There’s More to Fight Than Just Piracy

A whole collection of navies from around the globe (even from hitherto pacifist Japan!) have pooled their resources to do battle against those enemies-of-all — or are they really more like vigilante coastguards? — the pirates off the coast of Somalia. And guess who is leading the charge.

A new international force to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia is being formed and will be headed by an American admiral, the US navy says.

More than 20 nations are expected to contribute to the force, due to be fully operational later in January.

If the mightiest navies of the world can’t take down these machine gun-toting, speedboat-crusing marauders, then Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, the newly elected president of Puntland, Somalia’s semiautonomous government and apparently underestimated maritime power, says he’s got it covered.

“I will eliminate the piracy… and will deal with the security,” he said.


Except that…the recently resigned president of Somalia’s nominally “national” government was also from Puntland, and he didn’t have much success in either clamping down on pirates or controlling the anarchic violence in his own country. And as the tide seems to turn against the terrorists criminals of the sea — pirates have allegedly released the huge Saudi oil tanker that they’d been holding since November, in exchange for a cool (parachuted) $3 million (hopefully in new bills) — the situation on land in Somalia is getting correspondingly worse. Ethiopian troops supporting the fragile government are heading out, and Islamic insurgents are moving in, taking over police stations in Mogadishu.

The gulf [no pun intended] of international attention between the anarchy threatening shipping lanes and that threatening the lives of Somali civilians is not just morally disheartening. It also unfortunately underscores the ultimate need to focus more serious efforts at rebuilding Somali society on land as the only way to address the roots of the crisis on the seas. I am reassured that the world community can come together so quickly and effectively to fight the scourge of piracy, but there are many other — and typically less “sexy” — scourges out there equally in need of fighting…just not always with battle cruisers.

(image of a portrait of Admiral Chester Nimitz — not, as far as I know, a pirate hunter — from flickr user cliff1066 under a Creative Commons license)