The Piracy Challenge

The problem of Somali pirates, and especially the recent hostage situation, is being portrayed by many in the media as a challenge for Barack Obama and his administration. I agree wholeheartedly. In that spirit, here are the challenges as I see them.

1. I challenge Obama to admit that the State has no economically viable solution to the piracy problem and that the free market is the answer.

The Somali pirates are economically-motivated. As such, they are making cost-benefit, risk-reward decisions. Their actions are immoral, without question. But from a utilitarian accounting calculation, the pirates see their actions as economically viable.

What is the cost-benefit analysis on the government side? Obama and other military-minded government heads are using billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded military hardware and personnel to fail utterly at stopping the pirates. Furthermore, they are attempting to protect privately-owned ships that could and should be protected by their owners at a fraction of the cost. The pirates are using speedboats and small arms to accost their victims. For relatively little expense, the owners of the ships could — directly or by contracting with other agencies — provide security for themselves. They don’t need heavy artillery or armored flotillas; they need small arms capable of stopping speedboats, and they need a few trained personnel on board. That would immediately shift the risk-reward equation to an unfavorable one for the pirates and put an end to this nonsense. For the pirates, to upgrade their hardware and tactics would also tip the cost-benefit out of their favor — they aren’t making enough money on piracy to fund an arms race with the large enterprises who own the ships.

By pretending that a few military vessels spread out on the sea will be able to protect ships and stop piracy, the State is feeding us the same line of baloney we’ve been getting for years:

  • It’s not working because we’re not spending enough.
  • It’s working, even if it’s not perfect.
  • It’s not working to go after the individuals; we have to invade their home countries.

This is a bunch of self-serving bunk that Obama and his cohort will use to justify more spending, bigger government, and expansion of their empire internationally.

It’s a lot like the domestic police state: whatever supposed benefit it provides fails utterly if subjected to a cost-benefit analysis, no individual protection is available to a citizen, the police want to disarm private individuals rather than empower us to protect ourselves, and the State’s failure becomes its justification for ever more fleecing of the taxpayer.

2. I challenge Obama to cease all piracy and banditry internationally and domestically.

A pirate is one who engages in violence or threat of violence at sea for purpose of expropriation and/or extortion. A bandit is one who does the same on land.

Obama engages in exactly those activities when he uses violence or the threat of violence to bully and plunder Americans by means of taxation, unjustified restrictions on the use of private property, and coercive policies on how we live our lives. Furthermore, Obama engages in piracy and banditry when he uses violence or threat of violence from the military, intelligence operatives, or mercenaries to coerce other governments, people groups, or individuals outside the US to bow to his will.

The Somali pirates are small potatoes compared to Obama and his ilk. Who will protect us from the State which is robbing us and pushing us around with ever-increasing fervor?

3. I challenge Obama to deal with the problem himself.

We learn from the Old Testament (2 Samuel 11:1, ESV), “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.” And as a result of David’s dereliction of his kingly duty — that of personally leading the troops into battle — he engaged in adultery, abuse of power, and murder that brought tragedy on his own house and his nation. In that spirit, rather than sending minions to do his work from afar, Obama should go personally to lead the battle against the pirates. In fact, the President should always lead whenever he decides to send the military off on some war or police action. This would undoubtedly bring more sober judgment to such decisions.

In reality, of course, Obama will stay at safe remove from every threat. So let’s stop pretending that the pirates pose any sort of challenge to him. The messiah-seekers and celebrity-worshippers would have us believe that Obama is in some way relevant to solving piracy and all the other problems of the world. Nonsense! For Obama, the Somali pirates are merely an opportunity to expand his own sphere of plundering and bullying.

April 21, 2009