Monday, February 9, 2009

Stage two in dealing with Somali pirates

My esteemed colleague EagleSpeak - one of the most astute observers of what's going on in the world of maritime crime - posted a piece about the deployment of an American vessel to the Horn of Africa to participate in the ongoing war against pirates. And, yes, that is what is currently being waged in the waters off East Africa, though no one else is using this definition. But let's get it straight: None of the various nations' warships on station there are engaged in something so quaint as peacekeeping; they are there to bring force to bear against what has been historically called an 'enemy to all mankind' and safeguard the strategic assets of nation states. It has not been declared by anyone, but those nation's who have sent their men and women to the Indian Ocean to suppress piracy are, in fact, battling enemy combatants.

At any rate, EagleSpeak's piece - which comes from the Stars And Stripes website - details how a Military Sealift Command vessel, the USNS Lewis And Clark, has been reconfigured to become a floating prison, capable of holding up to 26 suspected pirates aboard the dry cargo/ammunition ship. The vessel is tasked as a part of CTF 151, the America-led, multinational effort to address piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

This is a marked increase in the coalition's anti-piracy operations, for it means that it's not just about warships patrolling the seas with their helicopters and boarding parties, or what a friend of mine likes to call, "boys with toys". This points towards a definitive desire from at least the Americans to apprehend suspects and deliver them to some legal jurisdiction that can prosecute the pirates, quite likely Kenya.

Phase one of addressing piracy is to get protective measures in place, such as naval warships, and make sure they're able to utilize the assets they have. Stage two is to take any suspected pirates to a legitimate court where they can be tried in an open manner, such that their compatriots might thing twice about engaging in criminal activities.

Phase three? Well, that's the hardest one. That requires addressing the root source of the problem. We can patrol the waters, we can arrest the pirates, but that will never stop some young man from deciding to throw his lot in with a gang of maritime criminals unless that individual has other options.

We're close to getting two out of three things done in order to suppress piracy of the Horn of Africa. This should all be considered an improvement on the situation.

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