Monday, 13 April 2009

US Navy frees Richard Phillips


This is very good news. The problem of course with piracy in this part of the world is not a straight forward case of good versus evil. Although the pirates have to be stopped it's worth pointing out that some sources have stated that the collapse of Somalia's fishing industry has much to do with the EU. However the EU and NATO do now need to secure its shipping. Furthermore it's likely that the relative anarchy in the region will be exploited by Al Qaeda.

The good news is that this operation is a good show of mettle on behalf of those opposed to such brigandry. Furthermore it’s a further indication of how well the US armed forces are responding to asymmetrical warfare.

15 comments:

Young Activist said...

Obviously a military approach is needed to ease the immediate problem, but to actaully adress the problem there needs to be an integrated approach. We need to look at what drives people to become pirates and what enables them to operate with impunity. Then we need to start adressing on shore problems, both in attempting to remove that motivation and alos isolating pirate by depriving pirates of the pretenses of protecting Somali waters from illegal fishing and dumping that enable their popular support.

As far as short term military options are concerned the area is too big to patrol. Perhaps setting up convoys like the U.S did in World War II would be a pragmatic way to protect shipping, but even then the volume of traffic would make this difficult.

Rachel said...

Dear Paul,
I work with a film company and we've just found some extremely ironic footage of Jack Straw on the cutting room floor. It's currently being edited but I think it would be perfect for your readers. Is there an email address that I can use to send it to you?
Thank you!
Best wishes,
Rachel

rachel.bird@live.com

Paul said...

I agree entirely. The problem with a 'more integrated approach' is who will do it? The US tried such a high minded scheme under Clinton and with full UN approval in 1993. Ultimately the mission ended in disaster. What I fear is that the approach will be purely punitive with convoys being utilised and perhaps air power against Pirate bases. To be honest I don't know the solution. Perhaps if the convoys deployed were also to police the illegal fishing and dumping that has blighted this area might be a start. Certainly the Royal Navy has experience in doing this.

Young Activist said...

The same nations who are trying to stop piracy with military force, those who have a financial interest, would be the ones who would address the other portion of the problem, it would really be the natural extension of what they are doing now. I am not proposing a military intervention in Somalia, that would be a disaster. I don't know enough about the U.S intervention, which I believe actually began under Bush I, but I am very skeptical about the pretense of humanitarian intervention. I think like you said illegal dumping and fishing absolutely has to be stopped, perhaps economic assistance to provide jobs, and an end to the destabilizing role the U.S has played through Ethiopia. Perhaps it would make sense to back moderate Islamists, both to head of an eventual extremist takeover and to provide the stability needed to curb the piracy problem. The west needs to address the legitimate grievances of the Somali people that help provide a degree of popular support for the pirates and also to provide economic aid that reduces the poverty that makes piracy an attractive career.

Paul said...

YA, thanks for your comment. I must admit unlike you when it comes to this sort of thing I’m less idealistic and take more of a ‘Kissinger’ type pragmatic out look. Absolutely the US,EU and/or NATO must organise armed escorts for convoys in this area. Also it may be possible to use the Navy to cut out illegal fishing and dumping. However when you say ‘perhaps economic assistance to provide jobs, and an end to the destabilizing role the U.S has played through Ethiopia. Perhaps it would make sense to back moderate Islamists, both to head of an eventual extremist takeover and to provide the stability needed to curb the piracy problem.’ Then none of that is workable I’m afraid. Any ‘economic assistance’ supplied will end up in Swiss bank accounts I fear and without venturing onto the land in a large Iraq style venture it will be impossible to guarantee good governance.

One final point you sound a bit like Obama when you say ‘back moderate Islamists’. What moderate Islamists? There aren’t any anywhere in the world; there are moderate Muslims however of course. The Ethiopian intervention was done in the first place to ward off the Islamists and their Al Qaeda followers. There are no easy solutions in this part of the world; we are perhaps limited to punitive measures to prevent both piracy and illegal dumping.

