A NEW REFRAIN FOR THE RIGHT…. For a while, “soft on communism” was all the rage in conservative circles. That eventually shifted to “soft on terrorism.” Now, get ready for “soft on piracy.”

The National Review‘s Victor Davis Hanson wrote yesterday that he has “three thoughts about the pirates” from Somalia, before making four points. His third was arguably the most interesting. (via Isaac Chotiner)

In academic circles the last two decades, pirates have been romanticized in a variety of contexts — as in pirates being contrarian individualists, admirable anarchists, Marxist redistributionists, sexually ambiguous, cross-dressing, transgendered libertines, and Lotus-eater-like sensualists, rather than as murderous criminals. Who knows, maybe such esoteric theorizing has filtered down to the U.S. State Department.

Yes, the U.S. State Department can’t get Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley out of their minds, so officials can’t quite bring themselves to care about well-armed thugs off the coast of Somalia.

Hanson went on to argue that “Obamists” are weakening the country with “their serial apologetics” — seriously, he wrote this without a hint of humor — and replacing our cherished “unpredictable” foreign policy, built on “deterrence,” with “a touchy-feely sort of seminar discussion.” It’s led to an environment, Hanson believes, in which “two-bit pirates” boast, “We are not afraid of the Americans.”

We’re supposed to believe that the piracy, in other words, is a result of President Obama’s departure from Bush/Cheney-style “toughness.”

It’s difficult to take such transparent nonsense seriously, but I suppose it couldn’t hurt to point out that piracy off the coast of Somalia began in earnest in 2005 and 2006. By the end of Bush’s second term, offshore banditry had become the single biggest money-maker in Somalia’s economy.

Funny, the pirates didn’t seem especially impressed at the time by Bush’s “unpredictable” foreign policy, built on “deterrence.” It’s almost as if they spent the last four years saying, “We are not afraid of the Americans.”

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.