Wonking Out on Somali Pirates

Most of the coverage I’ve seen of the Somali pirates issue has viewed this primarily through the lens of amusement — modern-day pirates! But of course there are real policy issues here. In particular, at the end of the day it’s not easy to fight pirates at sea. The ocean is extremely large, boats move around, and circumstances are generally unfavorable to law enforcement. You need to fight the piracy on land. If you tried to run a pirate ring out of San Diego, you wouldn’t get very far — there are police in southern California. But Somalia has, obviously, been in a state of political chaos for a long time now. And when the country looked like it was heading for a measure of political stability under the Islamic Courts Movement, the US decided it would be smart to back an Ethiopian invasion-and-occupation of the country that ultimate wound up resulting in more chaos than ever. But whatever you think of the past, going forward you would ultimately want to solve this issue on land. In other words, by creating some kind of political stability in Somalia.

If you’d like to learn more about these issues, I’d recommend the International Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa page and also the ENOUGH Project’s Somalia page (which doesn’t seem to be loading at the moment, but should come back). Either that or we can make more jokes about how pirates are funny. Arrrr funny.