Pirates Don’t Fear the Red, White, and Blue

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later. Hundreds of ships pass through the Gulf of Aden transporting cargo. Some of those ships are American. Today, one of those ships was hijacked by pirates.

Pirates commandeered a United States-flagged container ship with 20 American crew members off the coast of Somalia on Wednesday, the first time an American-crewed ship was seized by pirates in the area.

The container ship, the Maersk Alabama, was carrying thousands of tons of relief aid to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the company that owns the ship said.

After a lull in January and February — which many analysts assumed, rather logically, corresponded a least somewhat causally with the increased international investment in naval patrols and anti-piracy measures — pirates have been back with a vengeance over the last month-plus, even seizing five ships over a period of 48 hours recently. A number of factors are likely responsible for this surge, but what optimistic analysts seem to keep missing is the fact that, as many ships that NATO, EU, the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and other countries put off the coast of Somalia, they still have to cover an area of over a million square miles of water. And, we’re dealing with pirates out here.

It’s hard to see how the United States could be more involved in anti-piracy work, which, by all accounts, has been raised to the level of a priority far more serious than that with which the crisis on land in Somalia has been addressed. Unfortunately, it’s this latter problem — even more complicated and maddening than pirates that just won’t stop hijacking your ships — that will need to be dealt with before a lid can fully be put on the piracy problem offshore. For now, the United States and other countries will almost certainly bolster the international naval presence, hoping, effectively, that with a few more people looking, they’ll be able to catch those needles in the haystack.