Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


How to deal with Somali pirates

posted by Rod Dreher

Anne Applebaum reports that the Russian Navy, among others, has hit upon a practical solution to the problem of captured Somali pirates. Excerpt:

Theoretically, the captain was supposed to hand the detainees and the evidence over to regional police. Not wanting to involve himself in legal wrangling, however, he decided to “release” the pirates instead. And thus they were “set free” in a tiny inflatable raft, with no navigation equipment, 350 miles off the coast of Yemen. The raft has since disappeared. In the 21st century, this is how pirates walk the plank.

Good for them. Off you go, lads! Enjoy the sailing! Read on in Applebaum’s column, and you see why it’s a terrible mess, trying to figure out how to try those criminals. I’d say they’ve bloody well earned their holiday on the waves, however it turns out.



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YrName

posted May 18, 2010 at 8:44 pm


Wow. I can understand the sentiments, and don’t doubt that it’s a mess, but–if crafts are disappearing–this looks a lot like murder. I’m shocked that you’re cheering it. You can’t shoot a burglar who is under your control even though you’ve caught him in the act.
Maybe this is the only available solution–though I doubt it–but it’s stunningly and wrenchingly wrong to cheer it. Maybe I’m missing something. I can’t, for the life of me, see why you’d be against simply shooting prisoners of war on capture. Beyond, I guess, some utilitarian concerns about people being less willing to surrender.



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Nick

posted May 18, 2010 at 9:28 pm


Rod, can you imagine what it’s like to die of thirst?
“Next is the ‘blood sweats’ phase, involving ‘a progressive mummification of the initially living body.’ The tongue swells to such proportions that it squeezes past the jaws. The eyelids crack and the eyeballs begin to weep tears of blood. The throat is so swollen that breathing becomes difficult, creating an incongruous yet terrifying
sense of drowning.”
http://wittingshire.blogspot.com/2005/03/thirst.html



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MikeW

posted May 18, 2010 at 9:50 pm


When did passing the buck become standards for civility, particularly when dealing with pirates? Kudos to the Russians for at least giving them a raft. Here’s a fundraising suggestion. The NRA should sponsor a cruise along the Somali coastline. Guests would not only be expected, but required to bring along firearms, particularly high powered rifles. The NRA would provide heavy machine guns, mortars, bazookas, and perhaps a Cobra helicopter gunship. The only downside I can see is that I can’t imagine any pirate in his right mind attacking a cruise ship like this, though it might be interesting if they tried.
Best regards,
Mike



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pcintampa

posted May 18, 2010 at 9:50 pm


Come on YrName & Nick. How do you think the victims of these pirates feel when they are shot. And don’t tell me that none of them have been kiled. When you go onto the open seas with the express purpose of taking someone else’s property you deserve what you get as far as retribution goes. These pirates have no respect for their country’s
laws or for international laws. Maybe if they have it in the back of their mind that the punishment is worse than the crime they will think twice about approaching a non-threatening ship in international waters. I say more power to the Captain who “set them free”.



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polistra

posted May 18, 2010 at 9:55 pm


From the article I don’t see any reason why the Russians couldn’t just shoot the pirates and dump them in the ocean. International bureaucrats are insane, so there’s no point in trying to satisfy them. (No honor either.)
Shooting them quickly would look honorable and understandable to human beings on all sides, even if it would never be comprehensible to lawyers.



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YrName

posted May 18, 2010 at 9:59 pm


Maybe if they have it in the back of their mind that the punishment is worse than the crime they will think twice about approaching a non-threatening ship in international waters.
This is exactly the argument for torturing and killing captured terrorists (or any other bad actors) without a hearing. I sympathize with the sentiments. I’d be surprised if most don’t. It might even, in extremis, be the only available solution. But it’s wrong, and we shouldn’t be in the business of justifying it (or pretending it has been justified in cases other than absolute necessity).
This is the Dirty Harry solution.



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Hector

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:03 pm


Rod,
Yeah, you are kidding, right? I hope. Being lost at sea and dying of thirst is a horrible way to die. Take them back to port and give them a fair trial.
That aside, punishing the pirates is beside the point. The real issue is that Somalia lacks authority, central government, law and order. Until some outside power (or the UN, or the African Union) decides to take over and run the country on an interim basis until they have a functioning government, infrastructure, police system, etc., you’re going to have a lawless, Wild West situation. Somalia needs centralised government authority more than it needs the individual pirates to be punished- there’s a reason why people in other countries don’t resort to piracy, after all.
On top of that, Western countries have taken advantage of the lack of authoritative government in Somalia to plunder the country’s fisheries, and now the fisheries are so depleted that the Somalis can’t make a living doing their traditional fishing. Just one more episode- and a particularly mean and nasty one- in the sorry history of greed-fueled Western exploitation of poorer countries.
I have nothing but contempt for the pirates and Islamic Courts Union both, but there’s a reason why both of those groups have been able to have their day, and until you solve the underlying problem of civil anarchy, the pirates and jihadists are going to have their way with that long suffering country.



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Peregrine

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:13 pm


Wow, the depth compassion on this so-called Christian blog defies understanding.
Who would Jesus cast adrift? Shoot? Torture?
Sheesh!



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grendel

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:14 pm


rod,
I only have four words for you:
what would jesus do?



