Somalia’s Pirates = Robin Hood?
â€œBrutalâ€ and â€œsavageâ€ is how The Guardian describes Somali pirates who have been seizing and ransoming ships at an increasing rate in recent months. On April 5 pirates from the Somali Marines group seized the French luxury yacht Le Ponant, leading to a daring French commando raid that nabbed several pirate suspects. In the wake of the raid, France sponsored a U.N. resolution to allow foreign navies to chase pirates into Somali waters.
Then, two weeks ago, Somali pirates captured a Jordanian ship â€¦ and reported to authorities that the vessel was smuggling illegal arms into the war-torn country. How do we reconcile piratesâ€™ seizure of fishing and pleasure vessels with this apparent civic duty of intercepting illegal arms?
Bear in mind two points:
1) Somalia hasnâ€™t had a navy or coast guard for decades.
2) For years, foreign fishing vessels have been illegally operating in Somali waters. This is one of everyday Somalisâ€™ major gripes.
Is it possible that Somali pirate groups actually, at times, perform a public service by â€œpatrollingâ€ Somali waters? Their interception of the weapons-smuggling ship indicates so.
For sure, Somali pirates are not a monolithic group, and their relationships to Somaliaâ€™s complex field of aspiring rulers â€” the Baidoa-based transitional government, Ethiopia and the Al Shabab Islamic group â€” are complicated.
Indeed, some of the Somali Marines that France arrested are related by blood to Somali president Yusuf. Others backed the now-deposed Islamic Courts regime that forms the core of Al Shabab. Still others are sworn foes of the Islamists, which â€” by Washingtonâ€™s â€œenemy of my enemyâ€ rationale â€” would make them U.S. allies.
â€œIn reality, todayâ€™s pirates donâ€™t pose a DEFCON 1-level threat,â€ Slate reminded us a couple years back.
True. And at times they even perform the security functions that, in developed countries, fall to navies and coast guards.