This time, they aimed a little lower.  Instead of hijacking a container ship full of relief-aid food destined for their own country, Somali pirates reportedly took a tugboat in the Gulf of Aden:

U.S. warships are trying to stop Somali pirates from sending reinforcements to a lifeboat where an American captain is being held hostage as the high-seas standoff off Africa’s eastern coast entered a fourth day Saturday.

A Nairobi-based diplomat, who spoke on condition on anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to reporters, said the pirates have summoned assistance but at least two American ships and U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft are deterring pirate ships and skiffs from contact with the lifeboat.

Underscoring the high stakes involved, France’s navy on Friday freed a sailboat seized off Somalia last week by other pirates, but one of the hostages was killed.

Somali pirates have hijacked an American-owned tugboat with 16 crew in the Gulf of Aden, the head of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program said Saturday.

The tugboat was towing two barges when pirates attacked it, according to the EASAP spokesman.  Neither American nor Italian sources would confirm the capture, but that and the call for reinforcements from the pirates underscores their increasingly bold nature.  If we thought a show of force from the US Navy would send the pirates scurrying for cover, we may have underestimated their determination to hold their ground.

This emphasizes the need to react swiftly, using the full might of our power, when piracy arises.  In a real sense, this is asymmetrical warfare, only with a profit motive rather than theological extremism pushing it.  If we scale down our response to the same level as theirs, or incrementally rather than overwhelmingly higher, then we play on their ground and not ours.  If we expect to have a realistic deterrent in our navy, then we have to allow them to unleash their full fury on the pirates — all of the pirates — when they dare to attack American shipping, and Western shipping in general.

The pirates have not heeded our power because thus far we have shown an unwillingness to wield it.  Just as with religious-extremist terrorists, they will feast on American targets as long as they sense that reluctance to seriously deal with the problem.