When news broke on 1 April that Somali pirates attacked a U.S. warship in the Indian Ocean, I first thought it was an April Fool's joke because certainly even pirates weren't that stupid. However, reports of an attack on a Dutch warship in March and two more on French warships in 2009 told me it was not a hoax.
Somali pirates are attacking warships, but not because they are seeking victory in naval battle, as evidenced by the fact that they threw down their weapons when they realized their error. Their long journeys with inadequate supplies and detection capabilities lead them to attack any big ship that might produce a nice ransom. These misguided decisions provide an interesting opportunity to strike a major blow to piracy in the Indian Ocean. We can exploit pirates' desperation by disguising naval ships—discreetly outfitted with combat systems, weapons, and military personnel—as soft merchant targets.