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:17 pm


Oh, now I’ve seen everything – sympathy for pirates? Pirates?
The risk of summary execution upon capture is right there in the job description for pirates.
I can’t, for the life of me, see why you’d be against simply shooting prisoners of war on capture.
Prisoners of war have rights under the Geneva Convention. Pirates don’t.
Being lost at sea and dying of thirst is a horrible way to die.
Hector, that’s the point.



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Japhy Ryder

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:20 pm


So this is OK and something to be cheered on and yet telling a detainee he is not going to be killed and then pouring water over his face is “torture”.



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PDG

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:24 pm


Wow. How very “Christian” of you..



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Peregrin

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:25 pm


Let me get this straigth, John E., because pirates commit horrible crimes and inflict unspeakable suffering on their victims, that, somehow, makes it acceptable for us to do the same?
How, then, are we any better than our enemies?



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Hector

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm


Excuse me, Japhy, but I’m certainly not cheering the pirates.
John E.,
Whether they have legal rights or not is beside the point- no one should be executed without a trial, piracy isn’t and shouldn’t be a capital crime, and no one, guilty of capital crimes or not, should be subjected to a slow and painful death by thirst. Even Saddam Hussein had a quick death (and I’d say, a well deserved one) not a slow and lingering one. Surely the pirates are less evil then Saddam Hussein.



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crowhill

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:38 pm


I think it would be more honest and decent to simply shoot the bastards.



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Cecelia

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:41 pm


Ok – a part of me says “way to go” but then civilization takes hold – casting people adrift in the ocean to die of thirst or other horrors is a bit much. Part of the issue it seems is the Russians would not have been able to try them because of some jurisdiction issue.
You have to make it clear there will be penalties for this – but casting adrift without water is not right – I don’t know what should be done – but that isn’t it.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:47 pm


Okay – just shoot the pirates and dump their bodies into the sea.
piracy isn’t and shouldn’t be a capital crime
When did that change, anyway? It certainly was a capital crime during most of human history. Why shouldn’t it be a capital crime?
How, then, are we any better than our enemies?
We don’t go attacking merchant ships and holding the ship and crew for ransom? That’s one way…



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Erin Manning

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:48 pm


Interesting comments. How many of the people bringing up the torture of dying of thirst remember Terry Schiavo, I wonder?
That said, while I understand the impulse to set pirates adrift (and the historical precedent, too), I do agree with those who prefer an action more within the rule of law, and more consistent with the notion that even murderous louts do not completely lose their intrinsic human worth (however much they have dimmed it by their own actions).



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Hector

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:52 pm


Cecelia,
I agree. This isn’t the answer. I am not morally opposed to death penalty in principle, but no one should be made to die of thirst on a boat in the ocean. Not that the pirates should be executed anyway- come on, these are not Saddam Hussein and Chemical Ali, these are a bunch of garden variety robbers. Bad people, but hardly Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer.



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Hector

posted May 18, 2010 at 10:57 pm


John E,
Murder, treason/espionage, and rape are often concidered capital crimes (and in the United States, only the former two, and then only with aggravated circumstances). Armed robbery is bad, but it doesn’t rise to the level of murder, treason, or rape.



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kenneth

posted May 18, 2010 at 11:11 pm


The situation has gotten this bad because no one has had the stones to deal with it. When they do catch these guys, they usually turn them loose because of dithering over jurisdiction, etc. This could all be ignored for a time when it was just ships near the Somali coast being shaken down for a “toll.” It’s grown way beyond that and now serves as perhaps the main slice of GDP in that region, and they’re operating many thousands of miles away from home. Once it becomes a $100 million a year business, the push will be for $1 billion, and they’re going to invest in military grade equipment, happily supplied by Iran or North Korea, or, ironically, Russia, where money always talks.
It’s like any other business or human venture. If we allow it to go on unabated, and it’s more profitable than any other option, of course it will continue. If we make it unprofitable or so risky as to virtually guarantee an early death or prison, we’ll get fewer takers. A good example is the German U-Boat. At the start of the war, we wrote off HUGE numbers of ships to them. They sank us with impunity because they could. By the end of the war, with sonar and spotter planes, U-Boat duty meant a life expectancy of a few months, at most.
There’s plenty that could be done even short of prosecution or execution. Rather than trying to chase these fools over millions of square mile of ocean, blockade their port towns. Stop any sea-sized vessel going in or out. If it has any heavy weapons of any kind or grappling hooks etc, the crew gets taken off, and it goes to the bottom. There’s no reason a “fishing” vessel needs grenade launchers and AK-47s, and we’re fools if we wait for them to be used before taking action.
If you haven’t got the stomach for Russian-style justice, scuttle their ship and put the buggers on a raft close enough in that they can make it back alive. We should bring back another tool from the good old days of sail: the letter of marque and reprisal. If you offered a couple hundred thousand per vessel captured, the good old free market would also work against the pirates.



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Your Name

posted May 18, 2010 at 11:19 pm


As in the Souder thread (“Shoot them dead.”), “walk the plank” and having a “holiday on waves” are not “pro-life” statements.
What is it with the ‘right’ – can’t you keep your own ‘values’ straight in the public eye anaymore?



