On Wednesday the crew of an American vessel hijacked by Somali pirates of the Horn of Africa retook control of their ship. The captain of the ship is being held on a separate vessel, and American Naval ships are on their way. Off of the Horn of Africa and throughout the Indian Ocean pirates are a constant threat, but rarely do they attacked ships bearing the American flag. This attack further stresses the thinning, the stretching, and the diminished influence of the American military.
In America’s Elegant Decline Robert D. Kaplan explains how during times of peace the strength of a nations navy allows for peace to continue. Essentially, the navy’s objective changes from battles at sea, launching aircraft to almost providing safe cover for cargo. Cargo ships during all times need to transport goods from one nation to another, and navies need to prevent piracy and allow safe passage. The navy prevents minor skirmishes at sea. Therefore, these minor altercations do not get the chance to build into bigger situations away from the eyes of the public. People pay far less attention to the seas than they do to the land, but this lack of focus does not denote a lack of importance.
Currently America is “obsessed with dirty land wars, and our 300-ship Navy is roughly half the size it was in the mid-1980s.” Our focus is in the wrong place and now the seas are not even safe for peaceful American flag bearing cargo ships. The American bluff has been called by Somali pirates. They finally realized that our focus was in the wrong place and now mayhem has ensued. While Barack Obama continues to improve the image of America to world, we need not neglect Somali pirates or the importance of a strong navy. Before long we may need to pay a tariff to pirates to get a safe passage through the Indian Ocean.