'On Tuesday, Somali pirates shot and killed four American hostages. A single hostage intentionally killed by these pirates had been almost unheard of; four dead was unprecedented. Until now, the first thing that came to mind about Somalia’s buccaneers was that they were brash and mercurial. Just a few weeks ago they let go some Sri Lankan fishermen after they essentially said, “You’re poor, like us.” They were seen as a nuisance, albeit an expensive one, but not a lethal threat.
'Exactly what happened Tuesday is still murky. Pirates in the Arabian Sea had hijacked a sailboat skippered by a retired couple from California, and when the American Navy closed in, the pirates got twitchy. Navy Seals rushed aboard but it was too late. It’s still not clear why the pirates would want to kill the hostages when their business model, which has raked in more than $100 million in the past few years, is based on ransoming captives alive.
'“Of course, I do not know what the U.S. will do in response to this latest atrocity,” said Frank Lambert, a professor at Purdue who is an expert on the Barbary pirates. But, he said, “Jefferson advocated an armed response and eventually war against Tripoli for far less provocation.”'