16 April 2009

Bass ackwards ways to fight piracy

Friends, today President I Wanna Hold Your Hand's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced the brand spanking new plan for the U.S. government to beat those pirates off the coast of Somalia. Cue shouts of jubilation and nationalistic chants of "3 Amer'kan bullets, 3 dead pirates!"

Here I thought that the Obama administration was doing the right thing by cooling the national jets on this War on Terrrrrrr business, but it looks like they weren't banking on there being terr'ists on boats.

In case you haven't yet figured it out by the tone of this post so far, I think their plan sucks. Just like most of the world's terrorists, these pirates are being driven by economic interests much more so than any sort of ideology, anti-Western vendettas, etc. After nearly 20 years of anarchy, Somalia is an absurdly poor nation, the subject of neglect from would be patrons both foreign and domestic. Food is hard to come by, and it's gotten harder to come by in coastal villages by the mysterious appearance of foreign fishing vessels along a coastline with no organized military force to protect it. That same unprotected coast has also been home to mysterious dumps of nuclear waste. This has made even subsistence fishing a real chore along the coast, which only makes Somalis more dependent on foreign aid, which only continues to exacerbate the alleged lack of local capacity for self rule. Perhaps if all these do-gooder international types really had Somali best interests at heart, they would save some Somali fish for some actual Somalis. Plus, shooting pirates causes the locals to (rightly) resent international intervention even more. Don't think that only Americans get pissed off when their countrymen die in attacks.

I don't want to paint the pirates as heros or freedom fighters, because they're not. They do, however, have a legitimate greivance (or, at least the first lot did -- of course some folks have just joined in for the fun) that perhaps needs to be addressed. The U.S. is right to send representatives to the next donor conference, but donor conferences are silly things that often only amount to grandiose declarations about shit that will be done, rather than, you know, actually doing shit.

Much of the developed world's policy towards Somalia (and Somaliland therein) needs a serious rethink, and just shooting pirates simply won't be part of the real solution.

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