Pirates!!! | Nose Under the Community Tent | Paul Losch | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

View all posts from Paul Losch


Uploaded: Apr 9, 2009
I have a blog coming up around Palo Alto needing a genuine, bona fide revenue strategy. In the meantime...

This nonsense with pirates holding huge commercial ships hostage is ridiculous. When it comes to international cooperation, this is a no brainer. Isn't the United States Navy, among others, charged with making sure commercial activity on the seas is free and unfettered? And aren't there a few other countries with navies that can help with this sort of protection?

This may be another example, 9/11 being the most tragic of them, that our military capabilities are more focused on a tiny missile from North Korea that has Cold War connections, when the real safety and stability of the world is in need of a major paradigm shift by our military and defense leaders.

I will posit that an aircraft carrier is not necessary to deal with pirates off the African coast. We need to think Coast Guard here, not "massive force."

I won't go there on Law of Sea or international law, but my hunch that is what most of the discussions at the State Department are focused on. It has its place, but these guys are bandits, well into international waters, and need to be put in their place. Little men, not something to be tolerated, just in need of an appropriate stategy to minimze them. This is not that difficult.

So much for my blogs being about our local community.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Rush, a resident of ,
on Apr 9, 2009 at 5:50 pm

The ocean is large. You will need a large navy to patrol it all.

The pirates are based on land and probably intermixed with the civilian population. Attacking them on land will probably be no easier than winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Part of the problem is that the shipping companies are very willing to pay ransom and/or protection money to the pirates, which just encourages more piracy.

And why don't they just post a few armed guards on each ship? These "pirates" are just a handful of gangsters on a small motorboat.

Put up some resistance and I bet the piracy will drop significantly.

Posted by WilliamR, a resident of ,
on Apr 9, 2009 at 5:55 pm

This seems like a situation where Predator-type drone aircraft would be a good tool. There's a lot of ocean to patrol by ship, but the surveillance aircraft should be able to spot small boats and fire a missle at them if necessary.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Apr 10, 2009 at 1:22 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Any port from which pirates operate should be rendered useless my mines ala Haiphong until the locals either kill the pirates or deliver them up to the government under which the pirated ship is flagged. Even then, the quarantine should continue a minimum of one year. Our satellite imagery should be enough that we could trace any ship back in time to locate its home port.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of ,
on Apr 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm

The US Navy should protect American flagged ships, with American crews. Other countries can join in, if they wish, but our focus should be on our own citizens and interests. Imagine that NATO countries actually spent the money to develop their own navies and marines.

This situation is not a coast guard event. RPGs make this a military event.

Obama should not wait until this thing turns into a high seas negotiation morass. He should shoot first.

The U.S. military does not really need a paradigm shift, becasue missles with warheads are much more important than this pirate pressure. The U.S. military needs clear and firm orders from the commander in chief to shoot first, before they get mired in a bunch of ridiculous situations where politics trump cannons.

Jefferson finally got the message, and he sent in the marines (Stephen Decatur became a national hero for his efforts in Tripoli). It is not really different today. Negotiations are not the answer. Force is the answer.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Apr 10, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I am disgusted with the navy for their failure to support the captain in his escape attempt with covering fire. I am surprised there were no SEALS in the water. Perhaps the SEALS publicity exceeds their actual capacity. Was Bucher Jr. commanding the DD? Or did the rules of engagement prohibit any initiative?

Posted by Kevin, a resident of ,
on Apr 10, 2009 at 1:59 pm

If the signal from the top is that it is not a military situation, but a negotiating situation, with the military in a backup role, then the SEALS will not be ready to go, even if they were available.

This is a leadership issue. It can be made much worse, for the future, if negotiations win the day. Putin put down the theatre attack in Moscow with force, and loss of innocent lives. Obama needs to learn from him.

Posted by Rush, a resident of ,
on Apr 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Looks like the French are playing hardball with the pirates:
Web Link

Posted by Cheese eaters, a resident of ,
on Apr 10, 2009 at 3:08 pm

That is surprising considering the history of France surrendering. Where the French soldiers made up of men/women from the former North African colonies of France, since they seemed to be the only ones fighting in WWII for France.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Apr 11, 2009 at 4:18 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

When I served with the BFONU they were fierce fighters [see Chipyongni]
I heard one report that "The navy didn't want to resort to force." Perhaps we can save all that weapons system money and just equip each ship with a checkbook to pay the tribute.
As easy as it would be to blame the President for this farce, it cannot be denied that this reticence to enforce our rights with force is a Foggy Bottom tradition exemplified by the too early handing of Iraq to the State Department, with disastrous consequences. I eagerly wait for Dr. Rice's book to explain that era.

Posted by Anna, a resident of ,
on Apr 11, 2009 at 11:13 am

I know this is off topic, but Mr. Losch starts his piece with "I have a blog coming up around Palo Alto needing a genuine, bona fide revenue strategy...."