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Hector

posted May 18, 2010 at 11:19 pm


If you really want to stop the problem of piracy:
1. Let the United Nations, or some other power, take over and administer Somalia until such time as they can run their own affairs.
2. Invest in building up the Somali economy.
3. Establish a functioning police, judicial, and government system in Somalia.
4. Stop overfishing Somali waters so that the fishermen can have their livelihoods back.
All that would be a more expensive solution then leaving the pirates to die a torturous death of thirst, but it would also be a more permanent and lasting one.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted May 18, 2010 at 11:49 pm


Hector, in 1653 Massachusetts made piracy punishable by death. In 1819 Congress passed an act prescribing the death penalty for piracy.



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Scott Lahti

posted May 18, 2010 at 11:50 pm


Shoot the mother****ing ****suckers dead immediately upon capture.
It’s what this Jesus would do.



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Charles Cosimano

posted May 19, 2010 at 12:40 am


The solution is really quite simple. Declare a total blockade of Somalia and sink anything that sails from there. Do it from the air and don’t bother to pick up survivors. The fish deserve a meal.
And when the do-gooders scream, ignore them.



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Quiddity

posted May 19, 2010 at 1:17 am


I’ll just add my voice here and say that I was surprised by Rod’s words. It looks to me as if the Russians effectively murdered the pirates. Were they all equally guilty? Were some perhaps young and immature? What was the threat they posed? And what violence did they commit? That’s the sort of thing a trial determines, and also what (non-cruel) punishment is warranted. Both of those elements of justice were eliminated by the Russian action.
Oddly enough, the Russians appear to have acted professionally – i.e. with dispatch and skill – in capturing the pirates. But their subsequent actions are not admirable.



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Cecelia

posted May 19, 2010 at 1:33 am


I do agree they need to be dealt with and I do agree piracy is a serious crime – I would also say that we cannot become monsters to protect ourselves from monsters. I like the Siberia option – LOL – in part because I bet that cold would bother someone from hot Somalia a lot. Seriously though – if current law is inadequate to handle it – then change the law – and handle them. If we abandon the rule of law even for people who are doing something as wrong as piracy – we endanger ourselves. Or at least I think so.
captcha – increase taxonomy (the captcha robot has a sense of humor)



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Rombald

posted May 19, 2010 at 2:33 am


Hector: “piracy isn’t and shouldn’t be a capital crime”
I’m not sure about US law, but under UK law, piracy is a capital offence, along with naval arson and high treason, although no-one has actually been hanged for these offences since the 1960s, when hanging was abolished for murder.
A naval captain is legally permitted to act as judge and jury, and hang pirates and arsonists from the yard arm.



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Rombald

posted May 19, 2010 at 2:50 am


I would, however, much prefer it to have been bankers made to die of thirst on the open sea.



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JohnK

posted May 19, 2010 at 4:50 am


As a longtime lurker and fan of your blog, I must say that I am shocked and saddened to see you cheering this course of action. Piracy is a grave and serious evil, but forcing people to die of thirst or commit suicide by drowning is NOT acceptable. That sort of ad hoc execution is an affront to the dignity of the human person, and yes, pirates are people too.



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Hector

posted May 19, 2010 at 6:05 am


John E,
WHo the Hell cares? Piracy, if it doesn’t involve an actual murder, _shouldn’t_ be a capital crime. That should be reserved for severe crimes of actual violence against people, and for treason. When was the last time anyone was executed for piracy? Don’t cite the eighteenth century, because back then we used to hang people for stealing cows, too. Armed robbery should not be a capital crime.
Not to mention- if you DO think it should be a capital crime, which I don’t (especially when it involves a bunch of illiterate, desperately poor youths whose fishing livelihood just got obliterated) then go about it the right way. Take the men back to port, give them a fair trial with defence attorneys, and if found guilty then give them the dignity of a quick and formal execution by firing squad, complete with a military chaplain to give them last rites. Don’t put them on a raft and let them float away to die of thirst.



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Hector

posted May 19, 2010 at 6:14 am


John K,
Agreed. I support the death penalty, mind you. But NOT like this. Never like this. It’s horrible.



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Edward

posted May 19, 2010 at 6:23 am


Hmph. Can’t say I agree with this. I would support shooting pirates on the spot if it’s not possible to try and execute them, but this is cruel and barbaric.



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Jon

posted May 19, 2010 at 6:24 am


Why is it so hard to try pirates? International conventions going back to the 1800s exist to handle this.



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Michael C

posted May 19, 2010 at 7:39 am


bankers/pirates….one and the same thing
Having said that, this solution is barbaric and should not be applied to bankers or pirates.



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Roland de Chanson

posted May 19, 2010 at 8:14 am


I have now lost all respect for the Russians. A raft? A raft??? Not only is this a burden on the Russian tax-payer, it leaves open the distinct but remote possibility that one of those pirates might be a navigator with the skills of a Bligh.
They should just toss them overboard and let them bob a bit till the sharks are ready for lunch. Then capture the feeding frenzy on video and post it on youtube.



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Mari

posted May 19, 2010 at 8:30 am


Rod I’m disappointed in you.
I’m not disappointed in the Russians. They’ve historically got a streak of cruelty I wouldn’t want to ever come across.
NPR (Planet Money? Marketplace?) did a report on Somali prirates and they have some sort of support system so it is possible that if the people sponsoring and supporting the pirating venture are on top of it they could look for their set adrift crewmen. So it isn’t necessarily a death sentence. A good chance it is one, but if you’re going to be pro-life, you gotta be pro-life to the scum of the earth as well.



