Sunday, April 4, 2010

Supertanker Captured by Pirates

Somali pirates have hijacked a South Korean owned supertanker carrying $170 million in oil from Iraq to the U.S. The ship is based in San Antonio, Texas, and the oil is owned by U.S. refining firm Valero. It's time once again to point out the impotence of international anti-piracy operations, and the failure to take basic measures needed to eradicate the pirate problem.

The way to eliminate piracy is well known, as has been for a couple thousand years. You kill the pirates, and you destroy their bases. It really isn't much more complicated than that. Yet international naval forces vastly more powerful than historical counterparts can do little more than catch and release the occasional pirate stupid enough to get caught. Consider this passage in the linked article,

A Nairobi-based maritime group said the tanker had been seized by Somali pirates, and a pirate source named Mohamed said the ship was now heading for Haradheere, the port and pirates' base at which many ships are held during ransom negotiations.
Haradheere should be a smoking pile of rubble full of dead and wounded, with its port facilities in ruins, and its coastal shipping at the bottom of the harbor. That's how you deal with pirate bases. But we won't do that. Oh no, we are just too civilized to use such effective methods against piracy. We are too worried about someone calling our actions illegal, or about possibly killing innocent people -- as if people who permit a pirate operation to take place in their midst shouldn't have to accept the risk of retaliation. Instead we'd rather put merchant seamen at risk of being taken hostage or killed.

I'm hardly the only person to call for the destruction of known pirate bases. Here's a good article, called "No Mercy," written last year in Armed Forces Journal, that makes similar points.

peacekeepers do not “tackle” piracy. Violence does solve problems. The West must remember this fact, and use violence as well as legal structures to solve the challenge of piracy.
He gives an example regarding another known pirate port.
Short-duration land operations focused on the bases used by pirates (shades of O’Bannon) must be launched to reinforce the point that the price of piracy is the loss of what the pirates and those who support them hold dear. For example, if there are high-priced restaurants in the port of Eyl that make a living from the ill-gained money of pirates, they should be destroyed. Piracy is a crime against the world and the right of free trade.
The whole article is full of excellent advice on things we should be doing, but won't.

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