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The Rescue of Captain Phillips

Warship USS Bainbridge

Warship USS Bainbridge

Thank goodness for the Navy snipers who were able to take out three of the four Somali pirates holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage. Credit also goes to the crew of Phillips’ ship, the Maersk Alabama, who fought back when the pirates tried to take control of their vessel.

At No Quarter, Larry Johnson, who obviously knows infinitely more than I do about the inner workings of the government, praises Obama for his willingness to step aside and allow the experts to handle the crisis and following the advice of those who know what they are doing.

This AP story says that President Obama twice approved the use of force to rescue Phillips.

The Defense Department twice asked Obama for permission to use military force to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips from a lifeboat off the Somali coast. Obama first gave permission around 8 p.m. Friday, and upgraded it at 9:20 a.m. Saturday. Officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations said the second order was to encompass more military personnel and equipment that arrived in the Indian Ocean to engage the pirates.

It is clear from the story that Obama didn’t give permission for force to be used until Friday night. Yet the warship pictured above, the USS Bainbridge was in position by Thursday, according this story at Huffpo.

Now I admit that it is difficult for me to give Obama credit for anything. Quite frankly I dislike the man intensely and much as I want him to rise to the occasion and become another FDR, I don’t have much faith that it will happen.

I don’t necessarily think it took that much courage to issue these orders, but I do admit that Obama would have been roundly criticized if something had gone wrong. On the other hand, Friday afternoon, he was already being attacked by right wing talk show and even liberals like me for not using force. So there might have been even more poltical risk if he had decided not to use force.

I just have a couple of questions.

1. Why did Obama wait five days before issuing the order to use force? Why wasn’t there a standing order all along so that the Navy and FBI personnel at the scene could use their best judgment?

2. Why did Obama wait until this afternoon to call Phillips’ family? Couldn’t he have called them sooner just to say that he was doing everything in his power to rescue their relative?

From my observations, Obama’s decisions are always about politics and about what is best for him.
I suspect that Obama had originally given a “no shoot” order in order to avoid the risk of a huge political embarrassment if Phillips were killed or injured in a rescue attempt.

On Friday, Phillips himself tried to escape from his captors and was recaptured by the pirates without any effort by Navy snipers to back up his attempt. After that the political calculus changed. It had been three days, and nothing was happening other than FBI negotiations. After the failed escape attempt, there was more criticism in the media and on-line. At this point, I think Obama faced a greater risk of political damage if he didn’t give permission for the Navy to use force than if he did.

Call me a complete and utter cynic–I don’t mind. But that is how I think it went down. I still give Obama credit for listening to his advisors and allowing the rescue to take place. However, I don’t see the justification for the crowing that is going on at the Cheeto blogs right now. See here and here (WARNING! Don’t click those links unless you want to be transported to Cheetoland).

Next question: how can we make it more politically risky for Obama to keep funneling all our money to the banksters than for him to do the right thing?