A tough military response to piracy is "appropriate," whether by Thomas Jefferson against the pirates of the Barbary Coast or Barack Obama against the pirates of the Somali coast. These were no rollicking band of brigands, no "Pirates of Penzance." Nevertheless, Barack Obama surely was tempted to delay, if not equivocate, whether by drawing up a list of talking points or suggesting an international forum of "partners" to debate solutions. We all can be glad he fought back like John Wayne and not Jimmy Carter, saving the life of a brave man. America didn't ask how the rescue operation would resonate among "moderate pirates" or how it would play "on the Arab street," noted William Kristol on "Fox News Sunday." Instead, the president did it the effective way -- unilaterally.
Now the big question is: Can we find the pirates' hiding places? That's difficult to do, but not impossible. There's no MapQuest to identify "pirate's lair." No GPS device will tell soldiers where to turn right or left. Like the Hamas terrorists who hide among innocents, pirates are difficult to eradicate inside their communities, particularly because many of them are teenagers protected by families and extended clan. Collateral damage would include the suffering of civilians. War, even when it's called "an overseas contingency operation," is hell.
Words shape perception, and euphemistic language obscures reality. Barack Obama, being a master of rhetoric, is tempted to imagine that his words are the reality. His new strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat is to dispense with the reasonable precondition that Iran shut down its nuclear program while talking. This also dispenses with the common sense born of experience in the interest of "sensitivity" for "Iran's pride." The strategy includes allowing Iranian technicians to keep their centrifuges spinning but not allowing them to enrich uranium for a bomb. Both sides could claim "victory."
But there's a problem. The inspectors not only don't know whether hidden enrichment sites are spinning but also don't know whether they're being stockpiled. We would have to take what the Iranians say on trust, which is like taking the word of pirates on trust. Former President Ronald Reagan, dealing with then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, agreed to trust, but only if it was "trust but verify." Barack Obama, who is certainly no Ronald Reagan, would count on the Iranians being as naive as he seems to be.
Administration officials want "to dialogue" with Tehran (bad grammar and all, speaking of language). Honest dialogue requires language with specific meaning. A strategy of "sensitivity" when the stakes are so high, whether with pirates on land or pirates at sea, is, to say the least, "inappropriate."
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