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YrName

posted May 19, 2010 at 8:37 am


I only just realized this morning, but this is basically a lynching: the extra-legal execution of the accused in full view of the larger community in the sure knowledge that you will, at worst, not be punished and, at best, be applauded. The only trick the Russians missed was making a postcard of it.



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CrabbyJoe

posted May 19, 2010 at 8:59 am


Seems to me that there was a certain mouse in a certain C.S. Lewis book who had a solid idea about the proper outcome for pirate-kind.



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Rick

posted May 19, 2010 at 9:25 am


Apart from any moral issues, I think there is a very practical reason against escalating with the pirates:
It’s probably not all that difficult to open the hull of an oil tanker with a simple RPG.
Maybe it makes sense to pull our punches with the pirates. Because they can punch back.



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Unreal American

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:04 am


And they will know we are Christians by our love.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:19 am


Oh, please. Does Christian love require surrendering civilizations to bona fide barbarians? If you are a pacifist, I can see taking that line, though I disagree with it. But most of us aren’t pacifists. I am against the death penalty in this country, because I agree with the Catechism of the Catholic Church when it says that if the security of society can be achieved through bloodless means, then we should go with bloodless means. That is the case in the US and in Europe. It is not the case everywhere, and certainly not on the high seas off the Somali coast. If the Russians wanted to bring the Somali pirates to land and put them through the legal system, that’d be fine with me, but as Applebaum points out in her column, that is a recipe for disaster, especially now that the pirates are savvy on how to game the system. Hector, you say that the pirates ought to be brought to shore and given a “fair trial,” but Applebaum points out why that is a far more complicated question than it may seem. Meanwhile, these malicious bandits are running wild in the ocean, threatening lives, commerce and social order. They have to be dealt with. I wouldn’t have the least problem if the only realistic way to deal with outlaws in a Wild West situation was to shoot them if caught in the act. That’s what’s going on off the Somali coast, it seems. You don’t want to be set adrift to die a horrible death? Then don’t commit armed robbery against innocent people just trying to pass through your neighborhood.



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Max Schadenfreude

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:25 am


“How, then, are we any better than our enemies?”
Well, we kill them to protect the innocent; they kill us because we are innocent.
Though we shouldn’t set them adrift, that’s just cruel (plus, there’s a chance they’ll survive). Better to shoot them on the spot.
What would Jesus do? Probably tell you to protect the innocent.



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Your Name

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:34 am


I not only remember Schiavo, I celebrate the decision that finally forced her to “live” as she would NOT have chosen.



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Your Name

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:34 am


I not only remember Schiavo, I celebrate the decision that finally forced her to no longer “live” as she would NOT have chosen.



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Dan1

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:44 am


I’m no theologian, but I feel pretty comfortable saying it’s completely unChristian to celebrate cruelty. And that is absolutely what Rod is doing. When did two wrongs start making a right?



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Rombald

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:45 am


“these malicious bandits are running wild in the ocean, threatening lives, commerce and social order”
Sounds like bankers to me.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:55 am


I’m no theologian, but I feel pretty comfortable saying it’s completely unChristian to celebrate cruelty. And that is absolutely what Rod is doing. When did two wrongs start making a right?
You have something of a point, but let me ask you: Did you see the film “Osama”? It’s about the stone-cold cruelty Taliban members inflict on a girl in Afghanistan in specific, and on women in general. If soldiers came upon Taliban mullahs torturing women and children in public, for religious or whatever reasons, and shot them all dead on the spot, tell me that you wouldn’t feel some sense of pleasure that the scoundrels had gotten their just deserts. What is the line between taking pleasure in justice, and taking pleasure in cruelty?
[Captcha: "simple" "Indira" -- weird!]



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The Ancient Mariner

posted May 19, 2010 at 11:00 am


Several years ago 3 stowaways were discovered on a vessel. The Captain, not wanting to deal with immigration and law enforcement in the upcoming port decided to let the stowaways go free. He set them adrift in a hastily constructed raft. His crew reported him to Port State officials at the next port, Montreal. The Captain and another senior member of his crew, the Chief Mate I believe, were arrested and prosecuted for murder.
Forcing Pirates to “Walk the Plank” is not a solution. Even Pirates are entitled to due process before they are convicted and punished.
I would not put myself in this position by abandoning anybody at sea, it is cruel and inhumane. Better for the ship owners to pay the fines and put pirates and stowaways into the custody of Port States than open ourselves to the liability of vigilanteism and subsequent prosecution. As much as we want to personally punish these criminals, it is not our place to do so.
Charles, the Ancient Mariner
Chief Engineer



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YrName

posted May 19, 2010 at 11:25 am


That’s what’s going on off the Somali coast, it seems.
Well, except for the relative absence of deaths caused by pirates. No one’s suggesting you can’t kill pirates in self-defense or in offense. We’re suggesting that you shouldn’t kill people in your control absent a hearing. The Israelis have a problem with some subset of the Palestinians. Not an existential problem–just as the pirates are obviously not that–but certainly a serious problem. Your position would seem to suggest that that they should feel free to just execute those Palestinians they capture in the process of committing bad acts. Indeed, I’m not sure that you have any problem with Benjamin Sarlin (running for Congress in NC) even if we accept that he acted exactly as his worst opponents suggest.
This is astonishing, and I think it points to the importance of culture in giving substance to abstract rules about proportionality, due process, etc. Which is to say, the problem between cultures (or subcultures) might not be that we follow explicitly different rules, but that we understand the same rules to mean vastly different things. Perhaps this is obvious. Almost everyone agrees that the limit to what you can do in the face of an existential threat is pretty far indeed, so it ends up mattering a lot what you consider an existential threat. The lower the bar, the more you’re allowed to do commonly.



