Piracy: It’s complicated

According to this FOX News Report, the U.S. military is considering attacks on Somali pirate bases on land and aid for Somalia to help stop the hijacking of ships off Africa’s coast:

The plan would include helping Somalia create their own coast guard and train security forces, the officials, who requested anonymity, told Bloomberg.com.

Officials said the plan would be submitted to the Obama administration as they decide how best to tackle the increase in pirate attacks off the Somali coast.

That might not be such a good idea. Somalia is controlled, in part, by Islamists affiliated with al Qaeda. If the pirate mob didn’t have connections to the Islamist mobs, it’s not likely that they could survive in Somalia. If the pirate mob didn’t have connections with the government, they also couldn’t survive.

And the pirates may not be based in Somalia. According to a Kenyan commenter here:

I am from Kenya and we hear of these pests every other day. I really feel it for the hostages and my encouragements to their families. Amazingly what happens is that with the ransom money being paid in Somalia, the masterminds of piracy do not stay there…..for obvious security reasons. They stay in Nairobi, Kenya as “refugees”. Here, in the capital, this money is laundered in real estate, where the “chief pirateers”, own shopping malls, upmarket homes and huge oil import-export businesses. Of course this money is used to compromise authorities. The worst bit is the local indigenous Kenyan can no longer afford property due to sky-rocketing prices. They have laundered the ransom money and prices of property is totally out of reach for locals. It is unfortunate, if the US pays the ransom…..you will continue harming those downstream….the local, simple Kenyan!

If we wander back into the wilds of Somalia, we’d have to choose between supporting the pirates or the Wahhabis. In the worst case scenario, we’d be supporting both. If we choose to bomb the pirate’s home base, we might have to target their properties in Kenya.

Then there’s the Ethiopian question.

I’d guess that the best solution is the simplest one – patrol the high seas the way we used to before the British (and other nations) started fretting about the ‘human rights’ of pirates.

Add some tech improvements to good-old fashioned piracy patrols. In the last 200 pirate-free years, we’ve made use of airplanes, satellites, unmanned drones, transponders and GPS units. Let’s make more use of them.

Provide armed guards and train sailors to defend themselves in dangerous waters. Self defense is a basic human right, and our reliance on legal authority legalisms and the imaginary benefits of international goodwill has taken away our ability to react rationally to aggressors. The remarkable heroism of Captain Richard Phillips, the Navy snipers and the crew of the Maersk Alabama reminds us of how things should be. Phillips’ neighbor, Sheila Aiken, said:

“It’s like it just changed the world back to the world.”

As Mark Steyn writes in his essay “Our Reprimitivized Future”:

As it happens, Somali piracy is not a distraction, but a glimpse of the world the day after tomorrow. In my book America Alone, I quote Robert D. Kaplan referring to the lawless fringes of the map as “Indian Territory.” It’s a droll jest but a misleading one, since the very phrase presumes that the badlands will one day be brought within the bounds of the ordered world. In fact, a lot of today’s badlands were relatively ordered not so long ago, and many of them are getting badder and badder by the day. Half a century back, Somaliland was a couple of sleepy colonies, British and Italian, poor but functioning. Then it became a state, and then a failed state, and now the husk of a nation is a convenient squat from which to make mischief. According to Chatham House in London, Somali pirates made about $30 million in ransom and booty last year. Thirty mil goes a long way in Somalia, making piracy a very attractive proposition…

…Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty’s Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life. I doubt Pirates of the Caribbean would have cleaned up at the box office if the big finale had shown Geoffrey Rush and his crew of scurvy sea dogs settling down in council flats in Manchester and going down to the pub for a couple of jiggers of rum washed down to cries of “Aaaaargh, shiver me benefits check, lad.” From “Avast, me hearties!” to a vast welfare scam is not progress…

In a world of legalisms, resistance is futile…

All nations and all citizens, on the high seas, in the suburban backyards of Kenya, London, Iraq’s Anbar province and Middle America USA should be allowed to defend themselves against Islamist gangster aggression. Let’s make the world the world again.


About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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