Churchillian Leadership in our Dangerous Times

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The eminent economist Jeffrey Sachs is of course correct to pin point the non-commissions and omissions of political leadership. But leadership of Churchillian stature does not arise as he claims from collectivities such as the UN and the World Bank, but from the ‘soloist’ reflections, sagacity, resolution, and guidance of Statesmen. In the present world scenario what is missing is the vocation of politics being in the hands of virtuoso politicians with the Nietzschean ethos of the “will to power” determining the affairs of mankind. And parallel to the latter, is the necessary euthanasia of the woeful populist politician, a la Obama and Rudd.

Threesome Debate of American Norwegian and Australian of what to Do about Somali Piracy

By Con George-Kotzabasis

Somali piracy needs speedy, decisive, and relentless action by the U.S. and its European allies. To wait for the ability of Somalis “to police their own territory” and Somali leaders “to take action against pirates,” to quote Secretary Clinton, involved in the only highly profitable enterprise in a poor country, is to fly in the face of reality. In the event that Somali leaders were willing to do so, their military capacity to achieve this would take years to consummate.

Further, an increase of U.S., European, and Asian vessels and a better coordination between them is totally inadequate to police such a huge “expanse of ocean” as Secretary Clinton herself remarks. To pursue such a policy as Secretary Clinton delineates in her speech is to pursue a chimera. What the U.S. and its allies must do is to attack by relentless means, i.e., by air and commando raids the Somali towns from which piracy stems, and at the same time placing the requisite armaments on merchant ships that will protect them from any approaching pirate vessels. No amount of “carrots” will dissuade the pirates to desist and stop them, repeat, from such lucrative business in such impoverished country. Only their decisive military defeat will persuade them to do so. 

Dan Kervick says

 I agree in part with C-G Kotzabasis’s assessment. We certainly can’t wait for the restoration of the ability (and inclination) of Somalis to police their own territory and to take action against pirates. Somalia is the most failed and dysfunctional of failed states. I also agree that the linchpin of the problem is that piracy in that part of the world is extremely lucrative. The piracy won’t end until piracy is made an ill bargain for the pirates.

But, given that assessment, I have a different view on the best means for addressing the problem, and the chances of success of a coordinated international response.

Yes, the area to be policed is very large. But this isn’t a matter of just sailing around hoping to encounter pirate ships, or hoping to be in the right place at the right time. I assume we have the ability to identify and track most of the ships belonging to these pirates, to share the needed information (though not the sources and methods) with merchant vessels, and to direct force where it is needed in a timely way, especially if we have a larger multinational force of ships in the area. I am also assuming that some of the tagging and tracking means available are clandestine, and are unlikely to be discussed in public.

I also suspect that the economic and other hurdles that need to be cleared so that merchant ships can better defend themselves can be cleared quickly with vigorous, multinational government involvement.

I am somewhat shocked that Kotzabasis would recommend air raids on the home towns of the Somali pirates. No honorable man would defend the intentional killing of the women and children of one’s adversaries as a means of deterring those adversaries. I thought C-G was more chivalrous than that.

Maybe it’s an old-fashioned American outlook based on too many cowboy movies, but I was brought up to believe there were certain acceptable and unacceptable ways of handling these kinds of problems with banditry. Arming and funding more people to ride shotgun on the stagecoach is certainly called for. And sending out posses to track and engage the bandits, and either apprehend or kill them, is also appropriate and in bounds. But sending people to shoot up the towns and encampments where the bandits’ families are located? Not OK.

 Kotzabasis says

Dan Kervick

Thanks for your intellectually amicable and positive response to my post. I’m however surprised that you so facilely assume that these raids will intentionally be killing women and children. The latter will be killed only if the pirates adopt the tactics of the terrorists and use women and children as human shields. So if there is no intentional killing my ‘honor’ and ‘chivalry’ are not besmirched.

Moreover, if you are prepared to put ‘stagecoach shotguns’ and send “out posses to track and engage the bandits” then you have to go the whole hog. You cannot exterminate the scourge of piracy by half measures or by chivalric ones.

Posted by Paul Norheim, Apr 16 2009, 7:54PM – Link

A comment to the exchange between Kotzabasis and Dan

Kotzabasis says:

“I’m however surprised that you so facilely assume that these
raids will intentionally be killing women and children. The
latter will be killed only if the pirates adopt the tactics of the
terrorists and use women and children as human shields.”.

Of course no single innocent human being will be killed
intentionally by the Americans (that would be bad PR). But if you
attack by “relentless means, i.e., by air and commando raids the
Somali towns from which piracy stems”, much more innocent
civilians are likely to die than those killed by pirates.

