BBC Reporter: Americans 'Bellicose', Exhibiting 'Hostage Jingoism'

BBC Kenya-based reporter Karen Allen is happy that the problem of Somali piracy, and the underlying problem of Somalia as a failed state, has been brought to the fore by the recent Maersk Alabama hostage crisis. But -- and you knew there was a but coming -- she complains that the approach favored by Americans may well be too "bellicose":

The downside, though, is the bellicose way in which the Americans have pledged to sort the piracy problem out.

No-one seemed that bothered when it was just Filipinos, Indians and Egyptians being held.

Now there appears to be a sort of "hostage jingoism" - at least, that is the view from many observers here on the ground.

The worry is that it could very easily be exploited by some in Somalia to stoke up yet more anti-American sentiment.

So there you have it. Americans only care when Americans are at stake, and as usual our instincts are bound to escalate the violence and worsen the problem, not improve it.

Perhaps Allen has forgetten that the French navy has also been "bellicose" in its use of special forces to stop pirates, and last December the Indian navy took action which resulted in the arrest of 23 pirates in the Gulf of Aden. 

Allen closed her article by offering up the hopes and dreams of the Kenyan people on President Obama and his liberal approach to foreign policy, particularly in neighboring Somalia:

People here hope that with President Obama now in charge, the approach will be more constructive - policies designed to restore security, stability and fresh opportunities in war-torn Somalia - rather than blasting it with military might either directly or through proxies like Ethiopia.

That Somali pirates had the temerity to attack another US ship just days after the Alabama was seized, is bound to make that a much harder argument to win.

But with President Obama's African roots - his father was Kenyan - many here believe there is now the best chance ever to steer this Horn of African state towards stability.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.