About two weeks ago, when the Somali pirates took that giant oil tanker, I was watching the news with my wife, turned to her, and said, “my God, what’s to stop these people from taking a cruise ship and either ransoming off or killing off the hostages?”
Now, we’re seeing that an attempt has been made, with a couple of boats pursuing an American cruise ship, the M/V Nautica, in the Gulf of Aden. Luckily, a quick-thinking cruise ship captain was able to outrun the little boats after, according to a radio interview I heard this morning, informing the passengers as they sat down for breakfast that some suspicious boats were following them and everyone should take shelter in a corridor. This time, the pirates were beaten, but not until a couple of shots were taken, in vain, at the ship.
Given what a dozen or so gunmen were able to do in Mumbai at this time last week, striking a number of targets–all open buildings with entrances, exits and windows throughout–and killing hundreds of people, all the while keeping law enforcement and counterterrorism forces at bay for several days, I cannot help but wonder how safe a contained, confined, isolated and largely security-free environment such as a cruise ship would handle a similar attack.
Of course, these pirates are interested in ransom. They want money. Still, what’s to stop people like those who attacked the hotels and train station in Mumbai from paying and using the pirates essentially as a cruise ship delivery system?
Keep in mind that everything I know about naval warfare, I learned from the History Channel and Tom Clancy novels, so please take this with a grain of salt. However, while I understand the great expanse of sea in question here, I cannot wrap my head around why our Navy, as well as those from across the world, cannot take care of this little problem before it mushrooms and gets a whole lot worse.
We’ve seen what a gaggle of radical Muslims can do with explosives and a rubber boat in the nearby port of Aden (where, I think, the M/V Nautica is currently at rest). We’ve seen what mere gunmen can do in Mumbai and at Beslan. Why take the chance that this will escalate?
Over the past two weeks in my neighborhood, we’ve seen a dozen robberies taking place in daylight and darkness when homeowners are not home, enough so that police are asking folks to leave a light on at all times and ensure that doors and windows are all locked. Two streets behind me, in a house no more than a good six-iron away from my back porch, one gentleman was robbed twice, on two separate occasions, both times during the day.
One neighbor said to me, as we chatted in an after-turkey fog of gluttony, “at least these break-ins are happening during the day when nobody is home.” The thing is, that’s not the point. These things get worse when someone comes home to a criminal in their living room, or when the burglar breaks into a house at night only to find a scared homeowner with a frying pan. In my neighborhood, we cannot simply bank on the idea that only tangible things will be taken and people and lives will be ignored — just like, off of the Somali coast, we cannot simply assume that these pirates only intend to obtain money and take for ransom.
Things could get worse quickly. As I see it, the Navy had to wait for the United States Supreme Court to rule, a few weeks ago, against environmentalists who claimed that the sonar from Naval exercises off the California coast was disrupting whales and marine life — why even bother with the hippies in California when we’ve got target practice off the coast of Somalia? The Indian Navy sank a few of their ships, why can’t we?