This is an excellent illustration of a certain paradox, namely
between those “irregular” elements who target non-combatants
(or, in direct terrorist operations: civilians), and a regular army
targeting the enemy in ways that inevitably kill a lot of civilians,
not because they are targets, but because the regular army
decides to target the enemy by means that often, and inevitably,
kill more civilians than the irregular elements (pirates/terrorists)

When you look at the tactics and outcome of some recent
events (like the Israeli attack in Gaza, and the Sri Lanka`n army
against the Tamil Tigers), it is indeed very difficult to
distinguish between “terrorists (who) use women and children
as human shields”, and states who send their armies to kill
indiscriminately. If you look at statistics regarding the
percentage of civilians killed in wars during the last hundred
years, you would come to the conclusion that the respect for
civilian lives seem to have diminished drastically – regardless of
terrorists, guerillas, or pirates. The regular armies and the
politicians behind them have their significant share in this

There is no point in mentioning Dresden, Hiroshima, and
Nagasaki to prove that: Iraq is a fresh example.

How many innocent civilians did Saddam Hussein kill? And how
many innocent civilians did Clinton and Bush kill –

To me it`s always been difficult to distinguish between terrorist
methods and Kotzabasis`”relentless means”. For poor, innocent
women and children, hit unintentionally, I would imagine that
this distinction would make no sense.

Posted by Dan Kervick, Apr 16 2009, 9:49PM – Link


I may have misinterpreted you. There are some people who have recently advocated the *intentional* targeting of the pirates’ towns and kin in order to teach the pirates a lesson. You instead seem to be advocating going after the pirates themselves, and regard whatever happens to the communities around them as collateral damage brought on by the pirates decision to live among other people.

I appreciate that when you talk about “exterminating the scourge of piracy”, you are only logically implying that it is the scourge that must be exterminated, not the people. I hope that’s all you mean. Because as for the people themselves, I think experience with banditry shows that it is by no means necessary to exterminate all the bandits – even if such a thing were possible – in order the deter them from banditry. It is only necessary to change the cost-benefit analysis with which they operate. When it becomes to hard to profit from banditry, and too risky, the banditry ends.

This isn’t a half-measure. It is just a question on of re-asserting the rule of law without inflicting more death and pain on our fellow human beings than is necessary.

Unlike the case with some terrorists perhaps, the pirates do not hide continually among civilian populations plotting their crimes. They frequently float around in boats on the open ocean. Thus, if they are to be targeted for attack, there is no excuse for not targeting them when they are out there on the high seas, away from innocent people. If one can kill or apprehend some transgressor in a way that doesn’t risk the lives of innocents, then one should do so. It is not relevant whether we can pin the “fault” for the innocent deaths on the wrongdoer. What is relevant is that we avoid causing absolutely unnecessary deaths, whom ever is to be assigned the ultimate fault for those deaths.

Let’s not build these bandits up into something more than they are. What is needed now is stepped-up global policing of international shipping lanes, and that calls for increased levels of economic, manpower and intelligence commitment. The pirates are not an army, and civilization isn’t crumbling. We just need to invest more resources than we have previously.

Posted by kotzabasis, Apr 17 2009, 1:18AM – Link

Dan Kervick

Of course you don’t have “to exterminate all the bandits,” and your “cost-benefit analysis” is a perfect measure that would end such banditry. But to reach that measure that would deter the pirates from practicing their deadly enterprise one cannot do it by “half-measures.” It would be a half-measure to draw the gun and not shoot at your enemy. However, your “rule of law” is not a half-measure but no measure at all. These are lawless people that no law will ever restrain their actions.

I’m afraid you are too well- intentioned and too replete with humane genes that disqualify you from being a pragmatic strategist in deadly conflicts. No war has ever being fought clinically without the spilling of innocent blood. The price of freedom and the continuation of a civilized society at times is quite high. Nothing of great value is costless. The question always is whether people have the sagacity, the will, and mettle to pay the price.

Paul Norheim

This is a ‘straitjacket’ detachment from reality Paul. An “excellent illustration” that totally destroys your fabricated “paradox” is Iraq that by indisputable statistics shows that more civilians were killed by “irregular elements” i.e., by terrorists, than by the regular army of the U.S. and its allies. And to infer, sarcastically, that Americans don’t kill intentionally because that would give them “bad PR,” is to denigrate shamefully U.S. armed personnel who have been trained not to kill civilians, unlike the terrorists who are trained to kill them deliberately. .

Posted by Dan Kervick, Apr 17 2009, 7:37AM – Link

“These are lawless people that no law will ever restrain their actions.”

You seem to be confusing enforcement of the rule of law with respect for the law, Kotzabasis. Obviously, these pirates have no motivation to obey the law simply because it is the law. They are not law-abiding people.

For such people, reassertion of the rule of law always requires the imposition of harsh, credible penalties. Some percentage might be deterred by the mere credible threat of these penalties. But others will only be prevented from violating the rules of the road on the high seas by the actual infliction of the penalties.

