28 October 2011

Somali Piracy: Political Lessons for the Navy

Martin N. Murphy, Somali Piracy: Political Lessons for the Navy,” American Foreign Policy Interests, 33.1 (2011): 17-25.

This article argues that the navies operating to suppress piracy off Somalia are operating in what is effectively a policy vacuum. So long as that vacuum persists, piracy may be restricted but not eliminated. The financial cost of the naval presence far outweighs what it costs the pirate gangs to mount attacks. There is no shortage of young Somali men willing to risk their lives at sea for what for them are vast rewards. The United States Navy is the final guarantor of global maritime security. Allowing the pirates to continue will diminish that guarantee. The effect will be to encourage, or force, other nations to strengthen their navies, which could challenge the U.S. Navy’s position across a broader range of capabilities than merely those of maritime security. The price is too high to pay. Pirate success is predicated on cooperation with Somali clan structure and clan elders. It will begin to be eradicated once the United States and its international partners are prepared to work through the same channels. The acceptance of this lesson, albeit tentative, needs to be encouraged within the United States. America’s partners need to accept that lesson also. All international parties need to recognize that the naval effort will work only in conjunction with a policy that strikes a hardheaded bargain with political forces within Somalia that trade political legitimacy and economic assistance for clear progress toward political stability, reduced corruption, and piracy elimination. …