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Your Name

posted May 19, 2010 at 11:37 am


Scott Lahti
May 18, 2010 11:50 PM
“Shoot the mother****ing ****suckers dead immediately upon capture.
It’s what this Jesus would do.”
Ah yes, that’s the self-described “pro-life” “compassionate conservative” “Jesus” we’ve all come to know and love so well.



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armchair pessimist

posted May 19, 2010 at 12:22 pm


If you’re going to do that, and I’m strongly for it, then you might as well lash the helm of the rubber raft to landward and send their bullet riddled bodies home. A teachable moment.



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Scott Lahti

posted May 19, 2010 at 12:25 pm


Hahahahaha!!!



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Who Cares

posted May 19, 2010 at 12:37 pm


I love how this piece fits in with Rod’s musings about the Holocaust. He notes how the Holocaust demonstrates that “no matter how far we progress in terms of knowledge, material abundance, and cultural refinement, we will always be in danger of turning all our sophistication to barbarism and mass murder.”
The thing he failed to note was that it applied to him. It’s always so much easier to see it in others than in yourself.
Rod doesn’t cheer the Russians deciding to hold a trial themselves, Somali or international law be damned. He doesn’t cheer them deciding to hold them indefinitely, as we might. He doesn’t even cheer them being killed while captured. He cheers the cold-blooded execution by torture of these men; a lingering, horrific death for people he really knows nothing about.
We have no idea why these particular men became pirates, or even if they WERE pirates, since there was no trial, burden of proof, evidence, or anything else. And if they were, we have no sense of any mitigating circumstance, any variation in the state of guilt between them. No concept of the number of counts of piracy involved, or the seriousness of the related offenses.
Just the unilateral, extra-legal, lethal exertion of Imperial Power, little different than that which nailed Rod’s Savior to the cross.
Remember, Rome claimed he was an insurrectionist/bandit (pirate?) as well. “Peace through Victory” indeed.
If the Holocaust teaches anything, it’s that decent people like Rod are never more than a few steps from subhuman barbarism, all in the cause of “righteousness” and “law”.
Why don’t you ask one of those Orthodox patriarchs whom you admire so much what they think about the decision? I have a feeling you might not like the answer.



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Who Cares

posted May 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm


And one more thing. What I really like is how this demonstrates quite clearly that Rod wouldn’t have any problem with crucifixion at all…merely with the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus was a good guy, and didn’t deserve it.
But as for the practice itself, why not? Why not impose a lingering, painful death on one’s foes to demonstrate one’s resolve, to show the others of their ilk whom they should fear? Beheading or a bullet? Not showy enough. Let their pain and fear, particularly as it exists in the imagination of others like them, demonstrate the folly of resisting the law and order of the Empire.
Apparently, if you send Rod to Somalia, and line up some bad guys, he’d be more than happy to begin pounding in the nails.
The idea that “modernism” is why people reject Christianity pales in comparison to what so-called “Christians” achieve by their actual witness.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm


You need to get hold of yourself, Who Cares. For one thing what kind of weird reading of my words is it that says I don’t think I am susceptible to the kind of cultural movement that would endorse the Holocaust? I am sure that I am. I am sure that everybody is, under the right conditions — even Jews. It is the curse of the human race.
It is even more bizarre that you would find any moral equivalence between the systematic murder of 6 million Jews and the de facto execution of a band of outlaws on the high seas. I have said clearly that I oppose the death penalty not absolutely, but conditionally — a view that is consistent with historical Christianity. Given the lack of an effective and workable legal system to handle these pirate terrorists, I can’t say it bothers me much that the Russians send them to what is likely to be their deaths. I may be wrong. But for you to compare the fate of pirates to the fate of European Jewry under Nazism is appalling, and for you to question the existence of my Christianity is simply rude. Go play in somebody else’s sandbox, young man.



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Nate

posted May 19, 2010 at 1:40 pm


Rod,
Just to be clear . . . so the method by which the Russians sent the Somali pirates to their likely deaths doesn’t bother you so much?



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Max Schadenfreude

posted May 19, 2010 at 1:48 pm


Your Name
May 18, 2010 11:19 PM
As in the Souder thread (“Shoot them dead.”), “walk the plank” and having a “holiday on waves” are not “pro-life” statements.
What is it with the ‘right’ – can’t you keep your own ‘values’ straight in the public eye anaymore?
*****
Killing pirates to protect the innocent IS pro-life.