Young Activist said...

When it comes to politics the terms "pragmatic" and "idealistic" are generally misapplied. Someone like Noam Chomsky would typically be described as an idealist while someone like Otto Von Bismark would be describes as a realist, the problem with this is that the "idealist" is actually very much like the realist, he has an objective he would like to advance, but he is open to different ways of accomplishing that objective. The difference is moral, not strategic in nature. Unless of course we are talking about an ideologue, which would be someone who doesn't understand that their is a difference between methods and objectives (i.e: and ardent Communist or Capitalist).

To take the "Kissinger" approach would mean to advance the economic interests of your friends without regard for anyone else. Outside of politics this approach is usually referred to as "a moral deficiency". Just look at Kissinger's words/actions, he advocated and implemented policies that led to, and still leaves the legacy of, a considerable degree of death and misery, however the U.S benefited economically from these policies and that was all that mattered.

No moderate Islamists? I'm not really fond of Turkey's government, but I believe they would warrant that label. Everyone has interests and any government willing to advance its own interests can be negotiated with, and that has included and can include Islamist governments.

Its not our job to provide Somalia with good governance, we do have a responsibility though to not hinder development in that country because it is economically convenient.

I was wondering, Bar Kochba told me he has given up on writing a response to the post I wrote in the debate I challenged him to, would you be interested in taking his place?

http://1humanity.blogspot.com/2009/04/debating-gaza.html

Paul said...

We may for once be very close to actually agreeing without realising it. What I meant by the Kissinger approach was to put our security paramount of all other interests. Of course it is not a moral argument but I was concerned when you said we could back 'moderate Islamists'. All Islamists are hostile to our interests as secular democracies. They are seeking to implement a trans-national aggressive theocracy. Of course some Islamists such as Al Qaeada are ultra-violent others such as Hizb Ut Tahir (check out the comments made by HBT members on blogs linked to Karin) are less so but they are working to the same goal. My point as I have already made regarding this piracy is we need an international approach by the world's navies to end it. Also we need to end illegal dumping and fishing. I simply don't think it’s possible to achieve anything else in that region.

Turkey incidentally is not an Islamist state (at least not yet). It follows modern secular traditions imposed by Kamal Ataturk. Nonetheless the human rights situation leaves a lot to be desired especially for non-Turkic Muslims (Kurds) and Christians.

Look at this report by the BBC for just one indication as to how the Turkish government views Christians in its country:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7701527.stm


A diplomatic aim of the west should be to sponsor equality and democracy in all regions. Sadly Obama (bowing to that obscene Saudi autocrat) is not up to that.


Yeah I may be up for that debate thanks the problem is finding the time!

Young Activist said...

Turkey's politics is dominated by the fanatical Kemlaist nationalists in the military, however the ruling party is Islamist, and I believe moderate Islamist, much like some non-Muslim countries also have moderate religious parties, there is even the potential for moderate theocratic democracies such as Tibetan Government in Exile. And no I am not fond of the Turkish human rights situation, though the problem there appears to be primarily, almost exclusively nationalist in nature.
It is easier to agree on something when strategic and moral concerns are separated. Placing our interests above all else is not a strategic argument, it is a moral one. When the difference between the two is acknowledged it is possible to have identical understandings of a situation and still support different actions.
We are on the same page when you talk about Obama following Bush's policies with respect to Arab dictators/proxies, however doesn't this contradict your statement that we should "put our security paramount of all other interests"

Young Activist said...

Paul,
What do you make of this case?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8015763.stm

Paul said...

