Captain Richard Phillips, a Vermonter, was rescued from pirates today by the Navy. Three of the four pirates were killed, and one is in custody. No U.S. sailors were injured.
I’d say this is a big boost to the Obama Administration.
First, it has won him some grudging praise from conservative commentators. As one wrote on the Volokh Conspiracy,
I’m also surprised–pleasantly so, I add–that Obama actually allowed the Navy to act. Very surprised. I didn’t think he had it in him.
Of course, this commentator’s attitude is a bit ridiculous, as President Obama is in the midst of prosecuting two wars, but still, every little dose of reality helps.
Second, the Administration has taken firm stand on piracy, at least where the ship involved is a U.S. vessel. This sets an important precedent that, one hopes, will make pirates off the coast of Somalia think twice before attacking a U.S. ship and may have the healthy effect of causing shipowners to consider registering their vessels in the United States rather than in other countries, which could help reverse the long-term decline in the U.S. commercial fleet.
Third, by capturing one of the pirates, the Administration has the opportunity to model the use of criminal law to defeat a threat to international peace and security caused by non-state actors–sound familiar? Under the U.S. Code,
Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by
the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the
United States, shall be imprisoned for life.
So good for the administration!