing some of their hearty maties at sea. It's
many bands of the scurvy rascals and there are more form every day.


Col. Lang:

re using the Coasties to chase down the pirates.

I'm not sure how well they would do given their inability to produce an ocean going cutter. They recently tried to extend the length of eight 105 foot cutters but the modifications kept falling off in the open sea. All eight are now moored somewhere unsafe and unusable.

The new cutters they tried to build couldn't get past the inspection of the naval architects at the Navy's BuShips to say nothing of the fact that the radios they installed on the new vessels were not waterproof nor were the radio signals shielded to prevent their being intercepted.

Admiral Thad Allen has been trying to make things better but Congress is still pretty upset.

Maybe this will be an opportunity for the Navy's shelved DDX shallow draft destroyer to be resurfaced?

John Howley

As usual, I don't think we're getting the whole story. (Surprise!)

My wondering concerns the location of the pirate attacks -- maps are easy to find on line. These attacks are clustered along the Yemeni coast. Indeed, a "Maritime Security Patrol Area" or corridor was set up there that seems to have attracted both vessels and pirates.

Why does all the discussion focus on Somalia? Well, presumably the pirates originate from there.

Whose idea was the MSPA? And why isn't it working?

What about the government of Yemen (hey, isn't there a civil war going on there?) And what about Egypt -- isn't much of the affected traffic Suez bound (in or out)? A major source of foreign exchange.

You'd think the Saudi Royal family would be flexing their "muscles," too.

Too bad Ethiopia doesn't have a navy; they've done a "heckuva job" cleaning up onshore Somalia for us.

Those darn Somalis. What's wrong with them? Why won't they behave?


When you look at a chart and see the +1200 mile shoreline of Somalia, you understand its a little more than swatting flies.

Seems to me you need to take out a few of their bases to slow it down but then thats called invading anothers country.

The US Coast Guard with their 45' RB-M's manned with 4 coasties armed to the hilt with a machine gun on the bow would certainly help the situation especially if they could snare a couple Tarawa Class vessels from the Navy to use as mother ships then you have a good deterrant to also slow them down.

But you always come back to the problem of what do you do with the Pirates?? Of course I like the plank walking style of punishment and give them a Parrot to take for the walk.

Now, when the pirates take over a slow moving cruise ship with +500 people it will not be a laughing matter anymore.

John Howley

The Guardian reports that the BBC suppressed a report by one of its own correspondents (interviewing crew of the highjacked Saudi oil tanker) at the behest of the UK Foreign Office.

It seems the report had displeased the Saudis.

Oh dear, oh dear!


Some thoughts:

1] Many of the piracy incidents were not in the Gulf of Aden but further out in the IO.

2] There are about 2000 miles of Somali coastline.

3] Nobody has ever stopped piracy by sinking or capturing pirate ships at sea. If I read history correctly, then you must destroy the onshore pirate nest or nests.

4] Do we have a dog in this fight? How much American shipping is headed towards Suez? If the pirates are targeting foreign hulls that are carrying imports to America then good on them.


Mr. Stress, bluesman from Cleveland, writes:
It is time to bring back Commander Bulkley and the other PT boatmen that helped interdict Japanese amphibious landings on the west coast of Bataan during the battle of the points in 1942.

At Dienbienphu French Colonial Artillery Colonel Piroth fell on his sword after drinking his commanders cool aid.

Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA

I think Ole hits the nail on the head in terms of the legal ramifications. What DO you do with a captured pirate? Absent an overt attack on a Navy vessel, does the Navy have authority to apprehend or destroy these people?

And I can't help this: were there no pirates, would our alphabet have the letter "R"?


Col. Lang:

I hear ya and agree that the scope of the problem should be small bore but like Forrest Gump said, "Stupid is as stupid does." From the number and type of ships being seized by the pirates not much is being done. And, until Obama gets in there, there ain't no Jefferson on the horizon to send in the marines.

I don't doubt the Coast Guard's ultimate ability to take on this kind of mission. My sense, however, is that since their transfer into Homeland Security they've been caught up in a culture war with the Navy. Their cutter hulls are old, outdated and some beyond repair. They've deferred maintenance (as does almost everybody in government) and instead of replacing coastal or inland waterway hulls with new construction they've spent a lot of money on ocean going craft that can be part of a naval battle group. As a result, they're not doing anything very well.

Their unsuccessful pursuit of an ocean-going cutter is an excellent example of their general inability to recognize that they don't have any of the clout the Navy does. They're walking softly but left their stick at home. The 8 hours of C-Span I watched with a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee taking the Coast Guard and Lockheed apart is etched in my mind.

The Coast Guard should be a logical choice for a small bore operation. Twenty-five years ago maybe it would have worked. No doubt somebody will eventually cobble together something but I don't see the Coast Guard currently having the ability to take the lead.

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