I hope he doesn't confine his thoughts to extracting more "revenue" from residents and businesses (or even out of towners). Many (if not most) of us who have looked hard at the issue think that Palo Alto has a SPENDING problem that is much bigger than its revenue problem.

Palo Alto already receives and SPENDS revenue that is almost twice the amount per capita as most of our neighbors. We also have almost twice as many employees per resident, which is the crux of the problem. Many of us feel we aren't getting much for all the extra spending, and that the city wastes way too much money. (I know Mr. Losch feels the same way about some of this as he's been - for an establishment figure - pretty hard on things like the storm drain waste and fiasco.)

When solving a problem - like the city budget - a lot depends on how you approach it initially. If we start looking it as a revenue issue, and don't confront with spiraling, endless employee wage and benefit issues, we'll never reach sustainability.

So I hope the public discussion won't be confined to seeking more ways to extract dollars from us.

Posted by Jack Bauer, a resident of ,
on Apr 11, 2009 at 11:58 am

Just sink the boat and put everyone in the water. Pick up any survivors as long as they don't try shooting back. Some collateral damage to the hostages happens. The main thing is to discourage the pirates from attacking more ships in the future.

Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of ,
on Apr 11, 2009 at 1:50 pm

I think the Israelis can teach the world a thing or two about having a policy of not negotiating with kidnappers.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Apr 11, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.


Re: revenue strategy blog that is edit right now.

Stay tuned, and please don't presume the nature of my comments before you see them. You are welcome to take issue or agree with what I say after the blog is posted, but your comments in this posting around revenue strategy do not correlate with what I actually have to say.

And when it is posted, I hope we can keep it focused on the revenue side of the ledger, and not drift off the subject into spending questions. Developing a revenue strategy is a topic that has been woefully neglected, ulike the spending side, which seems to get commentary by hour in this forum.

Back to pirates for now.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Apr 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

I am trying to think about this as President Obama may think about it.

Pirates--you are a nuisance, you are disrupting trade and peaceful use of the seas for commerce. Your only agenda is that of hijackers and other such criminals, and I as POTUS don't need to waste my time with people like you.

Somalia--I was a community organizer in Chicago, and your country faces challenges in your citizenry that I can only imagine. Our relationship with you is complex, but there are certain behaviors that can not be tolerated, and pirates using your shores must be stopped. No negotiation.

Allies--the flag a commercial ship flies defies this issue. We must use our collective naval capabilities to do what is needed in a world and economy that is truly global. We are dealing with petty criminals who happen to be taking advantage of the circumstances off the east African coast, but they still are petty criminals. Let's not let our other issues on international matters get in the way of solving this one.

And by the way, I will not escalate the problem with pirates as a pretense for other foreign policy issues my Admninistration faces.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of ,
on Apr 11, 2009 at 5:41 pm


President Jefferson wanted to consider the Barbary pirates as a mere nuisance. It eventually became a much worse situation, becasue he refused to take it seriously, prefering to pay tribute. Then, finally, Jefferson sent in the navy and Decatur won the day through combat.

The Somali pirates are probably not mere criminals, as you declare. They buy their weapons from al qaeda contacts in Yemen, thus transferring their wealth up the food chain. Those weapons are serious things on the seas, including RPGs and assault rifles. This situation is much bigger than a mere coast guard action, Paul. This is a military action.

Paul, you mention "collective naval capabilities". Really? Since when have the European and Asian nations contributed to such affairs with real money and real blood? Even Obama cannot convince them to do that.

Your metric is way off base, Paul. You need to put your thinking cap back on.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Apr 11, 2009 at 7:00 pm


Thanks for the observations. Your analysis of the situation differs from mine, and that's fine.

Bottom line is we need to excise this tumor of these pirates taking hostage commercial ships and their crews for ransom.

My point of view is that at best the people involved in this piracy are part of a distributed network of bad guys, you appear to have the opinion that their is more of a hiercharchy in the name of Al Qaeda that provides and consumes from the guys in the boats. I actually don't even view them as being part of a larger network, but for the sake of discussion, I will offer some thoughts.

1. They need to be taken out ASAP

2. The resources to take them out should be tailored to the nature of their tactics and strategies, nothing more and nothing less

3. This is not a US problem, it is an international problem, and other countries need to be part of ending the problem. If this is an example of a new international security challenge, as I believe it is, we should view it as such

4. The flags under which most commercial vessels sail are under the auspices of places like Panama, and they are flags of convenience. The pirates really don't care what flag is flying and we need to deal with them without regard to the flag under which a vessel sails, it is another obsolete paradigm in these circumstances.

