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Defeating Somali pirates

After the rescue of sea captain Richard Phillips, will ship owners arm their crews?

The rescue of American sea captain Richard Phillips was "a blip of good news from the Indian Ocean," said Fred C. Ikle in The Washington Post, "but it remains a scandal that Somali pirates continue to routinely defeat the world's naval powers." It's time to end the "demonstration of cowardice" that fuels piracy—the routine payment of huge ransoms to free seized ships—and start arming the crews of merchant vessels so they can fight back.

Many ship owners—including some with vessels that sail the pirate-infested waters off East Africa—don't want to arm their crews, said Keith Bradsher in The New York Times. Doing so could invite attacks by people looking to steal the guns—and the pirates, more experienced fighters, would enter any encounter with superior firepower. And nobody wants a firefight aboard a gasoline tanker— one of the pirates' favorite targets.

The happy ending in this case showed that the U.S. Navy has a role to play in ending the "state of anarchy" the pirates have created on the high seas, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. It is to President Obama's credit that he authorized the use of deadly force, which allowed Navy SEALs to shoot and kill three of Phillips' kidnappers and arrest the fourth. "But since the Navy can't stop every hijacking, some kind of military action against pirates on land may be needed."

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