Sunday, April 12, 2009

America 1, Pirates 0. Also: Terrorism?

Yay for America. Boo pirates. And I'm tired of hearing about it already. The captain seems a stand-up fellow, so hopefully he'll resist the siren song of the cable "news" circuit and endless inane interviews recounting minute-by-minute how he was feeling throughout the crisis.

All this talk of pirates, (with the requisite jokes about peglegs, eyepatches, and parrots) has of course awakened a desire among some to give them a more 21st-century name. They're terrorists! after all. Maritime terrorists!

Count me with Yglesias in saying: puh-leeeeze. These guys board ships to either steal the booty outright or ransom the ships and crews. They've not expressed a moment's interest in advancing any particular ideology, and how their activities could possibly do so is beyond me. They're not attacking civilian populations with the intent to further their political goals. They don't meet any coherent definition of "terrorists" other than that we don't like them and they happen to be Muslim. Then again, that's uncomfortably close to what passes for a definition these days.

"Terrorist" is one of many words in danger of being overused into meaninglessness. There are plenty of terrorists in the world. And there are also Muslim extremists fighting us who are not terrorists by any reasonable definition. Most of the Shia militias in Iraq that fall under the Jaysh al-Mahdi/Sadrist umbrella, for example, are guerilla fighters who targeted uniformed soldiers of the enemy (us) and took reasonable care to avoid civilian casualties. By definition they are not terrorists, and it confuses the issue to conflate them.

3 comments:

Elephantschild said...

The other problem with using "maritime terrorists" is that there is a segment of the population who won't know what "maritime" means.

"Hey Barney! Didchya hear? Dere's Catholick terrists now!"

Never overestimate the great unwashed. Everyone knows what a "pirate" is. If we need to avoid romanticization, can't we just call them "The Bad Guys?"

Cheryl said...

I would be very interested to hear your assessment of the President's role in the rescue. My initial reaction was to be happy that I could finally feel good about something Obama did. I am happy to give credit where credit is due. But then I read this different take on the whole thing:

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/the-story-of-a-successful-rescue-and-obamas-attempt-to-claim-credit/

Any thoughts?

Evan said...

Huh. I was about to explain how we should credit the President to the same degree we'd have held him accountable if it'd all gone wrong, insofar as he'd authorized the use of force, a slightly boldish thing (at least for him).

But then I read your link, which claims Obama made no real decision at all, simply demanding a peaceful solution be conjured out of the waters of the Indian Ocean. In that case, the commander acted under standing international law, which authorizes deadly force in any circumstance of self-defense or to defend a civilian. (I just made some PowerPoints on the Law of Armed Conflict, so I'm kinda "spun up" on the topic right now). If Emanuel's story is true, and it's quite frankly far more believable, Obama seriously owes that naval commander and the SEALS for saving his @$$.