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John M

posted May 19, 2010 at 2:29 pm


Rod, this isn’t 1750. Unlike ships in previous centuries, this Russian tanker wasn’t cut of from the rest of civilization for weeks or months at a time with no recourse to any help from anyone else. I understand that in the old days there wasn’t much to be done other than having pirates walk the plank. Today, international law governs the high seas and there are courts and prosecutors who will put these pirates on trials. Appelbaum’s article states that the pirates have learned how to “game the system,” whatever that means. It seems that the courts are overburdened and sometimes the guilty go free. If that constitutes a “lack of an effective and workable legal system,” then the United States lacks an effective and workable legal system. Are you comfortable with vigilante murder here, or just where you wouldn’t have to see it?
And, of course, you dodge the bulk of the objections to your post. One can make a coherent and even Christian argument for the execution of pirates. One cannot make a Christian argument for intentionally inflicting a drawn-out death by dehydration or drowning when there are other alternatives. And I’m struggling to find a Christian defense of your glee at the horrific suffering and death of men who, however sinful, are children of God as surely as you and I are.
As others note, trials have a purpose. Do we know how old all of these pirates were? Do we know if all of them were there voluntarily? Do we know if all of them understood the scope and purpose of their trip when it began? These are the sort of things that some authority should consider before imposing a death sentence. It’s not as fun as murder-of-convenience, I guess, but sometimes the right thing isn’t the easy thing.



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Erin Manning

posted May 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm


Rod wrote: “If soldiers came upon Taliban mullahs torturing women and children in public, for religious or whatever reasons, and shot them all dead on the spot, tell me that you wouldn’t feel some sense of pleasure that the scoundrels had gotten their just deserts.”
No, and no, and no.
As a Christian I believe that Christ came into the world, preached and healed, then suffered and died the most ignominious death imaginable, taking upon Himself all of our sins in order to offer expiation for all of us. Sure, some people will reject Him and His offer of salvation. Some of them may even be cut down in the midst of their evil deeds, with no possible chance for repentance. But no Christian worthy of the name should find anything to take pleasure in at such a thought–even if the execution were lawful and strictly necessary to protect the lives of the innocent.
Instead, we should consider the awful possibility of even a single soul spending eternity in Hell with fear and trembling. Our sins deserve this too; not by our merits will we escape such a fate.
“Vengeance is mine, says the Lord; I will repay.” The rest of us must plead for mercy at the foot of the throne of Grace.
“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” Ezekiel 18:23. If God Himself does not rejoice in the death of the evil man, we certainly must not, regardless of whether in justice his execution was necessary.



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JT

posted May 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm


Rod, I’m pretty disappointed in you today. I’d like to think that your Christianity compels you to avoid doing what you’re doing, namely, reducing a human being — a child of God — to his single worst act, and then deciding that the act in question justifies what is, essentially, the most cruel and torturous form of retribution imaginable.
A thought experiment for Christians contemplating this particular brand of “justice”:
An impoverished 17-year-old Somalian boy who has never committed a crime and has basic goodness in his heart allows himself to be seduced into an act of piracy — he promises himself, and maybe even his God, for one time only — by the lure of money, of which he and his family have none. In the act of boarding a ship, something goes wrong, and an innocent party dies — though not at the hands of this particular boy. But the Russian captain of the ship doesn’t care. All of the pirates are to be judged equally, and summarily. This boy, the captain thinks he can safely assume has probably been a pirate for quite a while; in any event, he’ll certainly go on to commit more acts of piracy if he’s allowed to return home. Ergo: Let’s cast him adrift and let him die of thirst.
Rod: Can you really get behind that?
I’d love to see you re-think this one, and come back with one of your characteristically thoughtful takes on a moral conundrum. You missed the target the first time, by a wide mark.



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J.C. Marrero

posted May 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm


My primary concern is that not all the pirates may be hardened criminals. I would not be surprised if some are “concripts” forced to join these monstruous gangs. Several weeks ago, there was a Frontline program on the Bacha Bazi boys of Afghanistan. These are kids sold or stolen from their parents and turned into “dancing boys” i.e., concubines for Afgahn warlords. I would not be surprised if such a system also provides pitates for the Somali warlords. Let us not be quick to salute the compounding of a tragedy.



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Rod Dreher

posted May 19, 2010 at 3:05 pm


OK, Erin, you make good points. I would take pleasure in some monstrous man cut down in the act of abusing a woman or child, but that pleasure would probably be something of which I would have to repent. But let me be clear: what’s wrong is the pleasure, not the action of using deadly force, if necessary, to defend the innocent.
Let me also amend my point to say that I shouldn’t take pleasure in the casting off of the Somali pirates, but neither does it bother me much, given that there is no Somali government to turn them over to, and bringing them back to Russian territory would, for reasons Applebaum explains, be very, very problematic. If Somali pirates don’t want to be left floating on the ocean to die a potentially terrible death, they should quit preying on innocent people. One suspects that any of them who make it back to land will be especially articulate on the importance of not attacking Russian flagged vessels in the future.
BTW, if you all notice certain posts disappearing, it’s because they’re being put here by someone who has been banned, but who keeps trying to post under different names, including “Your Name.”



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Romulus

posted May 19, 2010 at 3:12 pm


Rod, I wonder if you have considered that, had a merchant vessel subsequently discovered the drifting pirates, that vessel would have been bound under international maritime law to render assistance to the (unknown to him) pirates, as mariners in distress on the high seas: “Every State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far as he can do so without serious danger to the ship, the crew or the passengers to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost, to proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress.”
Had the merchant vessel disregarded the law and sailed on, would you have international courts turn a blind eye? Are you truly arguing for arbitrariness in law?



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BobSF

posted May 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm


But let me be clear: what’s wrong is the pleasure, not the action of using deadly force, if necessary, to defend the innocent.
Deadly force is, justifiably, used to capture the pirates. Once they are captured and in the hands of authorities under the auspices of countries which have signed onto international treaties regulating behavior in cases like this, “convenience” is not a reason to ignore the rule of law.
I thought folks like you were all for the rule of law.



