US Navy Protects All Shipping From Piracy, Even Our Enemies’

While the Senate debates the Law of the Sea Treaty that could wind up hamstringing our Navy, the men and women at sea now continue their mission to protect trade routes. In one recent instance, they rescued shipping that belongs to a nation not exactly enamored of American naval power:

Sailors from the Norfolk-based destroyer James E. Williams boarded a North Korean merchant ship that had been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, while two other Navy vessels tailed a pirated Japanese ship in the same region.
The Williams, which left Norfolk in July , was about 50 nautical miles from the ship Dai Hong Dan in the Arabian Sea when it received word of the pirate attack, said Lt. John Gay , a spokesman for the Navy’s Central Command in Manama, Bahrain.
The Williams dispatched a helicopter and ordered the pirates to give up their weapons via a bridge-to-bridge radio. The North Korean crew, which had retained control of the steering and engineering spaces, then confronted the pirates and gained back control of the bridge, according to a Navy news release. ….
Hundreds of miles away in the same region, two other Navy ships were tracking a Japanese-owned ship seized by pirates over the weekend, Gay said.
The spokesman said that two “coalition” ships from Combined Task Force 150 had responded to the hijacking of the Golden Mori , a Japanese-owned ship registered in Panama.

The US Navy helps protect shipping around the world, for a variety of reasons. For one, it protects American trade abroad and ensures that vital resources (such as petroleum) reach our shores as intended. A global economy requires security for all such transactions, and the stability of global markets remains a vital American interest. We also want to stop terrorists from pirating ships that could be used to stage massive attacks on American ports, and that requires constant vigilance and quick response.
National security requires a robust American presence in international waters. Whatever LOST does to limit that can and probably will result in unpleasant consequences, and not just for the US. Even our putative enemies such as North Korea will wind up losing from a constrained US Navy in the long run.

13 thoughts on “US Navy Protects All Shipping From Piracy, Even Our Enemies’”

  1. Yup. Time to return to Manifest Destiny. (James Monroe. Our 5th President. Delivering to Congress, in it’s Well, his MONROE DOCTRINE.)
    Yeah. We have the powers!
    Do we have the will?
    WHere’s the hamstring?
    Somalia, if we wanted to, could find itself with new ports, five miles inland.
    But, no.
    We’re fighting for the Saud’s. So, we’re forbidden to risk alienating them.
    Wait. Bush leaves office on January 20, 2009.
    Next president in can declare a new State of the Union; when delivering it.

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if the DPRK ship that was seized was the same DPRK ship that was missing after delivering “cement” to Syria prior to the Israeli air raid a few weeks ago? Or maybe it’s the same DPRK ship that was delivering “cement” (and SCUD missiles) to Yemen in December 2002? Methinks the USN is keeping a close eye on all DPRK shipping, and it ain’t to protect em from pirates.

  3. Excellent reporting on this issue from the National Journal’s Corine Hegland on this issue a week or so back. To wit:
    “At its root, the tangle over the treaty comes down to this question of law or guns. Opponents argue that joining the treaty would leash America’s power; advocates say that it would allow America to reserve its guns for when they are truly needed.
    “Our influence in the world derives from our economic power and most especially our naval power,” Gaffney said…
    “…Antrim countered: “You can be powerful enough to do anything you want, but you can’t be powerful enough to do everything you want. We can’t patrol every ocean in the world without the assistance of the coastal states, and to do that we need to not be arguing with them over rights.”
    The article appears here:
    What concerns most analysts is that by not signing the treaty we’re encouraging countries to claim everything in sight for themselves (i.e. that stunt Russia pulled in claiming some part of the North Pole for themselves by planting their flag in).
    As per usual, this is a bit more complicated than what you’d think if you just listened to talk radio.

  4. The US Navy has been fighting Islamic pirates since George Washington was President. Some things never change.

  5. We have the might, and we are not afraid to use (or just showcase) it.
    Why would we want to turn over the control to be able to use our naval forces to a 3rd party international entity?
    No brainer to me.

  6. They use to just HANG pirates when they were caught. Now they get an attorney and a trial. Both are a waste of time if you want to properly address the problem. It isn’t PC, but it does address the problem and provides tremendous motivation to stay out of that particular “business”.

  7. Our often feckless President, the admirable but at times misguided George W. Bush, has gotten behind Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty.
    Much as I like the President, sometimes I wonder. . .
    /Mr Lynn

  8. The United States protecting North Koreans?
    Brings back memories of the 1991 evacuation of foreign diplomats from Mogadishu. We used the US Embassy campus as a rally and evacuation point, and the Italians showed up with the North Korean embassy staff. They were reluctant to come along, even under Italian “protection” as they believed they would be taken prisoner by the US, according to a few comments by a few of the North Korean embassy staffers. If memory serves, there was only one diplomatic casualty, a North Korean embassy staffer, who was killed by one or another Somali rebel group’s sniper while heading to the Italian Embassy.
    As for the pirates, the Indian Ocean is full of them, from Djibouti to the Philippines. I am all for using the U.S. Navy to interdict and kill or capture them. I have grave reservations, however, about the Law of the Sea Treaty, appropriately named “LOST.” Any treaty that relinquishes control of any part of our Armed Forces to another nation or to a UN third party can never do us any good over the long haul. For those who believe that one-worldism, of which LOST is a fundamental step, is the wave of the future, look no farther than George Soros. When third parties start dictating what we can and cannot do as a nation to protect our own sovereignty, and that of other nations, to include North Koreans captured by pirates, then we will lose a lot more than most can even imagine.

