Standoff With Pirates Shows U.S. Power Has Limits

05/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • MARK MAZZETTI New York Times

The Indian Ocean standoff between an $800 million United States Navy destroyer and four pirates bobbing in a lifeboat showed the limits of the world's most powerful military as it faces a booming pirate economy in a treacherous patch of international waters.

Driven solely by economic gain, not politics or religion, the band of pirates who captured an American merchant ship's captain on Wednesday are an unconventional foe for the American military. In recent years, they have shrewdly extorted millions of dollars from international shipping companies; to help negotiate the captain's release, the Navy turned for advice on Thursday to an F.B.I. hostage rescue team, practiced in a patient approach.

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