Libya's shelling of Cook Islands ship gives New Zealand its own Maersk Tigris moment

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The Libyan Navy has attacked a civilian ship off that country's coast, as it was apparently bringing supplies for an Islamist rival militia, which Turkey has been accused of backing. The Turkish-owned ship was shelled from the shore and then attacked from the air. It caught fire and was towed to port, with at least one crew-member killed.

Some quick observations:
1) The vessel was flagged out of the Cook Islands, a Pacific nation with much the same defense relationship with New Zealand as the Marshall Islands have with the U.S. While under the former relationship, the Cooks must formally ask for assistance, it is unlikely that Wellington would brave the Barbary Coast to release the captured vessel.

It is quite a historical moment when the security benefits of being a New Zealand protectorate are indistinguishable from those of being an American protectorate.

2. It is unclear from news accounts if the ship was in territorial waters, but given the resulting loss of life, this is a matter of international note. One wonders how long it will be before the U.N. creates special commissions to investigate, as has been its past response to the violent loss of life on Turkish vessels.

3. Turkey is vigorously complaining about the incident as a violation of international law, though one should note a country has a right to close its own ports and waters to foreign shipping. Of course, the reality here may be closer to a blockade of a rebel-held area.

4. The U.S.-European war against Libya seems to entailed broad set of unpleasant and unintended consequences, though one sees very little public hand-wringing in these countries about it, especially compared to other recent interventions.