In war, truth is the first casualty. –Aeschylus

Not quite a year ago I waxed slightly poetic about the French Navy’s qualities in the Le Ponant mission. If you recall, this was the luxury yacht that was captured in the Gulf of Aden and then ransomed, and subsequently a commando mission of the style of a Charlie Sheen movie (but with less casualties) bagged pirates, who were triumphantly brought back to Paris to stand trial.

It seems that the devil is, in fact, in the details.

If William Langewiesche’s Vanity Fair story is to be believed, the much-applauded Le Ponant rescue mission seems to have been rather long on PR and rather short on actual heroics by les commandos francais. Basically, after some delaying and theatrics reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin movie, the pirates got paid off—in fact paying them off is cost-effective by a long shot, possibly even profitable, or so the cited article claims—and a small proportion of the money was recovered. Three hapless pirates were purloined back to Paris. An SUV was destroyed with an anti-tank rocket which alone probably cost more than the recovered ransom. I have little doubt the entire military theater cost far more than the ransom. It’s not even clear that they were all even pirates; one may simply be a taxi driver. Of course, after perpetrating the Jessica Lynch fraud, it should be noted that the US military is in no position to talk, but nonetheless, the Le Ponant story has a peculiarly gallic je ne sais quoi? to it.

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