Law in Contemporary Society

Piracy

-- By PeterHaberrecker - 16 May 2009

Introduction

For the third paper of this class, I intend to write about a "real" political problem: Modern Piracy in the Guld of Aden Since attacks of pirates against merchant vessels in the gulf of Aden and other areas more or less close to Africa have been surging, at least 12 nations, including the United States, China, Russia, India, Germany, France, Denmark, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom have sent warships to the region, trying to prevent pirate attacks on merchant vessels, yachts and other ships.

The German government alone estimates the cost of the German mission in 2009 to be at least 43,000,000 (approx. $ 57,000,000). Not to mention the costs the US and other nations incur to send their navies in the fight against piracy. Newspapers tell us about “remarkable shots” that killed three human being to rescue Captain Richard Phillips who had offered himself as a hostage to allow his crew to escape from the pirates.

The Threat

As the International Maritime Organization tells us, there are some 22,000 vessels using the gulf of Aden each year. In 2008, about 100 ships have been attacked. Thus, a mere 0.5% of all ships crossing the Gulf of Aden have been attacked, and far fewer have been successfully boarded and captured.

The Reasons

Why do the men engage in piracy? Since most of the ransom paid seems to end up in the pockets of a few clan leaders, the normal pirate is not well paid although he is engaging in a highly dangerous and life-shortening activity. Some reports suggest that with the implosion of the Somali government in 1991, foreign fishing fleets entered the Somalian waters and plundered them. So with an already ailing economy, these fishermen saw themselves deprived of their economic basis by rich and cililized nations. The fishermen then started engaging in piracy, first by demanding taxes from the fishing fleets and then by capturing merchant vessels. The men evolved into professional pirates. And, given the ransoms paid by the shipping companies, piracy seems to provide at least some income. So, the lack of opportunities and the raid of Somalia's resources by other countries are factors that lead or at least contributed to the problem of piracy in the first place.

The Remedy

As pointed out above, the world reacts to the problem of piracy by spending hundreds of millions of dollars to send warships to fight the pirates. The media is addressing the issue on a regular basis. We are provided with the latest news of Indian warships sinking pirate vessels, about American Navy Seal snipers making "three remarkable shots" and about some very German problems of jurisdiction and competency.

The chosen remedy however seems somewhat puzzling to me for at least three reasons: First, sending warships and having them patrolling the area for months or even years is extremely expensive (as demonstrated with regard to the German contribution above). Second, because military experts say that it is impossible even for a far greater number of warships to ensure safety in the Gulf of Aden. Thus, the remedy will simply not be able to achieve its goal: safe transport of people and goods through the Gulf of Aden. (These two arguments alone lead to an interesting question: Why spend a lot of money in a remedy that cannot achieve its goal?) Third, because I believe that there is an obvious and far better way to prevent piracy: Stabilize Somalia, its government and its economy.

Somalia

This third thought certainly poses a lot of problems in itself. How to restore peace and order in a country that has been in state of civil war for almost twenty years? The UNO missions [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/co_mission/unosomi.htm[UNOSOM]] (expenditures: $ 42,900,000), UNITAF and [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/co_mission/unosom2.htm[UNOSOM II]] (expenditures: $ 1,600,000,000) have not been able to make Somalia safe enough for humanitarian operations. The United States have certainly had their share in the battle of Mogadishu in 1993. So, it seems that the United Nations and its members are not willing to become actively involved in the Somalian civil war again. Given the experiences faced in Iraq and Afghanistan, is is clear that restoring order in an ailing country is a task that requires international cooperation, funds, armed forces, law enforcement officials, engineers and teachers, and, above all, the patience and willingness to complete the mission.

Conclusion

So while I am aware that I do not have the solution to the problems Somalia is facing, I strongly believe that the remedy chosen by the world's leading nations is definitely the wrong one. Out of angst to face the difficult and consuming task to ensure peace in Somalia (and probably because it makes a nice navy exercise disguised as an international mission), governments prefer to send their warships to the Gulf of Aden, calling the world's attention to this "event". Instead, the world should refocus on the situation in Somalia and help the Somali people to establish a functioning government(s?) so that the Somali economy become more healthy and stable to provide at least the basic needs, thus eliminating the need of these people to engage in piracy and enabling the Somali navy to deal with the remainders of the problem.

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r2 - 08 Jan 2010 - 22:44:08 - IanSullivan
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