  9. The penalty for piracy:
    “Sec. 1651. Piracy under law of nations
    Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.”
    That is, of course, if we can actually get our hands on them. Vattel’s Law of Nations, however, looks at both the civil and military side of this activity in Book III particularly paragraph 67 and following:
    “Legitimate and formal warfare must be carefully distinguished from those illegitimate and informal wars, or rather predatory expeditions, undertaken either without lawful authority or without apparent cause, as likewise without the usual formalities, and solely with a view to plunder. Grotius relates several instances of the latter.5 Such were the enterprises of the grandes compagnies which had assembled in France during the wars with the English, — armies of banditti, who ranged about Europe, purely for spoil and plunder: such were the cruises of the buccaneers, without commission, and in time of peace; and such in general are the depredations of pirates. To the same class belong almost all the expeditions of the Barbary corsairs: though authorized by a sovereign, they are undertaken without any apparent cause, and from no other motive than the lust of plunder. These two species of war, I say, — the lawful and the illegitimate, — are to be carefully distinguished, as the effects and the rights arising from each are very different.”
    Note that no distinction is given between the pirates and buccaneers and those doing the same thing on land. The activity is that of illegitimate, informal war waged to the gain of the organization involved without any sanction by any Nation. Our founders worked with that and with Blackstone’s Commentaries, particularly Book IV, Chapter 5, as it relates to the law of nations as seen under English and later American law. Blackstone was giving a series of law lectures after taking in Vattel’s work and relating it to the English Common Law and the international law of the seas at the time seen in the Black Book of the Admiralty. Admiralty law is, properly, trade law on the high seas and the entire Admiralty jurisdiction of the US is founded in that civil trade law. Law of Nations would incorporate that form of law, originating with Roman high seas trade law, so as to better define what types of activities are seen in each area with regard to Nations.
    Vattel also goes through just about every permutation of activity and relates it to historical experience to help put the Westphalian Nation State framework together. Piracy became excluded from that view, although paid and accountable forces were allowable and given their own regularization so that Nations could properly identify such forces as legitimate armed forces during wartime. Those forces that operated under no sovereign state, no matter their aim, became outlaws and, on the high seas, gained the designation of ‘pirate’. Piracy and outlaw armies have been a major pain for Nation and City states as far back as the bronze age and the fall of the Achaean Greek culture and the start of the ‘sea people’ marauding all the way to Egypt and Sicily, in both areas going significantly far inland.
    The Paris Convention to outlaw piracy was not signed by the US due to Constitutional restrictions, but what is telling is that the Hague and Geneva Conventions put no treaty language into this area as it is the sovereign right of a Nation to defend itself from such forces. Defensive war, in Vattel III para 57, needs no declaration – no dignity is given to those that attack upon those at peace. And those that attack without cause are private enemies (para 69) who seek only harm in their actions and they continue to be enemies wherever they are (para 71). So in an illegitimate attack upon a ship, which is under the laws of its flag Nation while on the high seas, that is an instance of such warfare and the crew of a vessel are to defend it as they would a Nation.
    Such an attack is an offense not just against the targeted Nation, but to the safety of the seas for all Nations and prerequisite is to come to the aid of such ships under attack: to not do so makes one complicit in the attack and threatens the long term use of the high seas. The Admiralty jurisdiction is a strange one in that it is omnipresent and Congress has extended to be beneath the sea floor and to the extent of the atmosphere over it. The right of vessels to sail unmolested as they will is an ancient one and has been violated far back into ancient times. As seen in Vattel (para 68) predatory warfare, being illegitimate or private war cannot be regularized by Treaty as those performing it are not Nations and are, thusly, not legitimate war fighters. President Lincoln would direct the Armies of the Union in Field Manual 100 of 1863 to treat those acting in the way we call ‘terrorist’ today as ‘highway robbers or Pirates’ with summary justice. That would stand for over 30 years as the way the US Army would treat such people. That is the President’s power as Commander of the Armies and the Navies: he is the source of the warfighting part of the Admiralty jurisdiction. Lincoln’s views were that of those that came before him and those that came after him, all the way to Theodore Roosevelt.
    We could learn something from America of that era.

  10. Here’s to the Sailors and Marines of CJTF-150, especially the crews of the Porter, Arleigh Burke, and James E. Williams who have, in recent days, engaged pirates who threaten innocent merchantmen with violence and terror.
    As an Air Force retiree, I just want to express my admiration to events that speak back to the earliest days of the USN and the Barbary Wars.
    These sorts of actions at sea are the sort of warfare we will see in the 21st Century, as groups of ruffians work together to undermine the power, influence and economies of nation-states.
    Their conduct and engagements are in keeping with the finest traditions of the Navy. Edward Preble and Stephen Decatur would be proud of you all. BRAVO ZULU, guys.

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