It is a great thing that we have secured the rescue of Captain Phillips. The fact that pirates were killed in the process ought not to whet our collective appetite for more aggressive measures right now. Galrahn is absolutely right that Somalia is bigger than piracy, and I'd like to add another perspective on why that is so.Timing is everything for taking actions and making gains. I spent all of 2008 stressing how the strategic focus in regards to piracy was not necessarily expending our energy to fighting the problem directly, rather it needed to in the context of building coalitions.
If you look at the variety of countries sending naval ships to the region and the way they are operating when they get there, what you see is Mike Mullen's global naval partnership coalescing before our eyes. While the U.S. established a coalition task force (151) almost as a matter of reflex, the units of other nations such as China are operating there independently, but making efforts to at least deconflict, if not coordinate their operations. The commanders are inviting each other to lunch; we are helping the Chinese with logistics a little bit (so I hear). This is a major strategic opportunity that should not be wasted.
Piracy is bad but is not a problem that must be solved as soon as possible at all costs. In fact, working slowly and deliberately is a real strategic advantage. There do not appear to be any issues in Somalia that would generate great power competition, so what we have is an opportunity for the navies of the principal powers, both established and emerging, to practice working together. If the US takes a deep breath and practices both patience and statesmanship, this situation will produce a framework for cooperation and mutual trust and confidence among the nations of what Tom Barnett calls the "Functioning Core." The US should do nothing that delivers the message that there is one set of rules for us and another for the rest of the world. Moreover, we have a chance to "lead from the edge" by actually listening and adopting the ideas of other nations. This is a priceless strategic opportunity that should not be wasted.
I agree completely the good news today is an opportunity that should not be wasted. Good to see voices with more resonance than mine pushing this very important point.