Policy analyst Fred Ikle has an excellent piece in today's Washington Post where he points out that there are plenty of measures that we can take against piracy but are prevented from doing so by government lawyers who don't want to use the powerful tools already at the international community's hands to deal with the problem:
It is naive to assume that the millions paid annually in ransom to pirates merely enables them to purchase villas and fancy automobiles. Somalia is a country without government, where anarchy is being exploited by terrorist organizations. Although the threat that pirates pose to commercial ships is increasingly known, little is being done to combat it. And we must consider the bigger picture: Terrorists are far more brutal than pirates and can easily force pirates -- petty thieves in comparison -- to share their ransom money.
We already know that Somalia is an ideal fortress and headquarters for global terrorist activity. The United States has learned the painful lesson that Somalia is not an easy place for our military to establish law and order; two of our interventions there became embarrassing defeats -- in 1993 and more recently in support of Ethiopian forces.
So why do we keep rewarding Somali pirates? How is this march of folly possible?
Start by blaming the timorous lawyers who advise the governments attempting to cope with the pirates such as those who had been engaged in a standoff with U.S. hostage negotiators in recent days. These lawyers misinterpret the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Geneva Conventions and fail to apply the powerful international laws that exist against piracy. The right of self-defense -- a principle of international law -- justifies killing pirates as they try to board a ship.
He suggest such common sense measures as arming crews or at least the senior officers, search and seizure of pirate boats, international quarantines, and a Security Council resolution that would forbid paying ransom.
Ikle shows that there is a lot of things we are not doing that we could be doing in order to deal with the piracy problem. He doesn't mention an option that has been floating around for months; attacking the towns and villages that give aid and comfort to the pirates. If the world applies military power judiciously and sinks the boats, destroys and the docks and boathouses, and takes other action to smash up pirate infrastructure, the threat of piracy would decline significantly.
I explore some of those options as well as examine some of the reasons behind the piracy on my site today.