Monday, April 13, 2009


As the US media's short-sighted and vacillating attention again turns to the Somali pirates, President Obama signaled today that he would like to "halt the rise of piracy."

But any solution (as naive and improbable as that sounds) will have to be grounded in a process that can both stabilize the economy of Somalia and offer viable ways for these militants to make money outside of their ransoms -- neither of which will be solved in the short term, and neither of which will be solved until we decide that these "pirates" are not pirates or killers or terrorists or any other derogatory euphemism that we can use to denigrate them, but, as the Times puts it so aptly: "reckless, money-driven predators akin to the rapacious warlords who have haunted this country since the central government imploded in 1991." Often "blamed for rising food prices, the departure of aid agencies and other ills," these men are the result of an anarchy that the US has distantly watched over the last decade, without a care for their pillaging until our direct interests were involved.

Military (and humanitarian) action at this point seems difficult and improbable, considering the breadth of the pirates' coverage in and around the Horn, their lack of any centralized base, their willingness to threaten any outsiders who approach, and their unwillingness to stop these heinous yet tantalizingly lucrative kidnappings.

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