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Your Name

posted May 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm


“An impoverished 17-year-old Somalian boy who has never committed a crime and has basic goodness in his heart allows himself to be seduced into an act of piracy…”
That’s called culpability.
“… — he promises himself, and maybe even his God, for one time only — by the lure of money, of which he and his family have none.”
Piracy should not be seen as a social safety net.
“In the act of boarding a ship, something goes wrong, and an innocent party dies– though not at the hands of this particular boy.”
Actually, when innocent people die in an act of piracy everything is going according to plan, for the pirates anyway.
“… But the Russian captain of the ship doesn’t care. All of the pirates are to be judged equally, and summarily. This boy, the captain thinks he can safely assume has probably been a pirate for quite a while;…”
Don’t think you can conjure up what a captian may thing on that point. In any event it is irrelavant if the perp was a pirate yesterday, the point is that he’s a pirate today.
“…in any event, he’ll certainly go on to commit more acts of piracy if he’s allowed to return home. Ergo: Let’s cast him adrift and let him die of thirst.”
No one should be cast adrift; shot maybe, hanged maybe, but not cast adrift.



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YrName

posted May 19, 2010 at 3:41 pm


not the action of using deadly force, if necessary, to defend the innocent.
You are not “defend[ing] the innocent” if they’re already in your control. Except as you’re saying that the legal system is insufficient to keep them from doing the same thing again , and therefore you are protecting some prospective innocent victims. Shades of the justification for invading Iraq: preventative execution, in which you kill them now so that you don’t have to kill them later.
As several people have noted, this is a justification for vigilante justice. We used to see this sort of argument applied domestically in the 80s, when crime was much worse. We do see this applied to terrorists today.
if you all notice certain posts disappearing, it’s because they’re being put here by someone who has been banned, but who keeps trying to post under different names, including “Your Name.”
I’m assuming I’m not the banned person, as you’ve left all but one of my comments up, I haven’t been changing names, and have posted under “YrName” rather than “Your Name.” Nonetheless, my last comment appear to have been deleted. If I’m wrong, and I have been banned, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave a note to that effect, either in the space where the comment was deleted or some subsequent comment.



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Erin Manning

posted May 19, 2010 at 4:11 pm


Rod, neither am I opposed, when it is necessary, to the use of deadly force to protect the innocent. But the key words are “when it is necessary.” In the situation you describe, the Russians had subdued and captured the pirates. At that point, the use of deadly force is not necessary to protect the innocent.
I agree that the options for what happens next are problematic. But when that is the case, we have to turn to the rule of law. If the laws aren’t adequate to meet the potential harm of piracy, then the laws need to change. Failing to do that is only prolonging the problem.
And as Romulus points out, setting the pirates adrift isn’t necessarily solving anything. They might become someone else’s problem–someone who does not know they are pirates and might fail to take adequate precautions regarding them. It is unlikely that this action will deter any other pirates, either–it might even inspire acts of revenge against Russian ships, if it does become known.
I’ll grant that a situation like this is fraught with difficulties. But absent a legal consensus that capital punishment may be meted out by ship captains without the possibility of a trial, what was done here remains wrong (and for the record, I think such a legal consensus would also be wrong; I’d support, rather, a policy of trial and imprisonment in the country of the attacked ship’s origin, perhaps). We don’t solve the problem of barbarism by resorting to barbaric acts ourselves.



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Gus

posted May 19, 2010 at 4:47 pm


Wow, Mr. Dreher your attempts to justify your initial post are pathetic. So you’re pro-life if it’s convenient, but the logistical problem here make the murder of these pirates by thirst inconvenient? Also interesting considering the post on how the TV show The Holocaust (which also had a profound effect on me) showed what a thin veneer is civilization.



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Lord Karth

posted May 19, 2010 at 5:12 pm


Mr. Dreher, @ 3:05 PM, writes:
” I would take pleasure in some monstrous man cut down in the act of abusing a woman or child, but that pleasure would probably be something of which I would have to repent. But let me be clear: what’s wrong is the pleasure, not the action of using deadly force, if necessary, to defend the innocent.”
Pleasure in doing right is not necessarily wrong. Pride is one of the basic virtues, as well as one of the deadly sins.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Hector