I didn’t say that we should draw the gun and not use it. I said that in this case it seems likely that whatever force needs to be applied can be applied away from land, and away from innocent people. Yes, sometimes innocent people are killed in justifiable actions. But we shouldn’t recklessly endanger innocent lives just to prove our “will” or “mettle”, not when we can bring the required force to bear without endangering those innocents.

While the pirates aren’t motivated by respect for international rules, they are, as you have pointed out, motivated by profit. As it becomes less and less likely for the pirates that they will profit from attempted acts of piracy, and more and more likely that they will lose their lives or liberty, their banditry will be brought to an end.

Posted by kotzabasis, Apr 17 2009, 9:45AM – Link

Dan Kervick

Lawless people are not concerned with what might happen to them if they break the law, but, as you correctly say, by the “actual infliction of the harsh penalties’ imposed upon them, and I would add in this case wherever they are, on sea or land. It would be strategically foolish and inutile to confine one’s tactical operations solely on the “high seas” as well as reveal one’s tactics to one’s enemy. Just a thought experiment. If one had credible intelligence of a high concentration of pirates on land that by hitting them one would have inflicted upon them a devastating blow from which they could never recover, it would be utterly doltish not to use such an opportunity that would shorten the war and overall casualties just because it could entail that some innocent people would be killed.

I used the “draw of the gun” figuratively, not that you said it, in response to your “stagecoach” post, that if you draw it you have to shoot your deadly foe wherever he is, even in a ‘crowded street.’

War has too many imponderables to compute them beforehand with algorithmic precision. McNamara’s “fog of war” is the constant condition. That is why people, and even professional soldiers, avoid it justifiably like the plague. But once one has decided to ‘unsheathe the sword’ then like the feudal knights one has to make “literal mincemeat of one’s enemies, leaving the clergy to handle the morals” to quote the great Austrian writer Robert Musil.

Posted by Dan Kervick, Apr 17 2009, 10:25AM – Link

“Just a thought experiment. If one had credible intelligence of a high concentration of pirates on land that by hitting them one would have inflicted upon them a devastating blow from which they could never recover, it would be utterly doltish not to use such an opportunity that would shorten the war and overall casualties just because it could entail that some innocent people would be killed.”

This sort of scenario paints an unrealistic picture of the pirates as some kind of “pirate army” that is best countered by attrition of their numbers until they surrender. I don’t think it works that way. The pirates are fishermen, who have taken to using their fishing trawlers to mount pirate attacks. Piracy in the Gulf of Aden has become a lucrative profession, and people will continue to pursue that profession as long as it remains lucrative. There is no fixed supply of pirates, just as there is no fixed supply of investment bankers. There is no pirate army to defeat.

We can’t bomb all the fishermen in Somalia, nor would that make sense. There is simply no need for this kind of overkill. The pirates attacked a US-flagged ship earlier this month, and that mistake resulted in an extended nuisance, the rescue of the captain, a week of media pants-wetting, three dead pirates and one captured pirate. This outcome is going to have a deterrent effect, and the pirates were dealt with out on the water. With stepped up resources and commitment, we can turn this piracy business into a non-viable enterprise.

Posted by kotzabasis, Apr 18 2009, 12:22AM – Link

It was a thought experiment and you missed its point.

You are digressing into ‘softer areas’ from your previous posts and I’ve nothing to add. Piracy now has become to you an ‘economic’ issue and merely an “extended nuisance” and an entertaining vaudevillian play, “media-pants wetting.”

Join the debate



















Responce to Romantic Americans in their Infatuation with Obama

On open salon

By Con George-Kotzabasis


Bill Beck,

“Remedial action” in the context of war is not an end in itself but with a purpose of leading to victory, as it’s in the present case in Iraq with the “tactic’ of the surge, providing the U.S. leadership does not abandon its intelligent resolution and determination to win the war.

The U.S. and U.K. politics of Iran you have to consider them within the context of the great confrontation between the two superpowers of the Cold War. At the level of strategic priorities Anglo-American politics that led to the “Iranian hostage crisis”, as you say, was minor to the major successful goal of preventing the Soviet Union from dominating the region, which you seem not to consider as being geopolitically at the time the paramount issue.

Lastly, why divert the issue of character as adumbrated by Nietzsche, to an unproved situation of political manipulation which you call the “Munchausen by proxy”? Isn’t such a diversion rather absurd?

Lori HB,

America remains the best of all possible ‘perfections’ in an imperfect world. That is why people from all over the world are voting for America with their feet.

Gordon O,

Good to see a kindred spirit when one is ‘besieged’ with anti-Bush warriors in this Salon.

