Friday, January 9, 2009

This Can't Be Good

Picture above is of a canister filled with $3 million being parachuted onto a ship held ransom by Somali pirates. Source here, with more great photos. Piracy has been a scourge for centuries, despite the romance you might see in film, and our nation's earliest naval battles after independence involved piracy. Although piracy is certainly a form of injustice and a proper topic of this blog, I haven't commented because I am conflicted on how the United States should deal with this. Turns out the two leading Naval bloggers, Information Dissemination and CDR Salamander, are also at odds over tactics and strategy; I highly recommend their blogs for naval topics. Information Dissemination is arguing the need for a coalition to fight piracy, with an eye on the longer term goal of drawing China and India into long term strategic partnerships. The good Commander argues that we can never really count on such allies, even temporarily, because ultimately our national interests diverge, calling this the triumph of hope over experience.

A further complication is that I am not sure if the Somali pirates aren't the enemy of my enemy, specifically Islamic extremists. In a previous seizure, the pirates claimed that they were preventing shipments of heavy weapons through Kenya to help the vicious Islamofascist regime of Sudan pummel Christians in the Darfur. From Questionable Source:

This story is interesting because it paints a highly accurate picture of the political realities at play in Africa. Somali pirates, who are hired to hijack ships to pay for food, seize a shipment of Russian arms inbound to either Kenya, Somalia, or Sudan, to either aid or repel Islamic extremists, depending on where this particular shipment was going. American and Russian battleships surround the Somali pirates to ensure that the arms reach a favorable destination, which could be anywhere in a region where loyalties can change instantly with some financing. Islamic extremists wage a daily war against the transitional Somali government and their Ethiopian allies, fueled by arms imports from Russia and China.

Ultimately, this rash of piracy highlights the failure of the rule of law in the entire region. Putting an end to it, we must, but by what means? Further, we need to keep in mind that the same militant Islamic extremism that fueled the 9/11 attacks is on the march not only in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, but in East Africa as well. Call it a war on terror or not, we are in for a long slog against enemies with whom we can not compromise.

As to those pirates and all that swag?

But as they made off they continued to row about the payout.

'Two of them swam and survived. One is still missing.

The weather was so terrible that it blew the boat over, then sank it.

We got five dead bodies and we are still searching for the missing one. The waves were disastrous,' said Farah Osman, an associate of the gang.

It is not known what happened to the money or those who survived.

Nice. Maybe we should suggest sending T-bills in the future.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I'd lost track of this story as I've been focusing entirely on financial matters and Movable Type. I didn't know the ransom for the tanker had been sent.

    Thanks for the link, too!

    I'm all for action until I look at the size of the ocean that you need to patrol. This isn't 1944 and we don't have hundreds of escort ships to protect convoys. We've probably got less than ten ships in the area. Unless you're going to go Roman on them and simply burn their villages and cities to the ground until they cut it out, I'm not sure there's much you can do.

  2. Nice post, B-Daddy.

    You alluded to it but the "enemy of my enemies" angle is based in shifting sands, also.

    These pirates claim they headed off shipments of guns/ammo to Islamic jihadists... that's great.

    But given their behavior illustrated by the quarrel over the ransom, their allegiances appear to reside only in their back pockets and thus should be treated as such.

  3. Dean,
    I agree with your assessment of their loyalties, I included that only to show the complicating factors. The real issue is lawlessness in the region, and I include the jihadists among the lawless, even when they take over an entire state such as Afghanistan, they still behave like the thugs that they are.

    You are correct, it is a very big ocean.