Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What to do about piracy

From a recent US Naval Academy Study:

As the rest of the world considers what to do about the increasingly problematic modern Somali pirates, it would behoove us to think beyond superficial and simple naval solutions on the high seas and consider the five factors underlying the long and productive careers of the Mediterranean corsairs. To analyze Somali piracy more deeply and ultimately suppress it, we must ask ourselves these vital questions:

Who are these Somali pirates?
Where do they find recruits, and how many of them are available?
Why do they take up piratical activities?
Do we know the exact number, character, and location of all of their havens?
Are these pirates organized, and if so, how are they organized, and is this organization strong and effective?
Do the Somali pirates enjoy any outside sources of support?states or groups (including terrorist groups) that are providing money, goods, weapons, intelligence, or other help to their cause?
Do these pirates maintain close bonds between one another with a keen sense of solidarity and cohesion, and if so what is the nature of this solidarity, from where does it come, and is it powerful and abiding?

We know some of the preliminary answers to these questions from intelligence gathered by American agencies. Today's Somali pirates are, in general, trained militia fighters based in the semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland. They do not call themselves pirates. Organizationally, the piracy is based on the clan system so influential in Somalia. But it is allegedly controlled by elements within the Somali government as well as businessmen in Puntland.

The pirates are based in camps located adjacent to coastal port villages, and they also deploy previously captured ships as sea-going bases, or mother-ships. We do not know how intense the bonds of solidarity are among these raiders, but one would guess that relations are strong since the piracy overlays the indigenous clan system. At this time, analysts discern few clear links to terrorism, but this possible development is of ongoing concern.

The key to eradicating Somali piracy lies in interrupting the larger, complex system that supports it. It is essential that the pirates be intercepted in action on the high seas, and the United States and its allies should continue to meet this objective. However, the situation is more complicated than that, and the longer the system is permitted to stay in place and grow, the more intractable the piracy problem will become.

Possible courses of action include somehow interrupting the flow of recruits (by introducing alternative economic possibilities, for instance), establishing some sort of compelling alternative to the clan system (an action that would weaken the pirates' organizational structure and feeling of solidarity), and eradicating the base camps.

Diligent efforts must also be made to prevent the Somali pirates from acquiring outside sources of sponsorship and support. The danger is that al Qaeda (or some other terrorist group) will seek involvement in the enterprise, especially since Somalia is an Islamic country. Al Qaeda has experience both in international shipping and allegedly the piracy affecting Southeast Asia.

Above all, we must not ignore this contemporary African piracy or underestimate its potential severity simply because we arrogantly assume that pirates in small speedboats (the Somalis' raiding craft of choice) can do little harm. Indeed, one of the vital lessons the history of the golden age of piracy imparts is that pirates can do serious damage with what seem to be unformidable naval assets. As in the case study of the Barbary corsairs, it is ultimately the support system—based on the previously mentioned five fundamental factors—that determines the success of piracy.

Or . . . "We could blow the heads off Muslim teenagers who were just looking to get something to eat and go home" - which is how the media would have framed the US Navy Seals' action on Sunday if George Bush had been President.


twest said...

"....to the shores of Tripoli" - in the opening line of the Marine Corps Hymm. Unbelievably still relevant today. Muslim pirates along the Barbary Coast of North Africa captured and ransomed ships during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Attempts at "reconciliation" were tried and failed by European nations so they continued to pay the ransoms. Does this still sound familiar!? Jefferson knew the U.S. had no money for ransoms after the War for Independence and War of 1812, so sent a couple frigates with U.S. Marines to Tripoli, Libya, the pirates haven of choice at the time. Problem solved for 200 years.

Sorry for the history lesson, but I find it amazing how history will repeat itself.....

Mike West said...

If I owned a "business" (ship) and I kept getting robbed, I would beef up my security and I would have to pay for it myself. Shipping companies own the ships, so they should be responsible for providing the necessary security to protect their own ships. I would think laser type fences around the perimeter of the ship could work well, or maybe some barbed wire? Something that slows them down enough for you to get a good shot.

Brodad Unkabuddy said...

I know the companies that own these cargo ships are paying extravagant insurance premiums. And I guess the rates are only going to go up if crews are armed (accidents, etc.) It's all about the "odds". In my business, it took an act of Congress to arm pilots. I'm sure it's even more complicated when you're talking about international law.

vwatt said...

From the Rushbo show?? Probably:

Or . . . "We could blow the heads off Muslim teenagers who were just looking to get something to eat and go home" - which is how the media would have framed the US Navy Seals' action on Sunday if George Bush had been President."

I think it's way past time that we stop blaming Bush for everything...most of these Seals probably completed their training while Bush was President so we can say he set the wheels in motion for this successful operation. Just as we can give him credit for ushering in a strong 2009 Federal economy and balanced budg -whooops.sorry, that one won't work....

Brodad Unkabuddy said...

Is that the same strong 2009 economy that the Democratic controlled Congress ushered in? Is that the one you're talking about?