Can’t We All Just Fight Pirates Together?

Bjoern Seibert writes on The Argument that, when it comes to anti-piracy patrols, too many chefs battleships in the kitchen Gulf of Aden make for an unsavory stew of piracy.  His points are well-taken: NATO and EU can tend to get into a show of gamesmanship; fighting piracy is a crowd-pleaser for both alliances; and coordination difficulties between the two can be expected in such a complicated endeavor.

For these reasons, I was even more reassured, after reading Seibert’s post, that the UN is not insisting on elbowing its way into the pirate-fighting game.  The Secretary-General’s most recent report [pdf] on Somali piracy is also refreshing in this regard: it acknowledges and supports the efforts currently ongoing; stresses the UN’s work in liasing and coordinating countries’ anti-piracy mechanisms; and, taking into account the “operational capacity and resources of the United Nations Secretariat,” refrains from advising a UN military presence (something that countries would be wise to consider when it comes time to discuss a possible UN peacekeeping mission on land in Somalia).

The unfortunate flipside of the international indignation over piracy off Somalia’s coast has always been the appalling negligence to which the instability in the country itself has been treated.  While NATO and EU are eager to speed into the Gulf of Aden and burnish their pirate-busting credentials, the same kind of will (or ease) just doesn’t exist when it comes to peace-making, capacity-building, and law-and-order-upholding.  Sure, pirates are an enemy of China and the United States alike — and everyone (in the waters) between — but aren’t, say, terrorist landlubbers as well?

But then, if building up state structures stable enough to withstand terrorism were as easy as fighting pirates, then we could just station a whole bunch of troops around the country.  Oops — guess it isn’t that easy out there on the deep blue sea either.