19 November 2008

Piracy in the 21st Century

In today's piracy news -- what kind of world are we living in that we need that intro? -- India seems to be stepping up to deal with the Somali pirates. The Indians sank what is described as a "mother ship" for the Somali speedboats, and news accounts report other actions against the raiders in what is, after all, the far reaches of the Indian Ocean. But raids continue and reports of them are reaching epidemic proportions.

It leaves me wondering why the United Nations can't assemble a fleet to wipe out the pirates. What superpower would veto such a plan? The Russians are already aggrieved at the pirates, and I can't imagine the Chinese imagining that they'd benefit from rampant piracy. Britain and France? Not likely. But guess what I read in this article? The good old U.S.A. is urging shippers to hire private security, and none other than our old friends at Blackwater are declaring themselves available -- on the premise, presumably, that it takes pirates to beat pirates. But shouldn't the lesson of the present news be that we want less privatized naval power on the world's oceans? The article says that no country wants to be the policeman of the Gulf of Aden, but that's all the more reason to develop a U.N. navy. Suppressing piracy and protecting international commerce is one of the reasons why there ought to be something like the U.N. in the first place.

Of course, it'd also help if Somalia could put its own house in order, but there, too, one gets the sense that there are powers restraining the process. Considering that the group that came closest to pacifying the place most recently were labeled "Islamists," one can guess that the U.S. isn't exactly helping things along. Some people believe that the U.S. would rather see chaos than strong government in some places, for strategic or ideological reasons. While we oughtn't overrate American ability to straighten things out even if we wanted to, the current chaos leaves me wondering about what might be and what might not be allowed.

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