Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Price of Tolerating Piracy

If you haven't heard, Somalia pirates murdered four U.S. captives today in a reminder that there is a price to be paid for the legalistic stupidity preventing the eradication of Somali piracy. Despite having the world's most powerful navy, the U.S. is unwilling to take the basic measures necessary to eliminate a piracy threat that has now claimed American lives. I've written about the piracy issue numerous times, so I'll just quote myself.
The way to eliminate piracy is well known, and 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. ... 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.
According to the NYT link we captured thirteen pirates involved in this killing. If we were serious about combating piracy, we'd summarily execute twelve of them as an example of what happens when pirates kill Americans. We would save the most cooperative pirate to obtain information regarding where this particular group was based, and then use that knowledge to raid and destroy that location. Will we do those things? Of course not. Instead we'll give the pirates lawyers, pretend they have rights, waste time trying them in civilian court, and house them in our prison system. Somalia pirates will continue to expand their range, secure in the knowledge that all the awesome naval power in the world isn't that scary when it's crippled by legalism. There's always a chance that a warship might be in the right place at the right time, but as long as you aren't stupid enough to put up a fight, the worst that could probably happen if you encounter a U.S. warship is that you'll find yourself arrested, put on trial and sent to jail. Given conditions in Somalia, and the huge ransoms available from piracy, most Somali pirates are probably going to view that as an acceptable risk to reward ratio.


  1. I was going to write a post about how to deal with pirates, but you beat me to it. Exactly what I was thinking. And you are correct - we will never do the things necessary to stop it. Sad, really. The solution is so easy.

  2. That article from Armed Forces Journal, "No Mercy," that I linked in my earlier post lays out in more detail the things that need to be done. But we aren't going to do them.