Going on the Account: The Tabar’s Encounter

When we last looked at the INS Tabar, it was reported that they had taken out a pirate mothership.  Then reports came out that their target was in fact a Thai trawler that was sunk by mistake.  Now, the latest reported by India’s TIMES NOW is that the ship may have been a trawler that was in the process of being hijacked by pirates, which means the Indian navy engaged…


What would you call it?  A potential target-to-be?  An inactive combatant?  It becomes very murky in cases like this, where vessels in action might be caught up in a deteriorating situation.  It would be one thing if the Ekawat Nava 5 either was fired on by mistake without any pirates nearby, or else engaged after the pirates had claimed her, but if the Tabar came on the scene in the middle of an action, then she reached her it was chaotic, confused.  Decisions needed to be made, quickly, and without as much info as would have been useful to help make the right choice.


By means of example, let’s assume we have an officer on patrol, and this cop comes across an assault.  If this policewoman sees this altercation, and then one party draws on the other, then it gets out of hand so fast that she has no time or chance to separate the two and get a straight answer out of them as to what’s going on.  The only likely result of whatever action is taken is going to be a lot of second-guessing when it’s examined afterwards.


Even if the Tabar is found to have behaved in a negligent manner, which doesn’t seem likely yet, should there not be allowances here?  It’s hard for a pirate these days to claim a military-purposed vessel with which to go on the account, and with the number of active cases lately off the Somali coast the odds were in favor of the Tabar meeting an unfriendly.  Worst case, the Ekawat Nava 5 was still resisting the pirates, and in the course of the rescue friendlys took fire.


This is the sad reality of any conflict:  Nothing’s neat and tidy with clearly marked targets, and when you enter the fray you’re likely to do collateral damage to anyone unlucky enough to be in the wrong spot.  And any action off Somalia is likely to be truly messy because it involves irregulars in a fluid theater, with no clear boundaries or guidelines available at the moment you need them.



Special thanks to Cheryl for sending up the signal flags about the latest on this matter.

Going on the Account: Like Messages in a Bottle

I’m sometimes asked, “Why are you doing a novel online for free?”  Implicit in the question is the observation, “If your work was any good, someone would pay you for it.”


Of course, even if that were true, it’s not like it’s a seller’s market.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has stopped accepting manuscripts, which would probably affect me more if I had an agent to represent me.  (And of course an agent, wanting to work with known quantities as opposed to riskier ones, will only consider clients with a history, which becomes hard to establish if you need an agent to build a history, but we’ve all heard that Catch-22 gripe before.)  And according to Sara Nelson, this may not be the only house in town shutting its doors to new material in the near term.


So now, the good news is, I can state that I have a reason for being online and sharing this with you:  I can at least offer fresh content!

Going on the Account: Different Tactics

Last we looked at the WALL STREET JOURNAL, they seemed to favor a solution to piracy that consisted solely of hanging every pirate on the yardarm.  (In fact, Bret Stephens called exactly for that today.)


Other approaches are being considered, however, and with predictable sadness these other opinions are not coming out of the West.  Essays by both Rami G. Khouri, editor-at-large of THE DAILY STAR and syndicated columnist via Agence Global, and Arthur Bowring of the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association (which surprisingly, got carried on WSJ.com) both recognize that a solution must take into account conditions onshore in Somalia.  Without that part of the puzzle looked at, the sweet trade’s unlikely to subside soon.




Going on the Account: Be This the Best Way to Engage?

There’s been a bounty of  articles in the WALL STREET JOURNAL over the last few days.  One, by David Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, discuss applying international law to pirates.  There was also an online presentation by Michael B. Oren drawing comparisons between how the US dealt with the Barbary pirates and what it can do today.


Both articles take a hard-line conservative response to the issue that suggest that no response outside of going in guns a’blazing would work.  If anything, our recent adventures overseas should have taught us all (even the WSJ crowd) that not all answers can be measures in calibres.  While one cannot excuse the crime of piracy, there are limits to only shooting on sight.  What helped bring an end to the Golden Age of Piracy was Woodes Rogers promising a King’s Pardon to those who gave up the sweet trade, something none of the Journal’s writers seem willing to consider by the tone of their assessments.


What kept piracy alive and well in the New World back in the 17th Century was the lack of access to means of bettering yourself if you were not highborn.  Perhaps that comparison needs to be made in crafting a solution to the action off Africa…

Going on the Account: Action Aboard the Tabar

Word this morning is that the Indian navy engaged a pirate “mother ship.”  The obvious news here is, of course, that action is heating up in the area, and that we’re probably going to have a few more such engagements to read about.


A less obvious story, however, is in the description of the vessel the INS Tabar sortied with.  The more you consider their target, a mobile base from which launches can venture further out, the easier it is to understand how the MV Sirius Star was taken. 


Also of note was mention of how much activity has increased off the east African coast.  The ICC’s live piracy map shows so many incidents there that the borders of all the actions atop each other look like the black spot Billy Bones receives in TREASURE ISLAND.


Relying on larger vessels for bigger prizes, drawing more fire, crossing the line at taking cargoes considered too valuable to possess (oil and tanks); this may not be a good time to go on the account in Somalia.  The matter is escalating faster than the pirates may want, and like pirates at all times in the past building on your success can lead to disaster.

Going on the Account: Thus It Is Written…

Interesting piece in the TIMES today about MIT’s Center for Future Storytelling.  Apparently there’s panic among the deep thinkers in Hollywood (he said with a straight face) about film’s ability to tell a story.


What struck me hard from the article, over and above all the other amazing indignities, was the claim that Peter Guber was blaming the audience “for the perceived breakdown in narrative quality.”


Lemme see if I got this right…  We have a system that goes to the marketing department to come up with themes and general scenarios for a project, which then is assembled mainly through packaged deals that a talent agent reps into place as opposed to seeking qualified talent, with the tie-ins to the flick via Hasbro and McDonalds crafted with more care than is put into blocking any and every scene in the film, with revisions to the project  before final cut based on a test screening in front of teens at some suburban mall near Los Angeles…  And somehow it’s our fault?!?


John Boorman has the titular character in the intro to his film ZARDOZ ask, “Is God in showbusiness too?”  The article Guber’s comments appear in certainly does test one’s faith…

Going on the Account: Sirius Star

The buzz from the Indian Ocean is about the seizure of the MV Sirius Star.  And if you think taking the tanks on the Faina was provocative, the Somali pirates have certainly drawn a lot of anxious attention now. 


Two million barrels of oil as part of the booty makes you very likely to get painted by a targeting laser, even if oil’s been trending downward of late ($54.95/bbl on NYM at close today).  Considering how far off shore she was when seized, these folks either had some really good intel or some pretty decent luck when it came time to take the Sirius Star.


It’s reaching the point where the forces on station may have to make a choice between convoy operations and shore interdiction.  The former would disrupt too much ship traffic during an economic crisis, and there’s no appetite for the later after Resolution 794/Operation Restore Hope led to only transient stability when boots hit the ground in Somalia.


Anyone want to place bets on when the Modern Age of Piracy leads to a new theatre in the War on Terror?