This blog is officially a Sympathy For Pirates Free Zone. Whatever socio-economic, political, and cultural forces drives them out to prowl one of the Seven Seas, they've chosen to respond to those forces by taking up careers as thugs and thieves, which is all pirates are and all they've ever been. The great nations can deal with those forces and the problems that arise diplomatically and sympathetically in the background. In the foreground they should deal with the pirates just the way the Navy did Sunday.
I've heard and read suggestions that we should stop calling the pirates pirates because it romanticizes them, as if none of us can hear the word without conjuring up images of Jack Sparrow, Peter Blood, and the black mask of the Dread Pirate Roberts, whoever happens to be the Dread Pirate Roberts this week. Probably true, but it's not true that very many grown-ups will then apply those images to the thugs and thieves out there committing their acts of piracy. Mixing up movies with reality is something Right Wing bloggers do, healthy-minded adults know that real rabbits don't talk with Brooklyn accents and real pirates don't do amusing impersonations of Keith Richards. Not while on the job, anyway. They're pirates, and calling them terrorists, as I've seen suggested, muddies that issue and, speaking of Right Wingers, gives them another chance to relive their glory days after 9/11 when they could shut down every argument by accusing dissenters of being soft of terror.
Before the Navy SEALs went to work, were the Right Wingers on Fox and elsewhere really declaring that the President was too soft on piracy? Guess so. Of course shoot first and slap down anyone who asks questions later has always been their preferred method for dealing with any problem where killing someone else is an option, even if it's not at all a desirable one. As long as they don't actually have to be in the line of fire they're always all for going in with guns blazing.
As if making someone else dead is the only measure of toughness.
They need to read Will Bunch's Tear Down This Myth.
Will's book is not a 261 page argument that Reagan was a bad President. Will doesn't even think Reagan was all that bad a President, certainly not in the way Richard Nixon was a bad President or George W. Bush was a bad President. He doesn't think Reagan was a good one, not by a long shot. Will gets into all the things he thinks Reagan did wrong that hurt the country, especially his turning the United States from a creditor nation into a debtor nation and setting us up for the economic disaster President Obama's now trying to clean up. But Will isn't as interested in ranking Reagan as he is showing that however he ranks Reagan wasn't a successful Conservative President.
That's because Reagan was a pragmatist before he was an ideologue, Will says, and on the most important issues he had to deal with---taxation, the end of the Cold War, terrorism---he usually did the practical thing rather than the conservative thing. Maybe I'll get into all that in another post. Here, though, what I want to highlight is another difference between Reagan the actual human being and the Right Wing Hero conservatives idealize and idolize.
Reagan was nowhere near as bloodthirsty.
In fact, if the bodies are ever tallied, it will probably turn out that Ronald Reagan was directly responsible for the deaths of far fewer people than any other President since Eisenhower, except Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Barack Obama may already have more blood on his hands.
I'm not forgetting all the people who did die because of what he did, all the people in Central America killed by the Contras and the Death Squads we trained and supported, all the people who died of AIDS because he refused to acknowledge the crisis.
I'm just saying, as Will is saying, that Reagan's response to situations in which shooting first and asking questions later was an option, it was not his preferred option. Reagan was extremely reluctant to put American troops in harm's way. He was pushed throughout his Administration to invade Panama to take out Manuel Noriega and he resisted it. When terrorists blew up the Marine barracks in Lebanon, Reagan pulled the Marines out. When Reagan, who became President mainly because of Jimmy Carter's allegedly weak-kneed handling of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, had to deal with his own hostage crisis (Lebanon again), Reagan's response was to do what we supposedly never do---he negotiated with terrorists. (He tried to buy the hostages' release too, which led to the Iran-Contra scandal, which Will argues was a worse assault on the Constitution than Watergate.) And when his attempts to negotiate and pay ransom failed and the terrorists tortured and killed the CIA station chief, Reagan responded by...doing nothing. Not because he wasn't really tough, but because he was tough enough to adhere to one of his principles. Reagan had ruled out any retaliation against terrorists that might get civilians killed. He called that, a shrugged-off acceptance of collateral damage, a form of terrorism itself.
Reagan could talk the bloody-minded talk, but Will says he was often talking it to pacify his critics on the Right. Reagan himself was not a prisoner of his own rhetoric.
So how would Reagan have dealt with the pirates?
Probably exactly the way President Obama did, by taking his time, by attempting to talk the pirates into surrendering, by looking for a way not to get anybody killed, by not being bloody-minded, by being tough not to be in a rush to show off how tough he was.
Make sure you visit Will Bunch's blog, Attytood.
The Corner's Jonah Goldberg was insufficiently anti-Obama on the subject of pirates and was taken to the woodshed by Rush Limbaugh. Jim Wolcott calls on Goldberg to stand up to the blowhard.
Update: Dennis Perrin thinks I'm full of it.
Every time I write something less than hateful about Reagan, there are always some people who react as if I'm making the case that he should be on Mount Rushmore. For the record: I didn't like the guy!