'there is even the potential for moderate theocratic democracies such as Tibetan Government in Exile.' That may well be true with regards to Tibet but I honestly do not know much about that country. I fear you may be hoping that what happens with political traditions in Europe can for instance be replicated in Islamism, it can not. You can't hope that say a modern political party such as the Christian democrats in Germany will find an Islamic parallel. That is not to say there is no place for secular politics in the Middle East, there is but Islamism is different. It draws for tradition upon Sharia law and Islamic jurisprudence. Sadly all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence are basically illiberal. They back the idea of violent Jihad (this in itself raises the possibility any future Caliphate will attack the west, certainly the others did). Also in Sharia women and non Muslims have to endure a lesser legal status. I could provide references to back these claims up a mile long. However that is going off a tangent from our current discussion. In a nutshell, I will say that a major diplomatic aim of the west should be to encourage secular policies in this part of the world. Sadly your young President had the opposite affect when he appealed to Iran as a 'Islamic republic'. The Islamists (in this case Mullahs) will have loved that.

The case of Iqbal may have more to it than what the BBC has reported but I do not know. From the outset in may opinion it looks somewhat harsh but I don't know, I would need to study the case in more detail. I mean how much jail time do you get for operating an illegal porn channel in the US for instance? Although there may be more at stake perhaps.

As to 'We are on the same page when you talk about Obama following Bush's policies with respect to Arab dictators/proxies, however doesn't this contradict your statement that we should "put our security paramount of all other interests". That is a fair point. I have argued for some time however that the west needs to realign itself in this region. Certainly militant Islam threatens us, but where does that come from? Two sources are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. As to Saudi? Well buying oil from them and selling them weapons is short sighted. The west should invest in alternate energy sources and tell the Saudis politely to go hang. Pakistan teeters on becoming a Taliban state (a nuclear one!). Any aid given should be attached to rigid bench marks the Pakistan government has to achieve. On this latter issue SOS Clinton has shown a limited amount of wisdom thus far time will tell, time however may not be on our side.

Young Activist said...

If you look at the Bible or the Torah and compare them to the Koran the Koran is much more in line with modern standards of human rights than the other two. If there can be moderate Christian and Jewish parties in spite of barbaric things in those texts I don't see why the same could not be replicated with Islam. Tibet is not a western nation and it has been replicated there.

U.S and Israeli abuses in the Middle East have fostered the rise of religious fundamentalism. It was actually promoted by the U.S and Israel in the 1980's as an alternative to nationalism and communism. This is a fundamental problem of our strategic thinking, we attribute too much of the problem to a specific ideology when the ideology is often just a vehicle of resistance to western policies. I am not convinced that promoting secularism will help the problem. Turkey's military is secular and is, perhaps after Israel (another nation with an ostensibly secular army) the worst violator of human rights in the region, there the Islamic parties have actually been the voice of moderation on human rights issues. In addition both Pakistan and Afghanistan describe themselves as Islamic Republics and have close relationships with the U.S, Karzai is a U.S stooges as was Musharaf. What is wrong with acknowledging that Iran is ruled by an Islamic Republic. It makes you appear like an out of touch ideologue if you deny it and that perception of the U.S won't help us in addressing the Middle East.

With Iqbal this appears not only overly harsh but also a violation of freedom of speech, wouldn't you agree?
How is buying oil from and selling weapons to the Arab dictators short sighted from the premise that we should "put our security paramount of all other interests".? I still opposed our policies there, but I think they are motivated out of long-term security concerns. Without our support many of these dictators would be toppled in two weeks. Who do you suppose would take their place?

With Pakistan I don't think the U.S air strikes are helping at all. They are definitely destabilizing the country. I mean they have cause a million IDPs and since Washington won't let the government do anything about it other than register their protest it drives a wedge between the government and the people.

Paul said...

‘If you look at the Bible or the Torah and compare them to the Koran the Koran is much more in line with modern standards of human rights than the other two.’ Supposing that were true then the Muslim world would be a shining beacon of tolerance and democracy and it would be Europe and the USA who would lag behind culturally, economically, politically, economically etc etc.

‘If there can be moderate Christian and Jewish parties in spite of barbaric things in those texts I don't see why the same could not be replicated with Islam.’ Again that’s wishful thinking. Note I am not saying that modern political cultures do not exist in these countries. My point is that Islamism is the opposite of progress. Just look at any Islamist group’s attitude to women, non-Muslims and freedom of expression. I would strongly urge you to do exactly that before continuing this discussion. I’m not saying you should agree with me but I feel you are sugar coating some unsavoury facts.

