I understand that piracy is not a serious strategic threat to the United States. I also observe the tactics of Somali pirates and observe a 21st century commerce raiding model that should have naval leaders globally very concerned. Something does not have to be a strategic threat to represent a very serious issue the Navy needs to be seriously engaged in.
Just in case someone might be wondering to what degree piracy should be a priority for the United States, and for what purpose we might have a Navy at all, a brief review of the United States Constitution may apply.
Section 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
Emphasis mine. The mandate to take piracy seriously is not political, it is Constitutional. The Constitution makes clear that our political leaders may or may not raise an Army, but it is a constitutional requirement for Congress to maintain a Navy. The Constitution of the United States was not written that way by accident, Thomas Jefferson was one of several founding fathers who insured the language was specific.
As of 2006, the United States only had 347 US flagged merchant vessels. The probability that there were more than five US flagged merchant vessels within 500 miles of Somalia is very low. How exactly is it possible that one of our, potentially five, US flagged merchant vessels was hijacked by pirates while our Navy, the largest in the world, is not only aware of the piracy problem but with the establishment of Combined Task Force 151, is specifically organized to address this problem?
Should we review the policy regarding Somali piracy to insure our efforts are in line with our national priorities? The priorities for CTF-151 may be in line with policy, but I do wonder where protecting US flagged ships numbers on the list of CTF-151 priorities. The evidence would suggest that role is not #1 on that list, and probably not #2 or #3 either.
If we add up the ships that make up our Navy, TRANSCOM, MSC, and large Coast Guard vessels, we have way more US flagged ships operating for the purposes of war than we have US flagged merchant vessels operating for the purposes of economy, and still one of US flagged merchant vessels is hijacked in the most troubled waters in the world?
It doesn’t sound any better when you consider the same ship hijacked on Tuesday was attacked by pirates on Monday as well.
The Constitutional requirement to maintain the US Navy is rooted specifically to the issue of piracy at sea, but I don’t see much evidence the Navy is taking the piracy issue all that seriously. That could very easily be a reflection of the Administration’s policy, so it is important to observe how the Obama administration reacts.
All I can say is, at least the Navy isn’t out telling merchant mariners to arm themselves and take care of the problem themselves anymore. In the fight against Somali pirates, that literally is the only sign of progress.
- On Midrats 19 April 2015 – Episode 276: “21st Century Ellis”
- John Quincy Adams — The Grand Strategist: An Interview With Historian Charles N. Edel
- 4 Reasons Not to Resign Your Commission as a Naval Officer
- About Face: A Return to Marine Corps Innovation
- On Midrats 29 March 15 – Episode 273: Partnership, Influence, Presence and the role of the MSC