Kent Pitman,

Indeed, we should be learning our own lessons. And I agree entirely with you that we cannot talk of, or achieve, victory on bankrupt foundations, either economic or political. But one must acknowledge that the incubus of economic bankruptcy that threatens America is the ‘monster child’ that has been sired by Democratic administrations in their act of social engineering. Roosevelt and Carter were the fathers of Fannie Mae and the Community Reinvestment Act respectively, the latter resurrected by Clinton. And Obama as community organizer was threatening banks with prosecution if the latter did not offer cheap loans to his non-credit-worthy constituents.

The most effective recruiting tool would have been to withdraw from Iraq prematurely. And Iraq illustrates at its best this proposition. Because the insurgents have been defeated in the field of battle they presently face a dearth of recruits and therefore are using women and children in their suicidal missions.

If he had strength of character he would have gone against the stream in regards to the war, as McCain did at a high cost of popularity. Instead he chose to ride on the imprudent emotional wave of the anti-war movement. And it’s a fact that he was considering Clinton as his vice…but Michelle was against it and he unwisely and cravenly yielded to her wishes which might cost him the election to the presidency. Also, what Gordon O says about the “public funding issue.” I’m sure that you would agree that these are not traits of strength.


Your “failed premise” rests on the backside of hindsight. At the time of 9/11 it was a premise of a real impending threat.

Certainly we all carry our own “baggage”. But it’s a matter of character how one “chooses to deal with one’s parental issues.” You can accuse Bush of some failings—perfection is not a gift easily granted by nature—including drunkenness which he had the strength to overcome. But G.W. Bush was not daddy’s boy in the White House. Woodward in his book makes it quite clear, by implication in some cases and more directly in others, that Bush made his hard decisions with the characteristics of strength.

Max Quillen,

Thank you for your gracious intervention and your exposure of intellectually meretricious arguments.

Francisco Patino,

Thanks for the flowers while you were getting ready to entomb me into intellectual oblivion.

A field of points and I will try to separate the wheat from the chaff and answer you on the former. And it’s good to know that one’s opponent is at least of a strong character even if he is not strong in gray matter.

Touché on my “swiftly” as I concede that it was not done quickly enough and it took two years for the Bush administration to realize that it was a wrong strategy. But why you conveniently leave out the main thrust of my argument that the administration corrected this strategic error and by implementing the new strategy of the surge turned the tables on a losing war?

Indeed, “democracy does not come by force” but the CONDITIONS upon which one can build democracy sometimes come by force and a long occupation. Germany and Japan are the preeminent examples. And wasn’t the Maliki government the result of a democratic process under the auspices of the U.S. occupying power? The Iraqi people never had a direct experience of democracy only a visual one from their TV sets of the political status quo of the West. But once their tribal leaders adopted the American plan for democracy the Iraqi people followed their leaders to the ballot box. Only intellectual fixation and historical ignorance can claim that democracy perforce only rises from bottom up and cannot come down from the top.

You obviously are a votary of the intellectual and historical insolvent belief that profit as a high value is a dirty word. But it was in the cradle of the high profits of the mercantilist bourgeoisie that the Italian Renaissance was engendered and begun eroding the seigniorial class of its political power and eventually spread the seeds of democracy in the fertile lands of the European continent made on profit. An elementary history lesson that does not need a review is that democracy and the entrepreneurial search for profit are not incompatible but the sine qua non of economic prosperity. (Read the great Indian economist Amartya Sen.)

And where from my writings you “get” the impression that I’m a traducer of the principle “that all human beings seek the same basic things and are worthy of respect?” This is rather a stolid method to attribute to your opponent a fictional position so you can make your ‘tailor made’ case.

As for “bigotry, irrational religious beliefs, and ignorance this is the “plague” of democracy itself. All political parties at an election perforce have to bring this minority to their side and use different slogans and techniques to succeed in this task. Why with your strong bearings choose to be a fugitive from this reality? But my argument, as you know, was that while it’s necessary to win over this minority it would be highly unlikely politically, and indeed, stupid, to govern on its behalf.

Again on the following issue you misinterpret my position but I don’t believe you are doing this on this particular issue for sinister reasons—your strong character would not allow you to do this, although your urge to win an argument could be stronger and could trump you on this—but as a result of soft thinking. I don’t at all object to America “upholding” its values. On the contrary, I greatly admire America that it continues to water the Tree of its values, to paraphrase Franklin, with its own blood. I did not state that any of Obama’s speeches contained the “lovey dovey terrorists and my conditional “perhaps” would have made this clear to a careful reader. But there is a general belief among the liberal intelligentsia that by a softer approach by the use of “softer power” and diplomacy, one could stop fanatics from pursuing the seventy-two virgins.

Lastly one is original by the grace of nature. And no future long distance can make one original if one has not been graced by nature. Hence, to ask someone to be “a little more original” in the future is oxymoronic.

What you know and what you are pretending to know?