Friday, April 17, 2009

Daniel Henninger: Pirates v The Rest of Us

From yesterday's Wall Street Journal:
But that pirate assault on an American-flagged ship, its captain's bravery, and his rescue by one U.S. Navy ship should be seen for what it is: A metaphor of the world as it is today. It is a world awash in pirates.

Some are small pirates like the Somalis, but many others are big pirates. They live in North Korea, Iran and in al Qaeda's hideouts along Pakistan's northwest frontier. They are Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Janjaweed in Darfur. Pirates strap themselves with dynamite to smash the routines of daily life in crowded town squares. Hugo Chavez is the pirate king of Latin America. There are others.

Each wants to replace our system of laws, rules, institutions and sovereignty with their disorder. Then disorder becomes normal.

Extending Mr. Obama's idea, all of these should be "held accountable" for their acts against the civilized world. But they are not held accountable. Sunday was the exception, not the rule. In consequence, the organized world has shown itself willing to dance along the edge of anarchy.

Somalia's pirates are back in the water, but so are the others. On Tuesday, the pirates in North Korea, a week after flouting the U.N.'s prohibitions on its programs to build missiles and nuclear weapons, mocked these authoritative powers by announcing they would resume production of nuclear weapons. The North Koreans have one step remaining in their nuclear program -- to successfully affix a warhead to a launchable missile.

The pirates of Iran this past week told the world they are running 7,000 centrifuges at their Natanz uranium enrichment plant. When North Korea launched its long-range Taepodong-2 missile April 5, specialists from Iran were there.

Iran and North Korea are crossing the nuclear threshold, anarchy's doorstep. Standing on the other side are the great powers, seeking negotiations. No serious person would think of attempting a strategy of negotiation-only with Somalia's pirates, and that is rational. With the nuclear pirates we are insistently irrational.

In between lies Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that after achieving a "peace agreement" with the established authorities in Islamabad, the pirates of the Taliban are pouring into Pakistan's Swat Valley. Swat once was the jewel of Pakistan. A town square there is now called "Slaughter Square," piled with executed bodies. Swat's hostage residents have dropped off the narrowing edge of the civilized world.

Return to Sunday's metaphor. When the pirates holding Capt. Phillips began to point their guns at his back, someone in authority on the USS Bainbridge concluded that the risks to him had become too high and told the three Seals it was time to shoot. The civilized world, at risk, needs more concrete acts of pirate defeat, not containment alone.

Just as those pirates were finally shot, shooting down North Korea's next launched missile or striking Iran's nuclear plant at Natanz has to become at least thinkable -- rather than unthinkable, as now.

Days after North Korea launched, Mr. Obama announced he wants to reduce our nuclear arms inventory so as to "give us a greater moral authority to say to Iran, don't develop a nuclear weapon; to say to North Korea, don't proliferate nuclear weapons." Who would ever invoke "moral authority" with Somalia's pirates? So why North Korea or the others?

We need to understand that these are not just security threats but a systemic threat. Each weakly answered pirate affront erodes the public's confidence in the West's promise of an ordered world.

The erosion is persistent and cumulative. A crack sometimes falls apart. The world's foreign ministries and foreign policy intellectuals, secure in the calm sun that rises each morning where they live, try to make all this seem complex and very difficult. What we saw in the floodtide of jubilation over the rescue of Capt. Phillips is that eventually it's not complicated.
IMHO, I'd add Wall Street bankers and insurers benefitting from the US Government bailout to Henninger's list of pirates...