Opining About Pirates

The spate of piracy on the Somali seas has set pundits galore a-commentin’. Before I survey the blogosphere, though, let me highlight a particularly keen — and under-discussed — recommendation. Professor Peter Lehr (he edited a book on piracy, so he must know what he’s talking about) is adamant that fighting pirates can only ever be half the solution.

The other is to protect Somali waters against illegal fishing, thus giving local fishermen a fair chance to earn a living without turning to criminality. With all the focus on piracy and the “lure of easy money”, it is all but forgotten that the majority of Somali fishermen do just that – try to earn a decent living against all odds, and now more and more often in the crossfire of pirates and navies.

What people caught up in reporting the exploits of “the pirates” neglect to mention is that this is not a select coterie of the same criminals, over and over. While pirates certainly do strike twice (and thrice, and more), the sex appeal lure of piracy as a quick-fix to disastrous economic circumstances presumably draws disparate actors into this high-profile banditry. Throw in legitimate grievances about unregulated fishing practices — plus far too many easily available guns — and you have a pretty straightforward explanation for the uptick in piracy.

Now, on to what some others are saying:Matt Yglesias makes the very valid point that modern-day pirates are not just for amusement and that — this is not meant to be funny either — piracy is particularly hard to combat because “the ocean is extremely large, [and] boats move around.”

Yevgeny Bendersky at RealClearWorld enjoins us to take a look at “Pirati 20 Veka” (20th Century Pirates), that prescient 1980 Soviet thriller.

The conservative blog “Stop the ACLU” recommends that powerful countries’ navies “should just go and blockade the Somali ports.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says stopping piracy shouldn’t be “incumbent upon the armed forces of the world” and that commercial ships should have more security guards. And bombard pirates with “high-frequency sounds.”

Marty Peretz thinks that perhaps we should just bombard them with actual bombs.

Maybe the Iranian navy can help.

Adam Blickstein at Democracy Arsenal advises that we look across the Gulf — to the growing terrorist breeding ground of Yemen.

The Guardian editorializes that the problem requires “an international solution” and stricter regulation of the shipping industry — as long as it cleans up its long-unregulated act.

And The Economist…chants “ahoy!”