‘U.S and Israeli abuses in the Middle East have fostered the rise of religious fundamentalism.’ I can’t agree on this as the Muslim brotherhood was founded nearly a quarter of a century before Israel existed. Indeed if groups like Hamas had their way and Israel was dissolved into a Sharia Islamic state, I can only predict the Islamist threat to the free world would increase exponentially. That’s not to say that I feel western policy in general in the region is not flawed I feel it is as it does not generally recognise the problem.

‘I am not convinced that promoting secularism will help the problem. Turkey's military is secular and is, perhaps after Israel (another nation with an ostensibly secular army) the worst violator of human rights in the region’. Promoting secularism like we have a choice? I certainly do not wish to live under a Caliphate. Indeed there are problems with Turkey (the EU should say a big fact NO to membership). But is Israel the worst violator of human rights in the region? How many apostates have been executed in Israel? Or homosexuals hung publicly from cranes? Or rape victims afforded lashes? I have stated previously that the last two military campaigns by Israel were defensive in nature and sought to avoid unnecessary suffering to civilian populations. But have you seen how Israel’s neighbours conduct similar operations? What did Syria do to Hama in 1982? How did Saddam suppress Kurdish and Shia uprisings? How many thousands were killed by the Ayatollah’s revolution in Iran? Also we have the conduct of Bashir in Sudan for which he gets a full licence from the Arab league.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anfal_campaign
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_the_Islamic_Republic_of_Iran
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7971624.stm
Please note that there is not a peep of discussion amongst any Muslim population or the anti-Israeli left about any of the above. Much less condemnation when Muslim kills Muslim.


I’m prepared to accept you may find excuses for all of the above and blame the west somehow. It doesn’t matter we can discuss the issues relating to Israel later. I know some of the links are Wiki but they are factually correct.

‘With Pakistan I don't think the U.S air strikes are helping at all. They are definitely destabilizing the country. I mean they have cause a million IDPs and since Washington won't let the government do anything about it other than register their protest it drives a wedge between the government and the people.’ Fair point YA but I would bet my bottom dollar that the drone strikes do have the consent of Pakistan’s government. For one thing the US has switched from targeting Al Qaeda members to attacks on the Taleban leadership in the tribal areas.

Lastly you say ‘With Iqbal this appears not only overly harsh but also a violation of freedom of speech, wouldn't you agree?’ Totally agree but I never knew you felt so strong about freedom of speech? So this guy can have his say and propagate for terrorists but an elected politician Geert Wilders can’t say what he feels about Islam? I really hope you don’t just like freedom of speech when it is opinions you agree with?

‘How is buying oil from and selling weapons to the Arab dictators short sighted from the premise that we should "put our security paramount of all other interests"? Good question I’ll save the response for a rainy day.

Young Activist said...

Paul,
The point is not that there are not problems in the Middle East, the point is Islam is not one of those problems. Have you ever read any of the texts I'm talking about, the Bible and the Torah both describe certain genocides as diving plans, is this what is meant by western civilization?.

You associate with Bar Kochba, who is a follower of Meir Kahane, a man whose worldview is at least as radical as Bin Laden's with no criticism at all, it seems like you are not concerned about religious extremism so much as you are with finding a forum to project intolerance. For example you mention woman's rights as the antithesis of Islam, guess what, in Morocco the largest Islamist party is led by a woman. I'm not saying there aren't issues, I'm saying it is unfair to put fault an entire demographic group for a social condition that has nothing to do with that demographic group. That would be like saying because Nazis embraced German nationalism all German nationalist are radical, violent, etc. It is something that only a bigot would suggest.

Islam is only an ideology of resistance, the Middle East has always been a conservative society, but fundamentalism of all sorts has been fostered by American and Israeli abuses. This is just common sense, when people feel defenseless and victimized they will embrace radical ideologies. Do I really need to give examples of this?

