It seems that USNS Rappahannock has fired on a small craft that ignored warnings and closed with her in the Persian Gulf. From the NBC News article:

The crew aboard the Navy ship sent out repeated warnings, including radio calls, flashing lights, lasers and ultimately warning shots from a 50-caliber machine gun. When the boat failed to heed the warnings, the crew was ordered to open fire with the 50-caliber gun.

It will be critically important that US civilian and military leadership emphasizes the above, and plasters images and accounts of USS Cole all over the news immediately and persistently for the next several weeks. We should be very proactive in letting the world know that there is a terror threat to US warships and auxiliaries posed by small craft, and any such vessel that ignores the warnings as were summarized above will be fired upon and destroyed.

We mustn’t begin the oh-so familiar course of meekly apologizing for having to kill those who threaten us. If we do, we will see many more actions such as this, likely designed to cause us to fit ourselves for ever-tighter handcuffs and more restrictive rules of engagement in combat on land and sea, which the enemy will use to increasing advantage to exploit his strengths and our weaknesses. On the contrary, we must be firm and aggressive with our reaction to the incident. Actions without strong narrative are subject to interpretation.

If the United States, and in particular the United States Navy, has any sense of true ‘strategic messaging”, we will let the rest of the world know that, should another small craft ignore similar warnings, it, too, will be fired upon. And any death or injury that results from such incidents is the responsibility of those who willfully ignore the warnings, and on those who likely have sent them.



Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Foreign Policy, Hard Power, History, Homeland Security, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Naval Institute, Navy, Piracy, Tactics

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  • I like your statement, “Actions without strong narrative are subject to interpretation.” With any possible threat we must make it clear to the world what our actions will be when our forces are threatened and why we took the actions we did. This will make it harder for terrorists to repeat a USS Cole and keep our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen safe.

    A problem arises during election season when world opinion of the US is used as a political football.

  • Frank Newman

    I was in the Gulf when the Cole incident happened. I just left the Gulf after deployment on one of the Rappahannock’s sister ships in April of this year. I will be heading that direction again soon and can only hope that this incident is not used to make the ROE more restrictive. We have to be allowed to protect ourselves.

  • Jay

    Ummmmmm….no. Responsibility lies with the shooter, even when acting in accordance with prescribed defensive measures. I wouldn’t be so quick to beat your chest over this until the investigation runs its course. In previous similar episodes, if this turns out to be a very bad accident (on the part of the small boat), we’ll do the right thing. As to SecState Clinton’s apology – meh. It was a necessary statement, as we needed the goods and equipment backed up at the border, the Pakistanis needed the revenue, and they needed a suitable period of time for emotions to cool off. Not really a comparable situation at all.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Ummmmmm…. okay Jay.

    A tortured bit of logic. And the responsibility lies with the one issuing the order to shoot. Besides that, letting the world know one’s ships will follow the ROE, and that those who fail to heed recognized warnings and close rapidly with a US Navy ship do so at their own peril isn’t exactly “chest-beating”.

  • Dee

    I think that the “Blame America First” crowd and those who do not remember the COLE miss the point that there is clear rules of engagement.

  • Patrick Donnelly

    Is the use of a man made tsunami automatically a war crime?

    It was contemplated in 1945 and Project Seal was set up in New Zealand. It was successful, but the intended opponent, Imperial Japan, ceased to exist.

    Some think Aceh was connected to the USSN San Francisco accident.

    Any observations?

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    I hesitate to respond to a baffling threadjack, but the tsunami happened in 2004 and the USS San Francisco grounding happened in 2005. Based on the timeline, I would observe that it is highly unlikely the San Francisco grounding caused the earthquake that caused the tsunami. The official navy report issued by PACFLT blamed poor navigation and voyage planning for the grounding, so I observe that the earthquake that caused the tsunami was unlikely to have caused the grounding.

  • Patrick Donnelly

    Thanks, Benjamin, for the correction. Detonation of a tsunami requires a massive detonation. Best accomplished by stealth? Interesting slant to your response though.

    Do you then accept the technical ability to create a tsunami? And that such an act would be a war crime?

    Link this to the clathrates publicly “mis-engineered” by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. A massive disaster awaiting a fuse?

  • FoilHatWearer

    If you’re in a small boat moving toward a US Navy ship, it verbally warns you off, then fires rounds across your bow, and your decision is to go to full throttle without changing heading, I have no sympathy for what happens to you.