Monday, December 22, 2008

Somali Piracy--should we fish or cut bait?

We can't leave Somalia alone, notwithstanding Bush's blunders and regardless of whether you think America is the Great Shaitan or the world's last best hope for international peace--for the simple fact that Somali piracy is wreaking havoc on international shipping. 

The pirate's apologists can rant all they want about how it's all our fault and they're just peaceful fishermen forced into this. Whether we played a role in their turning to piracy or not, and whether they'd (re)turn to fishing after making hundreds of millions of dollars from piracy (yeah, right), they're a menace to navigation and must be stopped. 

The Somalis do have a legitimate grievance against many other nations: foreign trawlers have not only removed most of the fish Somalis used to catch but have also destroyed the fishes' breeding grounds (that's what trawling does). 

But to the no doubt disappointment of those who think America's to blame for everything, those foreign trawlers aren't American. They're Portuguese, Taiwanese etc. 

Yes, Somali piracy is doubtless symptomatic of other stuff, and I doubt that stopping the piracy will do anything to fix that other stuff, and I agree that the other stuff needs sorting out--perhaps with a UN mandate, since self-determination would only be possible if you disarmed the warlords' militias so that traditional Somali institutions could function again. 

But we can't wait for that other stuff to get sorted out. Nor is an unfleet of warships from various countries--some of which are countries the poaching trawlers come from--working out so well.

We need a unified command imposing order on Somali waters--one that would both stop the pirates and expel the foreign poachers. International law needs to be updated to explicitly enable captains of ships who capture pirates to try them on board, sentence them to death, execute them on the spot and dump their bodies in the sea. All the Somalis on shore need know is that pirates go out and don't come back. 

This is also a perfect area for new technology like UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). UAVs could patrol Somalia's long coastline and notify patrolling vessels when pirates set out in skiffs (easily recognizable) or in motherships (which could then be interdicted and boarded by warships and/or choppers).

The ships now being held by the pirates (almost always under the control of several warlords) must be boarded and retaken--all simultaneously in a large operation. Some crewmen will die, but it's worth it in the long run.

Many left wingers quail at the brutal realities of the world. They believe in a Star Trek universe where everything is solved by sweet reason. The irony is that to the extent that they get control of nations' foreign policies they often cause as much human suffering as right wing warmongers do.

International peace isn't a freebie. If you study history, you'll sea that it has only been brought about by a tough, dominant nation, often administered unfairly and brutally--but better than the chaos that's the only alternative. The Romans did it. Now it's our turn. Bush gave war a bad name, but that's not because war isn't the only answer sometimes. It was because he's a fool in the purest sense of the term.

None of what I've said justifies Bush's blunders. I'm just trying to deliver a wake-up call to those who let their ideologies swamp their ability to perceive things as they really are, for better and for worse.

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