"The Islamist threat to the free world?" Paul, I knew we disagreed, but I was really surprised to hear you say something so reactionary. The "free world" is, at the moment, one of the greatest threats to the peace of the world. Perhaps we should worry about our own problems before we go looking for issues with other countries.

Do you really expect to be living under a caliphate? Again you are making yourself sound like the politician's fool with statements like these. Attempting to replace Islam with a secular ideology will not solve the problem. Don't forget that the West helped promote the rise of the Taliban and Hamas because it thought religion would be a good alternative to secular nationalism and Communism. This is part of the problem we always blame the ideology, but don't realize that there is an underlying issue.

I stand by my statement about Israel, but I regret saying it, it is important to distinguish between moral and intellectual judgments and it appears that you don't understand the importance of that in a discussion. For example you obviously don't like Islam so you constantly attack it while ignoring comparable trends in other religions. Israel is the worst violator of human rights in the Middle East, but even if it were not, even there were another country that violated human rights even worse, I would oppose what Israel is doing with no less vigor. I am not ignorant of the region, you don't need to provide sources for basic information, but this has nothing to do with Israel's violations of human rights. It is an obfuscation. Al-assad is dead. Hussein is dead. The Nackba continues.

Speaking of Saddam's atrocities though, the west didn't seem to mind when they were ongoing. Rumsfeld sold him weapons and Reagan gave him support right through his worst crimes. He only became a criminal in the west when he threatened our oil supply.

It doesn't matter what other countries are doing, we only have a responsibility to act where we can effect a change. I can speak for anyone else, but that is why I criticize western atrocities and seem to ignore others. Not because I don't care, but because the most pressing issue is the one that can be addressed.

Why do the airstrikes have the consent of Pakistan's government? The people oppose it by huge margins, the government pays lip service to their position will supporting it by huge margins. Which constituency is this government serving, it people or the U.S?

If you'll go back and read my comments you'll find that you have again read what you though would be easy to refute and not what I actually said. I said I was undecided on the issue, since then I've moved towards a position. Is there anything wrong with actually considering an issue before arriving at a conclusion? And where have I ever said that I support Hezbollah? But you point about only supporting free speech for people who you agree with is an issue I will raise with you. Why did you defend Wilders but not anyone else, there are plenty of people prosecuted for hate speech in Europe, or were they just hating the wrong groups?

Paul said...

'The point is not that there are not problems in the Middle East, the point is Islam is not one of those problems. Have you ever read any of the texts I'm talking about, the Bible and the Torah both describe certain genocides as diving plans, is this what is meant by western civilization?.'

Yes indeed I have. But any reasonable person can see that the west has progressed from being what it was in medieval times to the modern post-enlightenment period. However looking at places where the popular culture supports limb amputation as a punishment for theft it would appear that progress has been far from universal. Also as I have made clear numerous times the archaic aspects of some practices in the Middle East. For example limb amputation for thieves, the death penalty for apostates etc etc. Such practices have their roots in Islam in particular the Hadith and Qur'an from which the Islamic law or Sharia is drawn. Furthermore as numerous campaigns are afoot to expand the writ of Islamic law and even bring it to the west. I am entirely happy to be called intolerant of such ideas.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hizb_Al-Tahrir

http://www.hizb-ut-tahrir.org/

Please note young activist, I am not anti-Muslim, I am against Sharia law however and firmly believe that when people live under a secular democratic regime their rights and freedoms are better protected. I did ask you to look at Islamism and it seems the best you can come up with is some nonsense about a woman in Morocco. Please do more than that and look at what the status of women and non-Muslims is under Sharia. What's this about me associating with Bar Kochba? How do you know that tonight I'm going bowling with him and afterwards we'll have a couple of beers? I agree with him on a couple of things so what? I mean by a similar measure of churlishness, I note that you associate with Karin from http://1158munich.blogspot.com/. On Karin's blog in the comments section she has expressed doubts about whether Muslims were responsible for 9/11. On another blog of which Karin is a member along with members of Hizb ut Tahir, members called for apostates to be killed and Christians and Jews to be subjugated.

http://muslimunity.blogspot.com/2007/02/why-is-apostate-to-be-executed-in-islam.html

Now of course in a similar vein I could attack you for views attributed to others you discuss with. However that would be discourteous as well as unfair. But just one of the numerous threats that Islamism represents to the west was witnessed with the Mohammad cartoons or the Salman Rushdie affair.

