President Barack Obama is absolutely right in his decision to stop piracy off the coast of Somalia. However, in doing so he will risk involving the United States in another bloody, expensive foreign war.
"I want to be very clear that we are resolved to halt the rise of piracy ... and to achieve that goal, we're going to have to work with our partners to prevent future attacks," Obama said during a recent press conference.
In the president's mind must be the question of how willing our "partners" are to cooperate in stopping the pirates. If history is any guide, the answer is that the United States will be told it must take the lead.
We hope Obama can persuade leaders of other countries that have suffered from the Somali pirates - including Russia, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and China - to take significant roles in action against the pirates. Unfortunately, leaders of those nations are well aware of the difficulty of hunting down and eliminating the pirates. That could require a mini-invasion of Somalia, embroiling any expeditionary force in a vicious guerrilla war. Simply dropping a few hundred commandos into Somalia, then pulling them out quickly, probably will not take care of the problem.
Obama should have a backup plan ready in the event that other countries refuse to assist the United States against the pirates.
Clearly, the preferred strategy would be to eliminate the pirates. But if other countries are not willing to share the sacrifices of doing so, Obama should consider a plan - perhaps involving the Navy and Marines - to simply protect U.S. ships against the high seas robbers, kidnappers and murderers. Once other nations find the pirates are targeting their ships in preference to protected U.S. vessels, we suspect the attitude of once again forcing Americans to do the world's dirty work would change.