For a while, I’ve been questioning the story behind the U.S. Navy presence around Somalia. A number of warships from the U.S. Navy and allied countries patrol the waters of the region, ostensibly with a broad “maritime security” mandate. I’ve criticized them in the past for doing absolutely nothing about the rapidly-growing piracy problem in the area, but after many discussions with others, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been needlessly harsh: CTF 150’s operations have nothing whatsoever to do with piracy, despite frequent assertions to the contrary.
Not only aren’t they doing anything against piracy, they can’t, because they’re handicapped by international law. Thing is, those same laws make their official raison d’etre moot, as well. They can’t legally take action against pirates, and for the most part they can’t legally take action against smugglers, or anyone else, either.
All they can do is wait, and watch. Or, rather, all they’re allowed to do is wait, and watch. What they’re really waiting and watching for, I have no idea. Numerous other countries have no problem in taking an active counter-piracy role, or more proactively pursuing maritime-security objectives; the fact that the most powerful modern navy is achieving nothing is not going unnoticed.
Supposedly, there’s now an agreement in place with the government of Kenya, to prosecute captured pirates there, and that’s all fine and dandy, but it just confuses the issue more. The naval forces who have, and want, nothing to do with piracy have not hitherto claimed to be hamstrung by a theoretical difficulty in prosecuting alleged pirates; the issue has something to do, so they say, with international maritime law about confronting the pirates in the first place. Why it seems to apply to some countries’ navies and not others – or why some countries are unafraid to flaunt the “law” and others aren’t – remains a mystery.
I know the European Union is involved, but why is everyone, America included, operating under these sort of horribly emasculated British Police rules? (“Excuse me, sir? I must rather insist that you stop at your earliest convenience, please, or I’m afraid I’ll reluctantly be forced, yes, forced, to shout ‘stop’ again, which I daresay will be somewhat awkward and embarrassing for both of us, eh what?”)
Western navies in the region for years have done absolutely nothing to counter piracy, or – honestly – to achieve any really meaningful “maritime security”, their ostensible mandate. It is not, cannot be, a logistical issue – other countries are doing far more than we, with far less. Is it an intelligence failure? That’s not entirely implausible, but neither are a number of other scenarios.
The pirates are growing in number, and becoming more bold, more effective. They are doing this, fairly literally, while a ridiculously large international military presence watches over them. The pirates’ seizure of the Ukrainian MV Faina last year, loaded with tanks and weapons, should have been a wake-up call. So too should the capture of the Saudi supertanker full of oil. What is it going to take before the world starts making a serious effort to demand answers, action, and accountability?
I don’t want to sound crass, but is it going to take the pirates’ capture of a pretty young blonde on board a super-yacht to make the world take these things seriously? If so, does anyone know a cute, terminally-ill blonde wanting to make a difference with her remaining weeks or months? And any ideas where Bernie Madoff keeps his yacht?