NELSON INSTITUTE DIRECTOR’S COLUMN ADVOCATES HUNT FOR SOMALI PIRATES

September 23, 2008

HARRISONBURG—Today in his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, returns to the growing challenge of piracy off the coast of the defunct Somali Democratic Republic.

After reporting details of last week’s dramatic rescue by French naval commandos of a couple whose yacht had been hijacked by Somali pirates two weeks earlier as well as noting the increasing threat to international security and commerce posed by the attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden, Dr. Pham suggests some elements of a path forward, including:

First, commercial vessels need to be better prepared to protect themselves…

Second, given the large area within which the pirates now apparently operate as well as their improved armaments and tactics necessitates a strong naval response to sweep the international sea lanes clear of the pirates…

Third, [there must be acknowledgment that the “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) of Somalia] is part and parcel of the problem.…

Fourth, in addition to eschewing entanglements with obstacles like the TFG, it is imperative that ties be forged with effective authorities capable of helping in the fight against piracy…[including] the Somaliland authorities [who allowed the French special forces] to use the abandoned U.S. base at Berbera in the northwestern region of the republic as the staging area for the successful rescue operation…

Fifth, while naval operations can be undertaken to clear the sea lanes of the pirate menace and commando raids launched to rescue hostages, the long term security of the waters around the Horn of Africa requires the development of maritime capacity on the part of states neighboring the anarchic regions of Somalia…[especially] functions like maritime safety and law enforcement, littoral escort, and port security have traditionally been the primary responsibility of the U.S. Coast Guard…

Sixth, even with short-term kinetic operations and long-term capacity enhancement initiatives, one has to acknowledge that in the waters off the Horn, there would still remain a not insignificant gap in maritime security between what assistance the international community can or will provide and such capacities as African states (and Yemen) might possess. Might it not be the case that…the international community as a whole, interested states, or even those with stakes in maritime transportation ought to at least consider leveraging non-traditional security resources available within the private sector to fill, at least provisionally, the security vacuum?

Thus the article concludes:

It is bad enough that, Somaliland aside, the lack of an effective, much less legitimate, government in the territory of the former Somalia since 1991 has occasioned virtually endless conflict among the Somali. It is intolerable that the lawlessness should spill over and threaten the security of neighboring states like Ethiopia, Kenya, and Yemen, as well as global commerce as a whole, much less that it should augment the already considerable terrorist challenge. The time has come for responsible powers in the international community to develop an integrated strategy to cope with the worsening piracy, one that begins with declaring open season on the seaborne marauders whom admiralty law has long branded hostes humani generis, enemies of mankind.

To read the full text of the article, “Time to Hunt Somali Pirates,” click here.