'I stand by my statement about Israel, but I regret saying it, it is important to distinguish between moral and intellectual judgments and it appears that you don't understand the importance of that in a discussion. For example you obviously don't like Islam so you constantly attack it while ignoring I stand by my statement about Israel, but I regret saying it, it is important to distinguish between moral and intellectual judgments and it appears that you don't understand the importance of that in a discussion. For example you obviously don't like Islam so you constantly attack it while ignoring comparable trends in other religions..'

Come again? Take a deep breath and tell me where I have actually done that? Okay I'll make it clear for you IF there was any attempt to bring laws into place in America or Europe based on what you call 'comparable trends in other religions', rest assured I would oppose it. However could you please point me in their direction? You know those Christians, Jews or Buddhists who are seeking to impose such tyranny in the west? I just want to know so I can oppose them. I mean are the Mexican's in America importing a radical blend of Catholicism? One that imposes limb amputation for theft or death for criticising Christianity? I just want to understand your relativism. If they are I'll be the first to complain.

I'm not going to discuss your claim that claim that Israel is the worse violator of human rights in the region, as we both know we'll get nowhere. I think I understand where you come from though. You have accused me elsewhere of being a tribalist or cultural supremacist. Well it's hardly surprising we disagree then. You come from the left, but common to a few leftists is intense self abasement. The belief that all problems the west faces are because of western policy and no one else is to blame. Such individuals apply that model to anything. Hence the belief that Jihadist terrorism is somehow because of something we ourselves have done. Also you cannot bring yourself to criticise Islamism because there’s nothing you like about westernism. You can't see that a secular democracy with a history of brave introspection (something I believe the US certainly is more than the UK)is something worth defending or even being a part of. I can and it is to America and not from that people seem to flee.

'And where have I ever said that I support Hezbollah?'

You have not I don't think I said you did but if it came across that way I'm sorry. But as to the issue of free speech, in all fairness YA the hypocrisy is yours not mine. You did state previously you wanted Wilders prosecuted; now you say not this guy why? That's all for now it is a weekend after all; hope you have had a good one.

Young Activist said...

Have you ever been to Alabama, or anywhere in the American south for that matter? I can assure there are plenty of people who want to impose an equally radical brand of Christianity on the U.S, and they are in a much strong position (still a negligible one) to do it. In fact up until 9/11 they represented the greatest perpetrators of terrorism within the U.S. They still have militias which they are very active with and very proud of just google militia movement. Then there is the JDL, another extremist terrorist organization which, although primarily a racist organization, is still very much concerned with its brand of extremist religion. I believe Bar Kochba is affiliated with this group. You may remember them from George Galloway's failed efforts to enter Canada. They had to relocate into Canada because the FBI was cracking down on them. They have also carried out numerous deadly, religiously inspired terrorist attacks within the U.S. And that is only two of the major groups inside of the U.S, if we looked overseas or to even moderately radical groups that list would grow exponentially.

Leftists don't hate democracy as you seem to imply, rather we hate the excesses of our government, which in a purely democratic system (where the actions of the government reflect the views of the populace) would be very much a minor issue. Actually, the "hate" many leftists have for the west comes from a sort of nationalism, a desire to have a better record on human rights than other countries, but an unwillingness to deny present problems to accomplish that. As I have said before though, we talk about problems because we are interested in correcting them, not because we somehow are trying to make our country look bad.