The spin put on the event for political advantage is counter-productive for the White House.
The resolution of the stand-off in the Indian Ocean between the U.S. Navy and Somali pirates resulted in the shooting of thee pirates, all shot dead simultaneously by SEAL snipers firing from the fantail of the destroyer USS Bainbridge.
Almost as quickly, the Barack Obama White House claimed credit for the intervention which saved the life of the American captain of the container-ship Maersk Alabama who had been taken hostage.
The reality is that the rules of engagement would have been laid down by the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, and endorsed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, long before the SEALs were parachuted into the sea close to the Bainbridge and the frigate Hayburton.
Of course, the president as commander-in-chief would have been asked to approve the rules of engagement, but the spin put on the event for political advantage is counter-productive for the White House.
The use of lethal force where a hostage’s life is in imminent danger is a standard scenario and the only newsworthy decision would have been if Washington refused to allow the rules of engagement.
The only question remaining concerns the impact these deaths will have on the other 200 hostages held by Somali pirates, but as they are not considered to be a cohesive, organized group, the risk of retaliation is perceived to be low.
Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that this episode will deter the pirates, as the presence in the area of warships from 16 navies has failed to prevent an average of thirteen attemps at piracy every month.