Did someone just decide we’re going to start kicking pirate booty?

The fight against piracy has long been thwarted by little technical details: it’s hard to arrest pirates because there’s nowhere to try them; it’s not easy to tell which boats are and aren’t pirates; and well, just shooting the darn pirates is kind of precarious too, for legal reasons. But I have a sneaking suspicion ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

The fight against piracy has long been thwarted by little technical details: it's hard to arrest pirates because there's nowhere to try them; it's not easy to tell which boats are and aren't pirates; and well, just shooting the darn pirates is kind of precarious too, for legal reasons.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that someone at the Pentagon (or in Brussels...)  just decided: screw it. We've got to kicking some booty because... this whole getting-beaten-by-the-pirates thing is embarrasing. So recently, the news has looked more like that of today: U.S. Ships capture pirates! Save hostages! To read that press release is to think you are being led through the thrilling narration of a non-spoken movie scene:

The fight against piracy has long been thwarted by little technical details: it’s hard to arrest pirates because there’s nowhere to try them; it’s not easy to tell which boats are and aren’t pirates; and well, just shooting the darn pirates is kind of precarious too, for legal reasons.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that someone at the Pentagon (or in Brussels…)  just decided: screw it. We’ve got to kicking some booty because… this whole getting-beaten-by-the-pirates thing is embarrasing. So recently, the news has looked more like that of today: U.S. Ships capture pirates! Save hostages! To read that press release is to think you are being led through the thrilling narration of a non-spoken movie scene:

Arriving first to the last known location of the pirated mothership was the Omani vessel. As the Omani ship approached, the nine hostage sailors from Faize Osamani jumped into the ocean in an attempt to get away from the dangerous pirates and toward their rescuer. The Oman Navy was able to rescue eight of these crewmembers, however, one crew member drowned. Despite the loss of their hostages, the pirates remained aboard the Faize Osamani.

As the Omani ship rendered assistance to the escaped hostages, USS McFaul arrived on scene. With two warships now operating in close proximity, the pirates agreed to a compliant boarding. McFaul approached the dhow and directed the suspected pirates to surrender by gathering on the bow with their hands in the air, which they quickly complied with but not before being seen throwing their weapons overboard. Two boarding teams from McFaul deployed in rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB), boarded the dhow and took control of the Faize Osamani.

The surviving sailors of the dhow Faize Osamani have been returned to their vessel, while their lost shipmate has been transported to shore by the Omani warship. The suspected pirates were subsequently transferred to the United States destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) in anticipation of further transfer to a state willing to accept the pirates for prosecution.

An April 5 Navy press release touts the gains: “Recent attacks have shown that Coalition efforts in the Somali Basin and Gulf of Aden are forcing would-be pirates farther out to sea and farther from their home waters, revealing their desperation to find easier commercial targets.” (It also reads oddly like a moral diatribe against piracy: ” Every day, more young Somali men are taking the risk of life at sea as a pirate. The idea of gettingtheir share of a ransom payment also leads them to become more desperate to achieve the goal of capturing a merchant vessel to bring back to the pirate anchorages off the coast of Somalia to await further ransom payments.”)

And that, Ladies and Gentleman, is what it looks like when the U.S. military gets serious about pirates.  (Or maybe I’ve just drunk the press release cool aid.)

Photo: U.S. Navy

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.