MORE ON PIRACY: Ruth Wedgwood: The Law Adrift. “The West is tangled in a postmodern confusion over the law of armed conflict, human rights law, solipsistic views of national criminal jurisdiction and, above all, a stunning lack of common sense. This should arrest the attention of any legal historian. In the origins of international law, piracy was considered the gravest act against the good order of the state system.”

Further thoughts from Eric Posner. “President Obama has every reason to be concerned. He also has little room to maneuver. Having just returned from a trip promoting internationalism, he has raised expectations that any anti-piracy endeavor will have an internationalist flavor. This will mean costly, time-consuming negotiations for the sake of largely symbolic contributions by other countries, if history is any guide. Having also raised expectations that his administration will act with the utmost respect for legality, Obama will either have to direct American forces to walk on eggshells or risk exposing his words as empty. If the pirates continue to take American hostages, he will have trouble maintaining these commitments while giving satisfaction to the inevitable nationalist backlash driven by the mounting sense of powerless and humiliation that we haven’t seen since the Carter years.”