5. My favorite President is Theodore Roosevelt, and my favorite quote from him is "The way to do a thing is to do it!" TR would not have hesitated in these circumstances to "do it." We need to do it with the current situation and have an international coaltion that patrols the seas east of Africa until this band of thugs realizes their little shenanigans are over.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of ,
on Apr 11, 2009 at 9:08 pm

If TR was still the prez, this thing would already be over. The pirates would not be trying to make any more deals, in fact there would few, if any, more pirates.

TR is not prez. We have the current situation.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Apr 12, 2009 at 6:29 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Many a woman has found out you cannot negotiate your way out of a rape, but you sure can fight your way free. ANY negotiation validates the criminal. I remember how on the 200th birthday of our nation my contempt for mankind's collective cowardice toward evil was erased by the news there were still men around - the Entebbe rescue. Yonatan Netanyahu, where is the like of you today? Apparently not in the U.S. Navy.

Posted by Cheese eaters, a resident of ,
on Apr 12, 2009 at 9:38 am

Interesting how a so-called veteran is now criticizing the US Navy would knowing any or all of the facts, especially after stating above "this reticence to enforce our rights with force is a Foggy Bottom tradition exemplified by the too early handing of Iraq to the State Department, with disastrous consequences."

Posted by resident, a resident of ,
on Apr 12, 2009 at 9:51 am

Anna, I agree with you that Palo Alto has more of a spending problem than a revenue problem. I find Paul Losch's dismissal of your comment rather close minded and actually the root of the council's current budget shortfall problems.

Bosch's already declared intent to ignore the city's spending problems portends a very problematic mindset.

I do not look forward to what he has to say about how the city can extract more dollars from us.

Posted by send in the Marines!, a resident of ,
on Apr 12, 2009 at 10:37 am

Pres. Obama took military action against the pirates this morning. The remaining American hostage was rescued and is now aboard a US Navy ship in good condition. Three of the four pirates are dead and fourth was captured.

Web Link

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Apr 12, 2009 at 11:14 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Anyone questioning my "so-called" veteran status need only send me their E-Mail and I'll send a copy of my DD214.
Since the infantry ultimately has to pick up the pieces, I feel quite qualified to comment on the actions of the Navy and military. If you don't understand how much of the problem in Iraq was the consequence of the premature turnover of control to State I won't bother to fill in the gaps in your understanding.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of ,
on Apr 12, 2009 at 11:24 am

Great news! Force worked.

Posted by Cheese eaters, a resident of ,
on Apr 13, 2009 at 6:44 am

Walter--you feel that you are qualified to comment on anything and everything--regardless of your knowledge of the facts or not.
You clearly stated :"there were still men around - the Entebbe rescue. Yonatan Netanyahu, where is the like of you today? Apparently not in the U.S. Navy."--suggesting that there are no "men" in the Navy. An undeserved slap in the face from a so-called veteran. You were not commenting on the actions of the Navy but on the people in the Navy itself. Typical of your shoot-from-the-hip, too often revolting comments.

Posted by Cheese eaters, a resident of ,
on Apr 13, 2009 at 7:35 am

Walter--a CNN article about the men you vilified:

Web Link

Posted by Cheese eaters, a resident of ,
on Apr 13, 2009 at 11:20 am

Anymore comments, Walter, about the men in the Navy?

Web Link

Posted by Kevin, a resident of ,
on Apr 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm

The SEALSs and other special forces are probably the equal of the Rangers that scaled Point du Hoc. For example, try reading "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell. This book provides a feel for the esprit de corp, training and combat action of the modern special ops warrior.

Walter is wrong about the Navy special ops...they are good, and have proven it over and over, once again in this instance. However, Walter may be right in that there is a certain attitude among the Navy and civilian leadership that the main point of the negotiation was to deliver the American hostage to safety. Such an attitude could be counterproductive in detering piracy.

Posted by Rush, a resident of ,
on Apr 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm

When the Navy showed up, the pirates dropped all their demands for ransom money. The pirates offered to let the hostage go if they could safely return to shore. The Navy offered to arrest them if they let the hostage go. They should have taken the Navy's offer.

Posted by ahoy, a resident of ,
on Apr 17, 2009 at 3:09 pm

And I clicked on this thinking it was talking about the city raising revenue via exorbitant fines such as a $250 fine for being late with your $35 alarm fee.
Such caprice would be something pirates could appreciate!

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Vietnamese restaurant that may offer special menu for canine customers coming to former Wahlburgers site in Palo Alto
By The Peninsula Foodist | 4 comments | 3,894 views

I Was At The Stanford Shooting. Let’s Do Better Next Time
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 2,924 views

The clothes we wear: Cool, chic, casual -- or just plain sloppy?
By Diana Diamond | 32 comments | 2,512 views

Some of the best jobs around
By Sherry Listgarten | 4 comments | 2,176 views

People and Relationships Never Stop Being a Work in Progress
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,078 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 29 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $9 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.