Ahoy, Galrahn

081119-N-0075S-002

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.

Advertisements

We Need Us A Convoy

capricornstarlarge

The blogs are a-twitter over the latest Somali-related act of piracy, the taking of an oil supertanker off the coast of Tanzania. Wired, EagleSpeak and Information Dissemination all have posts up. Most start by riffing off the Fifth Fleet news release announcing the seizure, which is mostly a declaration of impotence:

“Our presence in the region is helping deter and disrupt criminal attacks off the Somali coast, but the situation with the Sirius Star clearly indicates the pirates’ ability to adapt their tactics and methods of attack” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, Combined Maritime Forces.

The good admiral essentially repeats his appeal for shipping companies to hire Blackwater or an outfit of that ilk to provide armed security on their vessels. He and the folks who assembled the news release also make clear their view of the uselessness of patrolling, given that they tout the successes the USN and other forces have achieved lately in the Gulf of Aden while acknowledging a new problem hundreds of miles away:

To put the challenge into geographic perspective, the area involved off the coast of Somalia and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles. That is roughly four times the size of the U.S. state of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined.

Question: Has anyone thought of convoys, or has our Navy gone all Ernie-King-in-January-1942 and in consequence dismissed the idea out of hand? Concentrate the targets, and you can also concentrate your resources on protecting them. It’s radical, sure. But I wouldn’t think you’d need a huge escort to make the exercise worthwhile — a couple of frigates per group should suffice. 

What is required, no matter what, is for navy types throughout the West to get their heads around the idea that they have to solve this. Gortney and his subordinates obviously haven’t:

“While a military force cannot solve the problem, the solution lies ashore, we welcome the assistance of additional forces,” said [Royal Navy Commodore Tim] Lowe.

Somewhere Horatio Nelson is rolling over in his grave.

Meanwhile, The Custodian at Info Dissemination sagely notes that this latest seizure “offers a somewhat disturbing opportunity for ecoterrorist extortion if it is carrying cargo [ed: it is] and if the pirates choose to take that route.” Everyone at all the blogs mentioned above agrees that as long as countries keep paying the ransom, the pirates will keep taking ships.

Where the Troops Are

Mother Jones maps (roughly) the whereabouts of the US Army post-1950. Cool site. The interesting thing is the more-or-less-continuously-large presence of troops in Saudi Arabia. And here Bin Laden thought it was something new.