Just Try Fighting Pirates Without a Navy

An editorial in Kenya’s Daily Nation thinks that the international community’s response to the pirate crisis has been too focused on a military solution.

[I]nstead of sabre-rattling in a situation as fraught with danger as this, maybe the United Nations should be thinking of employing the services of negotiators skilled in the art of handling hostage situations.

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The United Nations has passed two resolutions authorizing countries to use naval force to combat piracy. And NATO is ready to comply, agreeing to send its warships to join those of the United States and Russia off the coast of Somalia. But this does not mean that international organizations are not engaged in negotiations. In fact, it’s been negotiations that have resulted in the potential ransom deal with the Ukrainian ship and today’s release of a Japanese ship that pirates had seized.

The Daily Nation‘s broader point, though, is valid; the response to lawless bandits marauding cargo and passenger ships with impunity will require a significant commitment and reorientation of strategy. One key process, as I argued here, is connecting the anarchy at sea to the anarchy on the ground. This means seriously delving into the messy and difficult realities of Somali politics and working to forge a government that enjoys widespread legitimacy and can both protect its civilians and control the terrorist threat on and offshore.

Preparing a military component to an international anti-piracy strategy, in short, by no means precludes other, equally important initiatives. I do believe, though, that dealing with such intransigent law-breakers — not to mention simply protecting ships and humanitarian aid convoys — requires the mobilization of naval resources. And plus, the pirates still seem to have eyes for nothing but the money.

(Image from flickr user Ligadier Truffaut using a Creative Commons license)