The Best Defense

Today’s bombings in Iraq

I am sorry to see the three bombings that killed at least 29 people in Baqubah today, but I am not using the "unraveling" title on this because I think the current bombings in Iraq are simply an attempt to scare people before this Sunday's election. They may get media attention but don't seem to me necessarily to represent any long-term trend.

The big question in my mind is what happens in the three months after the election. How long will it take to form a government? And will that process exacerbate ethnic and sectarian tensions? If we don't see an Iraqi government by June 1, I will be very concerned.

It isn't a "dark victory," either. For fun, read aloud this Newsweek piece and substitute "Vietnam" and "Saigon" for Iraq and Baghdad. Reads like a Luce product circa 1967. Or maybe China 1946, for that matter. Funny how a Western symphony orchestra and a store selling Johnny Walker are such perennial signs of a breakthrough in a land war in Asia. All we need is a scholarly Asian president who enjoys reading Shakespeare in his rare moments of relaxation. Speaking of the Lucites, Time magazine does a much better job of describing the outlines of post-occupation Iraq. And the AP reports that a new warrant for the arrest of Mookie has been issued. Interesting timing. 

And Karl Rove has written a book that says, kind of, that they might have handled this whole Iraq thing badly. You think? 

(HTs to Steve Coll for the Howard Hart blog, and to Juan Cole for the Sadr warrant.)

AFP/Getty Images

The Best Defense

Piracy Watch: Absalon, Absalon!

People tend to neglect the contributions of smaller nations like Denmark. Here is a good reminder from our Bono of the buccaneer beat:

By Cdr. Herb Carmen, USN
Best Defense
pirates columnist

When father of the American Navy John Paul Jones famously wrote in a letter to Le Ray de Chaumont on November 16,  1778, "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way," he was expressing his disappointment in the inadequate English prize offered to him by the French. He had hoped that friends connected with the French monarch in Versailles would help him get the right ship to meet his needs. After five months of waiting, he came across a copy of Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac:

"As Jones listlessly turned its pages, his eye fell upon the maxim, ‘If you wish to have any business done faithfully and expeditiously, go and do it yourself. Otherwise, send someone.'

"Shutting the book, and dashing it to the floor, Jones sprang to his feet exclaiming, ‘I will go to Versailles this very day.' Before night he set out, and soon reached the royal court. His reputation easily gained him an interview; and his frank, self-reliant way so impressed the monarch, that in five days the American was tendered the command of the ship ‘Daras,' mounting forty guns.

"Great was the exultation of the American seaman at this happy termination of his labor. Full of gratitude to the distinguished philosopher whose advice had proved so effective, he wrote to the minister of marine, begging permission to change the name of the vessel to the ‘Poor Richard,' or, translated into French, the ‘Bon Homme Richard.' Permission was readily granted; and thereafter the ‘Bon Homme Richard,' with Paul Jones on the quarter-deck, did valiant work for the cause of the young American Republic."

(The Naval History of the United States by Willis John Abbot, 1886, pages 82-83)

The Danish support ship HDMS Absalon is a very effective multi-mission ship that fits the maritime missions we have seen in recent months, most notably off the coasts of Somalia and Haiti. HDMS Absalon can be equipped for naval warfare, land attack, strategic sealift missions or used as a command and control platform. She can also be configured as a hospital ship or used for emergency disaster relief. She is equipped with a roll-on roll-off ramp installed at the stern for access to the "flex deck" which can support a Leopard II tank. While her maximum sustained speed is a modest 23 knots, HDMS Absalon can carry stores and fuel for 28 days of endurance. 

The right ship matters, but what is primary in naval warfare is the fighting spirit of her crew. Commodore Christian Rune and the crew of Absalon have certainly shown superb fighting spirit in 2010. Commodore Rune flies his flag in Absalon and leads the NATO's counter-piracy mission off the east coast of Somalia.  On February 5th, HDMS Absalon came to the rescue of the Slovenian cargo ship MV Ariella after she was attacked by pirates. MV Ariella's crew was following best practices and had safely locked themselves away while calling for help. A team from Absalon boarded the Ariella and regained control of it while sailors from the Russian Navy ship Neustrashimyy successfully boarded and detained a second pirate skiff. 

After the operation Commodore Rune commented, "NATO is making a significant contribution in the fight against piracy, but we recognize that there is still a lot of work to do." And more work they did. Last Sunday, a boarding team from HDMS Absalon intercepted a pirate mothership. The pirates were transferred to a smaller boat in tow and allowed to return to shore. HDMS Absalon then fired upon the pirate mothership and sunk it. Since NATO's Operation Ocean Shield began, there has been a 50% drop in piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden.

The Danes are showing that they sent the right ship and the right crew for the counter-piracy mission near Somalia. Bravo Zulu to Commodore Rune and the crew of the HDMS Absalon!

Tom again: I just wanna add that "Christian Rune" is a rich name for a Scandanavian sea captain.