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Friday, April 11, 2008

Le Ponant Crew Released

About an hour or so ago French authorities announced that the Somali pirates holding the Le Ponant had released the crew without incident. President Sarkozy of France praised the French armed forces for their help in negotiating the release.

The French have a substantial military presence in Djibouti and I think we can assume they have the means and the open channels to make contact with leadership and others associated with many different renegade, stateless groups, especially those in North Africa, where the French themselves have an ancient footprint.

France has a not-so-admirable history of negotiating with terrorists and rebels, looking for an easy way out as opposed to a winner-loser solution borne of conflict. It wasn't by accident that Yassir Arafat made a home for his wife Suha in Paris and that he eventually died in a hospital there. However, this doesn't necessarily suggest the latest negotiation is a mirror of this older French policy of reconciliation and capitulation. The French side of the negotiation might have been on the order of: "Militarily, if you don't let the crew go, here's what we're prepared to do."

But the pirates still hold the vessel Le Ponant, which, as you can tell from the photo, is a luxury yacht of substantial value. I doubt seriously the French government will authorize force to get back personal or corporate property. And yet, extortion is an internationally recognized crime worthy of swift and decisive police action.


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