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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Piracy thwarted, captain safe: Lesson learned?

Richard Phillips escapes unharmed, assisted by U.S. Navy SEALS.

By Stephanie S. Garlow - Special to GlobalPost
Published: April 10, 2009 20:32 ET
Updated: April 12, 2009 15:23 ET-A +ABUZZARDS BAY, Mass. — The Massachusetts Maritime Academy instilled a sense of leadership in Richard Phillips — it also taught him how to navigate by the stars and how to avoid crashing into ships.

They were valuable lessons that some 30 years since he graduated from here earned him the rank of captain in command of his own ship. But there are some things you can’t learn in school — like how to be a hero.

Phillips proved yet again the strength of his character when he escaped from the armed pirates holding him hostage by jumping from a lifeboat into the Indian Ocean. He was helped by underwater U.S. Navy SEALS, according to a statement by the U.S. Navy. Phillips, 53, is unharmed on the USS Bainbridge.

The three pirates in the lifeboat were shot dead in the operation. The fourth pirate was negotiating on board the Bainbridge and was arrested.

Phillips has proved several times in recent days that he knows how to lead.

For Phillips captaining a ship turned out to mean more than safely maneuvering around shallow shoals or managing a crew. It meant taking on the pirates who dared for the first time in centuries to attack an American-flagged ship.

Phillips rallied his sailors to overcome those pirates and sacrificed himself for their safety. Now, the pirates hold him hostage aboard a lifeboat surrounded by the U.S. Navy. And Phillips, who grew up in the Boston suburbs, attended the Maritime Academy on Cape Cod and now lives in Vermont, has become a hero as the world watches the drama unfold.

“That’s a very brave thing for anyone to do and the right thing for a captain to do,” said Trevor Fouhey, a junior studying marine transportation at the Maritime Academy, referencing reports that Phillips exchanged himself to secure the safety of his crew.

Other students in the school’s mess hall echoed that sentiment, calling Phillips a hero and praising his selflessness. Several expressed hope that they would have done the same thing in his position.

Pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama Wednesday morning, briefly boarding the ship before the crew retook control. But the pirates escaped with Phillips and are holding him for ransom.

Those who knew Phillips were optimistic that the situation would end well.

“He would be a determined kind of person that would probably say, ‘I am going to get out of this one way or another,” said Pat Waite, a friend of the Phillips family.

Waite said Phillips grew up playing ball with her sons. “After school and evenings during the summer, a group of boys would get together and play softball and baseball and basketball,” said Waite, who still lives in Winchester, Mass., where Phillips grew up.

She said one of her sons sent her an email today that read: “Rich Phillips used to beat me up.”

Edward MacCormack, a classmate of Phillips’ at the academy, said Phillips is a “standup guy who’ll make the best of it.”

Read the whole Global Post story here.


A note from Radarsite: What glorious news! For months now Radarsite and all of our many patriotic friends around the world have been waiting for a moment such as this. And here it is. And it is wonderful. How ironic that this heartening and courageous hostage rescue should come under the leftist/pacifist Obama administration. If, however, he did give the authorization to act, then even I must give him proper respect for his decision.

Finally we've shown some moral fiber. Finally we've unleashed the formidable forces of our superior military. And doubt not that the world is watching. And the world is rethinking their relationship with a resurgent America. This is of course just one episode in a much larger historical context, but it is an important one. One that makes me proud to be an American.

Obviously, this major problem of ongoing Somali piracy isn't any closer to being solved but it's a big step in the right direction. Now we must assert ourselves, now we must show the world our strength and our resolve. We must have the courage to finally break away from the blatantly biased, Muslim supporting UN, who have done their best to hogtie the Western nations in their efforts to defend themselves from this scourge of Muslim piracy, and who only seem concerned with the rights of the criminal pirates.

Much has been written over these past few days of our nineteenth century American precedent in dealing these "Barbary pirates". And the parallels are indeed cojent and encouraging. But there is an even earlier, and perhaps even more relevant, if lessor known, precedent for the forces of Western civilization successfuly solving the problem of piracy. The following paragraphs are taken from the original Radarsite series, "America and the Fall of the Roman Empire". I can only hope that we have the wisdom to learn from these worthy precedents.

It has become fashionable to draw parallels between the supposed misadventures of our “New American Imperialism” and the “Fall of the Roman Empire” -- a comparison that conveniently overlooks the fact that it took over a thousand years for the Roman Empire to ‘fall’. One of the most glaring inconsistencies of this comparison is that the Roman Empire was an unapologetically ruthless military power, which experienced no liberal pangs of guilt about its hard-won conquests. Indeed, to the typical Roman, who enthusiastically relished the daily bloody spectacles of the arena, the whole concept of having moral qualms about the manner in which they had acquired their vast Empire would be incomprehensible.

