Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Find the Three Somali Pirates Hiding in this Crowd:

with 5 comments

Find the three pirates hiding in this crowd.

This is what happens when a blogger has a graphics budget of $0, painful isn’t it? In any event, I think it’s a good sign that I am trying to have fun with the topic. The topic of course is pirates, Somalian pirates to be specific. There are four points I wanted to make about them, in the hopes that someone will refute me, or at least call me names.

Moving right along, the first point is that the people living in Somalia … are people. Most of them are basically decent folks getting by under circumstances that would make most westerners curl up and die. They are normal human beings who love their families, friends, and homeland. Just like Americans. There may be some bad things going on in Somalia, but it’s not because the Somalians are bad people. I’m not spewing “why can’t we all get along,” I’m just saying that most people are just that, people.

Secondly, and maybe too obviously, how does one identify a Somalian pirate? They aren’t walking around in funny hats with parrots on their shoulders. They don’t live in fortified pirate hideouts flying the Jolly Roger flag. In other words, the idea that we should “take out” the pirate bases or otherwise bomb or invade our way out of this problem are absurd.  Not to mention there’s no infrastructure, Somalian government, or anything else to bomb in Somalia. The more dispersed an enemy is, the less use conventional military power is against them. And the Somali pirates are as about as dispersed as it gets.

Thirdly  (see, this isn’t a completely random post) please read this article for some background and context to the pirate mess in Somalia. I don’t agree with all of it, but the history of Somalia and especially the history of US relations with Somalia is important for understanding the piracy and why the Somalians aren’t particularly thrilled with the west.

Lastly, the one part I disagree with. And a point where I’ve changed my thinking. I know I’ve said before, and even implied above, that there is no military solution to this problem. That’s not entirely true. While there is no way to solve this problem by invading or bombing Somalia, there is a way the Navy could effectively deal with this problem. We could deploy a Carrier Strike Group in the region to escort shipping and hunt pirates. That much air power could effectively patrol a vast area. And if pirates knew that Navy Seals were going to be showing up every time within hours (or less) of a pirate attack, it would most definitely act as a deterrent.

We have eleven carrier strike groups, why haven’t we simply deployed one to shut down the pirates and make the sea lanes off Somalia safe for international shipping? It’s a good question and one I don’t really have an answer for. I mean, these carrier groups are incredibly expensive to maintain no matter where they are, why not have one actually doing something useful? Beats me, but I have some ideas.

Possibly the expense, but the USA has launched far more expensive operations with far less by way of clear objectives, so that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The Bush administration and the Navy  tried very hard to get the pirates classified as “terrorists” so fighting them could be included in the GWOT. And President Obama certainly picked up that torch and has done his best to portray the Somali pirates as some sort of threat to the world. So money and a stated desire to fight pirates doesn’t seem to be an issue, what gives?

Granted it would give critics of military spending new ammunition, but for all practical purposes the military has gotten everything it wanted for decades plus some, it’s hard to imagine one more example of wasteful spending being a serious issue. At least the pirates are real, unlike so may of the basically fantasy threats we spend pallets of money preparing to defend against. Maybe the pirates would simply hide and leave us stuck with a deployed carrier group, but I would think yet another excuse to keep our military deployed overseas would be welcome.

No, I suspect it may be something more subtle. A combination of two things actually. For one thing, maybe it wouldn’t really work. In commercials and Hollywood movies the Navy has all sorts of capabilities, but finding small boats filled with armed teenagers in a vast ocean is a tricky business. We would look pretty silly if the pirates managed to pull off even a few spectacular heists under our noses. Or worse, if the pirates or some other group managed to actually attack a carrier, it would give incredible street cred to those who advocate taking up arms against the USA.

I mean, while the USA claims it wants to kick butt and take names over the entire planet, we don’t really want fight the entire planet, do we? The people in Washington must know that would be a bad idea, right? Dear God I hope so.

On Friday, back to the ten biggest blunders made by the Allies during World War Two. And maybe my new theory on cat liquidity and temperature. Stay cool everyone.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Plus it’s been modified by the author of this blog. Yes, those green things are parrots. I know, don’t give up my day job.)


Written by unitedcats

April 22, 2009 at 7:33 am

Posted in Crime, History, World

5 Responses

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  1. There is another way the pirate problem could be solved, without any military intervention, or at least the current pirate crisis off Somalia. Commercial shipping uses that route in order to save money, not because its the only way to get where they are going. These pirates use small motorboats, not sea-worthy vessels, and if the shipping boats were to move farther out to open sea for their route, the pirate problem would largely disappear as pirates would no longer be able to reach their targets.

    Much of the reason there is piracy off the coast of Somalia today is because western shipping boats use those waters as a thoroughfare, including dumping waste. If the companies involved spent a bit more money to go farther out to sea for that route, the problem would largely be solved without any shots being fired. IMO ofc … your mileage will, ofc, vary :)

  2. Here’s an idea… let’s just pre-emptively pay the pirates not to attack us (like the militias in Iraq). Soon we’ll have every militia and armed group worldwide on our payroll! Sweet!


    April 23, 2009 at 8:44 am

  3. Well, ships have been attacked 200 miles at sea, and the Gulf of Aden is only but 200 miles wide along Northern Somalia, so it’s not possible to completely avoid piracy by altering sea routes.

    Both comments though do get at the heart of the matter, this is ultimately just a cost of doing business. The pirates are exacting tolls, not slaughtering crews and sinking ships. And it certainly might make sense to simply pay off the pirates, their price would likely be modest and a lot cheaper than having ships and crews sitting around for months while individual deals are worked out.

    The problem though is this, if you start paying the Somalians for the damage the west has done to them, what sort of ideas will this give other people? The so called global economy (more accurately, the global colonial resource extraction cartel) is actually terribly fragile in that small numbers of lightly armed people can severely disrupt it if they put their minds to it. So the powers that be in the west have strong incentive to a least publicly solve this through some means other than pay offs.

    Hell, we can’t afford to pay off all the world’s insurgents either, but maybe we’ll try. Interesting comments, interesting speculation … we’ll see where this all leads.


    April 23, 2009 at 9:20 am

  4. Thats a good point, but thats only true if shipping companies keep using the Port of Aden. If we switched to Salalah, Sur, or Masqat in Oman, the ships avoid the coast of Somalia almost completely. If you got mugged every day on your route to work, wouldn’t you consider going a different way, or even asking to be switched to a different office?

  5. Ships using the Suez Canal and transiting between Europe and Asia/India or vice versa have to use the Gulf of Aden. The only alternate route is around the horn of Africa, not a terribly economical alternative. 21,000 commercial ships annually sail through it, including more than 10% of the world’s petroleum. The cost to reroute this shipping would be stupendous, it’s not really practical, especially considering the risk. Of those 21,000 ships only a few hundred are attacked, even fewer captured.


    April 25, 2009 at 3:15 pm

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