Has no one tried boiling oil?
As a graduate of the Sid Meier Institute of Buccaneer Studies (that is, I spent dozens of hours playing Sid Meier’s Pirates! PC game in the late 1980s), I can’t help but wonder why Somali pirates should be all that difficult to defeat. If I understand the situation correctly, gangs of Somali thugs with Soviet-era automatic weapons board small, rickety boats and set sail in search of booty. When they happen upon a slightly larger and poorly-defended boat, they capture it and either kill everyone aboard or ransom them for cash. Using this method the pirates are able to upgrade their threat to the point where they can drive their primitive, poorly-maintained craft up to a titanic container-ship and simply climb aboard whilst firing shot randomly. It appears that container-ship crews don’t normally carry firearms, no doubt due to regulations forbidding such, leaving their crews veritably defenseless against piracy by sea-going primitives.
Have none of these container ships ever heard of boiling oil? Regulations may prevent them from carrying machine guns, but surely no regulation could prevent them from carrying fuel… which, combined with a high-pressure hose, pump, protective back-baffle and igniter would make a serviceable diesel-fuel flamethrower. There’s also napalm. Using diesel fuel and a selection of appropriate thickening agents, container-ship crews could probably build some kind of delivery system with which to toss napalm-filled balloons, say, onto attacking pirate boats. Container-ship hulls ought to have the advantage of height, relative to pretty much any captured boat that Somali pirates could get their grimy hands on, meaning that it shouldn’t be all that difficult to rain down jellied fire upon the savages at will. I imagine that being roasted alive would take the fighting spirit out of even the most qat-intoxicated Somali, and would serve as a nicely terrifying deterrent against future attacks.
I’ve read several commentators mention how difficult it is for US forces to effectively patrol the Somali coast and suppress piracy. Excuse me, but don’t we have satellites? Ones that can read license plates from orbit? If so, can’t we establish a surveillance network of satellite coverage over the Gulf of Aden, which could dispatch real-time tactical data to guide strike forces to any large vessels under attack? I understand the Navy can’t have ships everywhere at the same time, but it seems they could have one or two aircraft carriers loaded with fighter jets and helicopter gunships. Upon receipt of a distress signal, pirate alert, whatever one wishes to call it, why can’t we respond immediately with several million dollars worth of the most deadly military engineering the world has ever seen, and strafe prospective pirate boats with 50 mm rounds… or air-to-surface missiles, or cluster bombs, or whatever the hell else works… until they are reduced to chum?
It’s probably safe to say that until the Somalis start sewing planes out of fish skin and bamboo we will continue to maintain air superiority in that part of the world. We should use that advantage to elegantly demonstrate why goat-herders and fisherfolk should probably keep tending their crafts and leave us the hell alone. We shouldn’t send in the troops, we should simply vaporize the unruly thugs from the stratosphere. Somali pirates and Al-Qaeda barbarians attack us because they think we’re clumsy giants who can’t effectively fight back against the equivalent of fundamentalist Ewoks. It would be nice to demonstrate that is not the case.
I don’t favor getting into sprawling, pointless wars. But I do favor using effectively the very expensive and powerful military we already have, when threatened by foreign powers. Especially when those foreign powers are Medieval peasants in wooden fishing boats. Obama should make Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum members of the Joint Chiefs, figure out how to most efficiently blanket the Somali coast with incinerating, sterilizing force until the bloodthirsty savages flee in terror back to the dusty hellscapes they live in, and move on to the next problem.