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Somali Pirates: What to do?

Arghh Matey! (OK, so that’s probably a privateer, but what the heck, it sounds good)…

Somali Pirates are becoming so common that they aren’t even newsworthy unless it is a slow news day, and a large number of Americans (that would be USA Americans) are involved. Despite the pathetic state of the news media, today’s topic is piracy, so the infotainment bozos get a free pass.

I must admit that I have a hard time understanding how piracy can be an issue in today’s world. The majority of first world governments got together and (more or less cooperatively) wiped out piracy over a hundred years ago. From that time until recently, piracy has been an extremely rare event. Yet, somehow, in the past couple of years, a bunch of fisherman have somehow managed to become moderately effective pirates. How?

Well, it really isn’t all that hard. Large vessels usually have fairly small crews, so a small band of well-armed folks can present a real threat. Getting aboard isn’t that hard – large vessels take a long time and a lot of space to change course, and a small speed boat can easily intercept a large cargo ship. Oh yeah, and they don’t fight back. So you get a gang of guys together, hand out the M-16s and Kalashnikovs that the USA and Russia have been dumping into Africa for the past 40 years, grab a local fishing boat, and you’ve got a gang of armed thugs on a boat.

Throw in a really crappy local economy, no real regional government, and a bunch of local warlords that are more than willing to commit a bit of violence for an easy buck, and suddenly those thugs become pirates – a little guidance a tiny bit of training, and they’re good to go. ‘Course, the fact that the targets won’t defend themselves (and their governments aren;t willing to) makes it even easier.

Of course, the one critical thing that is needed for piracy to succeed is victims. Willing victims. Lets face it folks: a large ship with even the most remote watch is aware of the small boats around it (if nothing else to make sure thy don’t sail over them). If the crew of the ship was moderately armed, the pirates would never even get aboard. Imagine what would happen if instead of healing over and surrendering, the large vessels responded to a small vessel approaching too close in a more aggressive manner. You start out by radioing on all frequencies. If you don’t get a response, you scramble your crew, and use the loudspeaker to warn them off. If they approach to within weapons range (which is VERY close in nautical term) pop off a few shots. It will be very clear if they get the message – they’ll turn tail PDQ. No small vessel is going to get into a fire fight if they have to fire UP at people stationed behind bulwarks and in easily defensible positions. Especially if those people are casually spraying automatic fire all over the approaching small boat. Of course, the traditional way to deal with pirates was to simply arm the commercial vessels with light artillery (canons). Modern cannons can be used effectively by someone with about 15 minutes of training. A .20mm canon will play hell with the vessels that pirates are using. Screw it – you don’t even need a 20mm – a simply .50 caliber anti-aircraft canon will blow holes through those boats. (These are basically big  machine guns mounted on the decks of boats). Yes, this IS dangerous. Of course, so is getting taken hostage by pirates. Given the choice, I’d fight.

Of course, there will be fatalities. Some innocent merchant marines will probably die. Many pirates will too, but anyone who has the slightest trace of historical awareness will know that this is what happens to pirates. They die. Which brings up the interesting situation that a few countries are now facing. After allowing their vessels to be captured by pirates, they actually ransomed them, and in a couple of cases managed to somehow capture a few pirates. The amazing thing is that they didn’t immediately hang them. Common law has REQUIRED the immediate execution of pirates upon capture for over 200 years. How are these guys ending up getting trials? There isn’t any doubt that they are pirates. There isn’t any doubt that they have engaged in activities that have always resulted in immediate execution. Whats going on?

I guess it isn’t really considered civilized to hang them now. Instead, we have to look into WHY they are pirates. Maybe they had mean mommies. Maybe they don’t like the fact that the rest of world has left them in the economic dust. So what? they’re pirates. Hang ’em. The only reason that Piracy has re-emerged is because the maritime nations of the world have fooled themselves into believing that “law and order” will prevail without any real penalties being imposed on the pirates. Lets face it folks: life in a first world prison is probably a lot cozier than life in Somalia. Life in prison isn’t a punishment for these guys.

The United States actually demonstrated that dealing with pirates in their own language is effective. 3 shots: 3 dead pirates. Amazing what a well trained sniper can do if you let him do his job. ‘course using some of the big toys to simply sink any vessel that is identified as being involved in piracy would be the next logical step, so lets see if the rest of the world follows the lead here (and lets see if the USA is willing to actually protect her citizens and Merchant Marines).

We figured it out a couple hundred years ago: when you find pirates, you kill them and sink their boats. When you locate a port or safe haven for the pirate vessels, you bring in your navy, sink all the boats in the harbor, and shell the town for a few days. When you take actions like this, a funny thing happens: the locals suddenly are not so willing to have the pirates hanging out in their town. Then THEY (the locals) start killing the pirates for you. Funny how brute force is such an effective solution to brute force. And we have a hell of a lot more of it than they do..

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One Response

  1. You know me in real life and know that I am opposed to violence on principle, but I’m all for brute force in this question. You take a hostage – or approach with the intent of taking a hostage – you forfeit your life. Three bullets = three dead pirates. I’m proud of the SEALS, and pleased that they were given the freedom to do their jobs. Sure, this makes the situation of the remaining hostages (what are there, something like a thousand people currently being held hostage by Somali pirates?) but now the criminals will think twice before they attempt to board another ship. It’s not a game anymore.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/12/AR2009041202262.html?sub=AR

    Let’s have lunch again!

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