Stop The Anarchy, Stop The Piracy
Obviously, the three shots to the head have not deterred the pirates in the Gulf of Aden from continuing their pillage. They hijacked four more ships on Tuesday and attempted to board another US boat, but failed. They are armed with not just guns but rockets, according to the report from the Liberty Sun.
Obviously the US Navy has superior equipment and skills and can deal with such attacks and hijackings if needed. But it's simply impractical to guard the entire ocean when the problem remains on land, in the lawless region of Somalia where piracy represents the only economic opportunity. Russ Feingold wrote to the President yesterday asking him to address the root causes of this piracy, unlike the Bush Administration, who exacerbated them.
As you know, piracy off the coast of Somalia is a symptom of the state collapse and instability on land; thus, any military actions we take will only be stopgap measures. In recent Congressional testimony, Director of National Intelligence Blair and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Army Lt. General Michael Maples cited lawlessness and economic problems on land for the rise in piracy at sea. The ultimate solution to the problem of piracy, then, is the establishment of a functional government that can enforce the rule of law. During the rule of the Council of Islamic Courts in 2006, there was a notable decline in piracy that can be attributed, in large part, to the rise of a central authority in southern Somalia. Without replicating the repressive rule of the Courts, we must keep in mind that establishing a central governing structure in Somalia is critical to resolving, not just stopping, the problem of piracy [...]
I met with President Sheik Sharif during a trip to the region this past December, just before his election, and met last month with the new government’s Foreign Minister here in Washington D.C. In both meetings we discussed the importance of an inclusive process to unite Somalia and the importance of U.S. support to achieve that goal.
Just as you have personally become engaged in the problem of piracy off Somalia’s coast, it is essential that you personally engage in U.S. efforts to address its origins on land. As a first step, I urge you to call President Sheik Sharif and indicate a clear commitment to work with his government not only on maritime insecurity issues, but also to help establish security and functional, inclusive governance within the country. This should be coordinated with other levels of engagement and complemented by ongoing discussions with our regional and international partners on a comprehensive plan to support this transitional government and stabilize Somalia.
I actually disagree with Feingold in part, and I think he disagrees with himself. President Sheik Sharif is a moderate member of the ICU, and has some manner of legitimacy in the country despite his ties to that "repressive" regime. Anyone with legitimacy is favored over Ethiopian invaders or a puppet transitional government. You have to make peace with the group that can secure it.
Matthew Yglesias has a good piece laying out the historical markers at The Daily Beast. Military action by the Bush Administration has CONTRIBUTED to the rise of piracy in the region, and it should not be replicated. Instead, we need to support, or just leave alone, those who can move the country into some semblance of stable governance. Jeffrey Gettleman has more.