The ABA Journal recently detailed the swath of lawyers (16 out of 25) populating the top echelon of Barack Obama's transition team. Both Obama and Vice-President-elect Joe Biden are lawyers, the first time Americans have elected an all-attorney ticket since Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. What can America expect from an executive branch teeming with lawyers? This month's scenes from the Somali coast might offer a troubling glimpse.
Pirates have seized nine vessels in the last two weeks and attacked at least 80 ships this year, threatening commerce and jeopardizing human lives. Most notoriously, they captured a super-tanker carrying $100 million of crude oil, and are holding the crew hostage for ransom. In an op-ed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal titled "Pirates Exploit Confusion About International Law," David Rivkin Jr. and Lee Casey explained how legal uncertainty among governments is stymieing efforts to combat the pirates who are wreaking havoc on East-African high seas.
Rivkin and Casey observed that "America's NATO allies have effectively abandoned the historical legal rules permitting irregular fighters to be tried in special military courts (or, in the case of pirates, admiralty courts) in favor of a straightforward criminal-justice model…common criminals cannot be targeted with military force." They went on to explain that last year "the British Foreign Office reportedly warned the Royal Navy not to detain pirates, since this might violate their 'human rights.'"
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