Feature

How to fight pirates

What the world can do to stop Somali buccaneers

“Somalia is a great place to be a 21st century pirate,” said USA Today in an editorial. The East African “failed state” offers 2,000 miles of impoverished, lawless shoreline with 16,000 Suez Canal–bound ships passing by each year. The pirates get $1 million or more in ransom for each capture, but “paying off pirates signals weakness and begets more piracy.” Now pirates have seized a massive Saudi tanker with 2 million barrels of oil—and the world’s attention.

Since Somalia can’t control its pirates, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, it’s “left to the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world to police them.” The U.S. and its allies already have a combined naval force in the area, but the growing costs of piracy—both financial and in terms of encouraging lawlessness—require us to “push back” with more power.

A “western armada” is not the answer, said Peter Lehr in Britain’s The Guardian. A better solution is to help Kenya, Tanzania, and other regional states combine resources to patrol for pirates. But patrols “can only ever be half of the solution”—many Somalis turn to piracy because nations as far away as Taiwan poach $300 million worth of fish from their waters each year.

“Attacking some of the root causes of piracy” is important, said Dennis Sampson and Nikolas Gvosdev in the International Herald Tribune, but for the short term, we need more Western naval presence, a new international legal framework, and ship-tracking technology for regional coast guards. Somali piracy is now “a major threat” to global security and economic well-being, and it won’t go away on its own.

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