During the tense days when ship captain Richard Phillips was held hostage by Somali pirates, President Obama wisely kept his mouth shut, letting operational people do what needed to be done.
Much less wise was his declaration the weekend before that, "Should North Korea decide to take this action [launch a long-range rocket], we will work with all interested partners in the international community to take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that they cannot threaten the safety and stability of other countries with impunity." The action? None. We did not let the Japanese shoot down the rocket when it passed through their airspace. Predictably, the United Nations Security Council has done nothing either. Lesson: Don't huff and puff unless you intend to blow the house down.
Many Americans were left scratching their heads when Obama said, during a speech in Turkey that "America is not a Christian nation." How's that? It was founded by Christians and the majority of its people continue to profess to be Christians. If he had said that, along with the important stipulation that our constitution prohibits the establishment of a state religion and that all its citizens have complete religious freedom, he would have been on solid ground. As it was, a good many people interpreted his mark as being anti-Christian.
Then, last Friday, he declared that he saw "glimmers of hope" in the economy. Everyone hopes he's right, but this came on the heels of news the day before that Federal Reserve experts were predicting a recession well into 2010.
While the Obama wordsmiths and Teleprompter need to tune up his rhetoric so it takes note of the sensibilities of more than one target group at a time, we can all celebrate the fact this public silence concluded during the hostage standoff concluded with the successful rescue of Captain Phillips.
The message to would-be pirates is clear: Don't mess with American ships and crews. This should be expanded to all commercial shipping in the Gulf of Aden region. We should seek the cooperation of the other nations supplying naval ships to the effort, as well as to international shipowners and shippers. Unified word should go out to the latter groups that they should hire well-trained security details to sail aboard their ships. On sighting pirate boats about to toss lines aboard with which to climb up for a hijacking, the security men should fire on the boats and sink them.
It won't take more than a few pirates facing a 100-mile swim back to Somalia to put "paid" to the whole pirate enterprise. Even the nervous insurance companies should cheer that outcome, for it will bring down both risks and rates.
Mr. Hannaford is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger.