LOST to Pirates

The celebrations and congratulations over the U.S. Navy’s rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips are well deserved and proper all around. Yet even after the jubilation has quieted down, piracy in the high seas remains a threat to global trade. That’s important for the U.S. Senate to keep in mind when it again considers the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), which, as The Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens noted last November, could present some potential obstacles to American naval action against pirates. I wrote an earlier post about this, but this point is worth repeating:

Article 110 of the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Convention — ratified by most nations, but not by the U.S. — enjoins naval ships from simply firing on suspected pirates. Instead, they are required first to send over a boarding party to inquire of the pirates whether they are, in fact, pirates.

Such an approach could only result in wholesale hostage taking. Capt. Phillips’s ordeal has made the danger that would entail. President Obama’s decision to use deadly force was the right one. Neither he nor his predecessors should be constrained in similar situations in the future.