posted May 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm


Re: An impoverished 17-year-old Somalian boy who has never committed a crime and has basic goodness in his heart allows himself to be seduced into an act of piracy — he promises himself, and maybe even his God, for one time only — by the lure of money, of which he and his family have none. In the act of boarding a ship, something goes wrong, and an innocent party dies — though not at the hands of this particular boy. But the Russian captain of the ship doesn’t care. All of the pirates are to be judged equally, and summarily
JT,
I’d completely agree with you. In fact, I’d point out that what you posit as a ‘hypothetical’ is probably in fact the case for a great many of these pirates. Many of them are teenagers- poor, uneducated, and illiterate- who lost their livelihood when their fisheries were fished out by foreign boats, at a time when the nonexistent Somali government wasn’t able to do anything about it.
Setting that boy on a boat to die of thirst is something that no Christian should be advocating or condoning.
Re: Well, except for the relative absence of deaths caused by pirates
No kidding. Armed robbery is not considered of the same gravity as cold blooded murder, and if they haven’t actually murdered people then they can’t be treated the same way as murderers.
Rod,
Re: Hector, you say that the pirates ought to be brought to shore and given a “fair trial,” but Applebaum points out why that is a far more complicated question than it may seem.
‘It’s complicated’? That’s your answer? That’s exactly the same argument that the pro-abortion lobby gives us, ‘it’s complicated’. Of course it’s complicated, life is always complicated. What isn’t complicated is that we are never supposed to do things which are intrinsically evil, no matter what the consequences are. I don’t think that killing, per se, is intrinsically evil, and if you wanted to take these fellows back to Somalia, put them on trial for a capital crime, then that would be one thing. (I would argue vociferously against the death penalty for acts of piracy in which no one was killed, but at least you can make a certain case there.) I do think that sentencing a man to die of thirst is intrinsically evil. I wouldn’t sentence anyone to die of thirst on a raft in the ocean. Not Jeffrey Dahmer, not John Gotti, not Saddam Hussein. All of those men deserved the death penalty but none of them deserved to die like this- abandoned on the ocean, dying a slow death from thirst.
As Plato said, it’s better to suffer evil then to do it. Like I said, killing isn’t intrinsically evil- what is intrinsically evil is torturuous, summary killing of the type that this represents.



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salvage

posted May 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm


Good for them. Off you go, lads! Enjoy the sailing!
LOL! I don’t think Jesus would have said it better.
They’re going to die slowly of dehydration in total agony because they were born into a failed state that gives most the choice between crime and death!
But hey, they were probably Muslim so Rod’s god will be throwing them in hell for not accepting Jesus so what’s the diff?
This is what delights me about theists, your hypocrisy glows like a neon sign spelling out “ALL LIES”.



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Roland de Chanson

posted May 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm


Well, I can only say that we can all breathe a sigh of relief that Rod opted for a career in journalism rather than the Russian merchant marine.
But seriously, this Christian piety oozing like chrism all over the comboxes has got even me rethinking my sharkfest youtube proposal. So I have two questions: (1) What about keel-hauling them? (2) Do these ships have keels?
As for the WWJD inanities, we know what Jesus would do. After all, he healed the severed ear of one of the Sanhedrin’s thugs. So I say, cast ‘em adrift anyway and if Jesus wants to drop ‘em a case of Perrier, we’ll praise the Lord. I seem to remember that the LORD (i.e. YHWH) was pretty quick with a rainstorm when he was still Jewish.
It might even make for faster conversions than Torquemada ever inspired.



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deb

posted May 19, 2010 at 7:43 pm


Count me among those disappointed in Rod. Many have already given thoughtful responses detailing why some of us who are all for punishing, maybe even executing, pirates are emphatically against this death by cruel torture option.
I am especially in agreement with those who have pointed out that many of these pirates are teens who have never known anything but, as salvage put it, “the choice between crime and death” under Somali anarchy, and that this should be considered. It doesn’t exculpate these teen pirates one bit, but torturing them makes us barbaric.
And as Erin points out, these pirates had been subdued, so deadly force was no longer necessary to protect the innocent.
Rod, I am unpersuaded by your defense of this torture, and as an Orthodox Christian, I’m sorry you’ve taken this stand. You’ve admitted that you have a thing for “disaster porn.” What I see here is an item in a pattern that adds up to a thing for “revenge porn.”



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John

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:08 am


Shameful “solution.” As a Christian, Rod, you ought to know better. One does not end an evil by perpetrating another.



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JHardy

posted May 27, 2010 at 11:00 am


Well, here go the bleeding hearts again, feeling sorry for the down-trodden. Pirates have long been known to be nothing more than terrorists and murderers. These people have weapons that can basically cripple a ship and thus kill in the process. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Every ship should possess the abilty to defend itself in the wake of a threat to its cargo and passengers. It seems that people are constantly defending themselves from those who wish to do harm. Eliminating the threat is to eliminate the problem. We may never eliminate all of the problems but we can sure thin the crowds.
Those who choose to be criminals must realize that they have a choice of choosing between life and death. We don’t need trials to determine that a pirate is guilty if he is caught in action. Just like we don’t need trials to determine if Islamic terrorists are guilty of killing American soldiers and innocent civilians. You catch them, you kill them; simple solution. Any defence attorney who wants to defend them, send them to their country.



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Rick the Road Rager

posted May 30, 2010 at 6:09 pm


These pirates are busy at their “work” for the same reasons thousands of illegal immigrants are entering the USA from Mexico: There are no jobs in either Somalia or Mexico. (Serapes are now made in China!).
What Christian groups (and governments) should do is establish safe and secure enclaves in both countries (and other places)where the indigenous people can begin to build decent economies.
That would provide work, create work, enable families to grow and prosper, bring about a relative degree of social stability and, then, finally, create governments that are willing and able to help establish viable nations. It’s a LONG way from enclave to nation, but we’ve got to start somewhere.
Incidentally, such enclaves were established in Western Europe during the Dark Ages, usually by groups of monks who took some of the most unfavorable areas and created productive areas out of them.



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Ash Newman

posted May 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm


You end terrorism by killing the terrorists.
You end piracy by killing the pirates!

The Royal Navy proved this 200 years ago. The misguided humanist bleating by some people here leads me to believe that they are morally vaccuous. Pirates are cold blooded murderers and a threat to every honest sea farer. Spare a thought to the poor, third world seamen who fall victim to these terrorists.



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