The Roman formula for conquering new provinces was fairly straight-forward. The Roman legions would simply annihilate any opposing force (no matter how long it took, or what it cost them in lives and treasure), systematically root out all remaining insurgents, and impose a locally administered Roman-style government, which would eventually build Roman-style buildings in which to conduct Roman-style business.

Once their territories were conquered, however, the Romans would govern them with a relatively light touch (despite a spate of anti-Roman, pro-Christian “biblical movies” produced in the 1950s -- usually starring the late Charlton Heston -- that invariably portrayed the Roman soldiers as sadistic brutes). So long as the local citizenry behaved according to the proscribed boundaries of the Roman model of civilization, adhered to the basic tenets of Roman jurisprudence, paid their taxes (which, for the most part, were considerably less than they had been paying under their previous rulers), and offered ceremonial homage to the Emperor once a year, the Roman attitude towards the local customs and religious practices was generally fair and unobtrusive.

However, Roman authorities would react swiftly and mercilessly to any perceived threat of dissent. In 146 B.C., in the city of Corinth, in the Roman protectorate of Greece, two Roman envoys were set upon by an unruly crowd of malcontents and were beaten up. The Roman response was quick and unequivocal.

The Senate dispatched the brutal Roman General Mummius who, with his four Legions, attacked the city of Corinth. He killed all of the men of military age, enslaved all of the remaining populace, burned the city to the ground and then, ceremoniously sowed salt on the earth so that nothing would ever grow there again.

An over-reaction? Perhaps. However, needless to say, after Corinth, anyone considering attacking a Roman citizen would, most likely, have serious second thoughts.

Indeed, if we are looking for parallels between our present-day American society and the Roman Empire, we need look no further than this episode of the two Roman ambassadors in Corinth, and compare the Roman reaction then to our government’s ignoble non-response to the plight of our helpless 70 American citizens who were held hostage for 444 days in the infamous 1979 Tehran Embassy takeover.

What then, if anything, can we learn from the history of the Romans?

First, when discussing the moral lessons symbolized by the 'Fall of the Roman Empire' we should perhaps consider how long it actually took to 'fall'. If one accepts the traditional date for the founding of Rome of 753 B. C., and the traditional date of the 'fall' of 476 A.D., then that means that the Roman civilization lasted for something like 1,200 years, while the actual process of the 'fall' arguably took about 300 years.

Transposing these figures onto America's timetable, this would mean that we might start losing ground around the year 2705, and could be in serious trouble by the year 3005. It seems to me that it would be a little difficult to realistically describe this 1200 year process as a 'fall'. I think it could better be described as a pretty big success story.

Additionally, this particular episode at Corinth occurred approximately 200 years before the Empire really reached it's peak, and, far from hindering the development of the Roman world, this incident, and many others like it, only served to strengthen its reputation and intimidate its potential rivals.

For 444 days, while our hapless President Jimmy Carter dithered and dallied with endless and empty diplomatic negotiations, our helpless 70 American citizens suffered the painful privations and unknown perils of their captivity. Only when a new president was sworn into office, an altogether different kind of man, whom they suspected might actually resort to force, were the hostages released.

These, then, are the lessons from Corinth in 146 B.C., and from Tehran in 1979 A. D. Somewhere between these two extreme reactions there is an eternal truth.

Rome vs. the Pirates

As early as the Fourth Century B.C., the Romans began construction of their famous network of ingeniously designed roads (the Via Appia, the most famous of all Roman roads was begun in 312 B.C.). Roman roads soon traversed the Empire from the furthermost outpost in Britain to the easternmost Provinces of Pontus and Bithynia.

Not only did they build them, but they used them -- at first for strictly military purposes, but later on, for private and commercial transportation. Where it proved necessary, they protected them.

Then, in 67 B.C., acting on orders from the Roman Senate, the famous Roman general, Pompey the Great successfully swept the ubiquitous pirates from the waters of the eastern Mediterranean, where they had always preyed upon the major trade routes.

Not only did he destroy their ships at sea, but, acting under a special warrant from the Senate, his legions pursued the pirates inland to their home bases and destroyed these also. Thanks to Pompey’s effective campaign, for the first time in recorded history, the shipping lanes of the eastern Mediterranean became relatively safe.


History has shown us that if a nation/state musters up the necessary will the pirates can be defeated. Of course, for us in the twenty-first century the big question is, will this leftist, appeasement-oriented Obama adminstration somehow find the necessary fortitude to follow through on these essential steps? We know our military is capable and ready. But is our pacifistic Democratic Party and it's culturally conflicted president? We shall see. - rg