Ahoy, Galrahn

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Galrahn weighs in with a provocative analysis of the situation at sea around the Horn of Africa and declares that the USN’s approach is working precisely because it’s encouraging other counties to deploy ships and work together:

The US policy has been to do nothing and allow the development of an international response. We are witnessing the slow and sometimes painful strategic gains of this policy, and it all good for the United States. Let it develop and feel good about it, because for once we are witness to our nations maritime strategy producing our intended national goals. It is obviously very difficult to stomach in the rapid information flow of the information age, but the desired result is not the United States to manage this problem unilaterally, rather we want to solve this very difficult problem in a multinational way, and we find ourselves on the verge of our desired national objective to dealing with this problem.

OK, but I question some of the logic along the way, namely:

Not a single US flagged ship has even been approached by pirates (one might say they are intentionally avoided), and not a single US mariner has been taken hostage. After a year of what is often described as sophisticated attacks, not a single action has been taken against the US due to the threat of US response. The United States still lacks any reason to get involved against Somali piracy, and has responded appropriately by doing nothing.

Well, that probably has more to do with the pirates’ lack of opportunity than any fear they have of the US. Bear in mind that US-flagged ships constitute just a bit over 1 percent of the world’s merchant fleet. That’s right: according to the most recent statistics, Old Glory flies over just 347 of the 31,477 vessels engaged in hauling goods. That said, we clearly do have a dog in the fight, as shipping companies are beginning to point out:

Frontline Ltd., which sails five to 10 tankers of crude a month through the treacherous Gulf of Aden, said it was negotiating a change of shipping routes with some of its customers, including oil giants Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Chevron, a move that could boost costs by up to 40 percent.

In case you haven’t noticed, the economy’s a bit fragile right now. Big increases in the cost of transport won’t help.

Meanwhile, in the good-news department, both the Russians and the Saudis plan to contribute more hulls to the overwatch force, and the Germans might join in later. The Indians, meanwhile, are enjoying the prestige that comes with having shot up a pirate whose occupants were dumb enough to have fired an RPG at a frigate. As Galrahn points out, however, they’re sensing a bit of a leadership vacuum at sea.

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Torture Truth Commission

Obama seems inclined to investigate the torture allegations but not to prosecute, says Newsweek:

Obama aides are wary of taking any steps that would smack of political retribution. That’s one reason they are reluctant to see high-profile investigations by the Democratic-controlled Congress or to greenlight a broad Justice inquiry (absent specific new evidence of wrongdoing). “If there was any effort to have war-crimes prosecutions of the Bush administration, you’d instantly destroy whatever hopes you have of bipartisanship,” said Robert Litt, a former Justice criminal division chief during the Clinton administration.

Reactions in the ‘sphere are mixed, for reasons Kevin Drum puts his finger on:

At bottom we still have a public opinion problem here: like it or not, half the country still seems to think that torturing al-Qaeda suspects was perfectly acceptable.

Indeed. Even today there’d be no shortage of people willing to volunteer to take the cattle prod to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, for instance. Memories of a historically unprecedented assault on the soil of the US will do that.

The broader reason, however, is maintain the country’s political stability. The minute one party starts believing that the only way to stay out of jail over what it sees as a political dispute is to hold onto power, it’s all downhill from there.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias argues for trading leniency only for full cooperation:

I think it’s important to draw a distinction between simply declining to engage in war crimes prosecutions as a matter of prosecutorial discretion, and actually taking prosecution off the table. The latter should be done, if at all, only in exchange for confessions, expressions of remorse, and cooperation with investigations. The former may is probably the better part of wisdom for now, but many of the perpetrators can be expected to live for decades and absent something like a real Truth and Reconciliation Commission the door should be left open to doing something down the road if circumstances change. I don’t think it’s even remotely acceptable to just give a full retrospective stamp of approval on everything that was done during the Bush years merely because that might be the most convenient way to build legislative support for Obama’s domestic agenda.

Closet Enemies

The NYT looks at Obama’s diplomatic challenges vis-a-vis Pakistan. They don’t seem to get that the army there sparked the terrorism related to Kashmir, or that it’s hostile to us because we won’t side with Pakistan against India. But the Pakistanis have a few blind spots too:

Exhibit A for the Pakistanis is India’s nuclear deal with the United States, which allows India to engage in nuclear trade even though it never joined the global Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Pakistan, with its recent history of spreading nuclear technology, received no comparable bargain.

The nuclear deal was devised in Washington to position India as a strategic counterbalance to China. That is how it is seen in Pakistan, too, but with no enthusiasm.

“The United States has changed the whole nuclear order by this deal, and in doing so is containing China, the only friend Pakistan has in the region,” said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani Army general.

Let’s see if we can come with the reasons why India’s bomb doesn’t particularly bother the US, shall we?:

  1. They haven’t sold it or the underlying technology to anyone else.
  2. There doesn’t seem much chance that US-Indian interests would clash so violently as to invite them to use the bomb against us.

Such niceties don’t really seem to be understood in Islamabad.

Leaking Air

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NASA researchers close in on why Mars lost its atmosphere.

When Sects Collide

One of Sullivan’s readers makes a good point:

The Unitarians have been marrying same-sex couples for some thirty years, and likewise some congregations of the United Church of Christ, the Metropolitan Community Church, and I’m sure a number of other religious groups I don’t even know. Why do the fundamentalists get to discriminate with the force of civil law against the U/U, the UCC, and the rest? When did they get the right to have their religious interpretation enshrined in civil law at the unavoidably explicit expense of the others’  interpretation?

Which is why government has to stay neutral on matters of religious doctrine.

Cabinet Reaction

Tom Barnett likes what he sees so far of Obama’s appointments:

Obama is trying to satisfy in a lot of different directions, and I think it’s a good mix to date. They reflect a true CEO mindset that wants very strong subordinates, and I like a cabinet for America right now that reflects too much agenda and too much leadership rather than too little in either category. I don’t want an America that simply accommodates or surrenders to presumed trends. I want an America that leads as it always has, but does so in a smarter fashion. 

DVD Slowdown

Studios have more or less mined their vaults for what DVD-releasable material they have, says The New Yorker. This was going to happen at some point.