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The United States dodged a bullet last month when American sailors and Navy Seals foiled Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. But pirates never give up easily.
The possibility that they will capture more Americans there and elsewhere remains. And that possibility presents real dangers for the Obama administration.
Why should the world's greatest superpower worry about small groups of pirates? Because, while the military threat may be minimal, public reaction to a prolonged captivity crisis could derail the administration’s foreign policy.
That’s exactly what happened 200 years ago, when African pirates last held Americans for ransom.
Back then the culprits were from the Barbary coast of North Africa, not Somalia. But like today’s Somalis the North Africans hoped to turn substantial profits by ransoming American and European prisoners.
Then, as now, the United States was coming out of a long and costly war (with England). Then, George Washington and others hoped to shrink the military and enjoy a period of peace.
Today, President Obama hopes to reduce American military commitments abroad as the Iraq war winds down. Pirate seizures were fatal to Washington’s vision. They could also kill Obama’s.
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