James Bone: Is it really viable for the United States to devote this much effort every time a U.S. vessel, or even another vessel, is attacked? David Shinn: It actually may be possible to devote this much time to hostage rescue every time an American ship is captured. There are not that many American-flagged vessels with American crews that pass through this area and they have a better record of avoiding capture. After the Maersk Alabama incident, they will be taking even stronger preventive measures, making capture even less likely. James Bone: What does this rather unequal stand-off say about the "assymetrical" world of today? David Shinn: Somali piracy underscores the asymmetrical nature of the problem. In this sense, it is much like terrorism, which is also highly asymmetrical. In my view, the international community needs to make the pirates pay a higher price for their criminal activities. This will make the actual attacks more symmetrical, but will still leave hostage situations as highly asymmetrical. James Bone: Would sinking the "mother ships" really solve the problem? (The tough French stance doesn't seem to be serving as much of a deterrent)? David Shinn: Sinking "mother ships" will not "solve" the problem and I have never suggested that it would. It is only one of several measures that should be taken and only where there is incontrovertible intelligence that the vessel is operated by pirates and located in international waters. Other short-term measures include much better defensive measures on merchant ships that ply these waters. Some ships can afford to hire (and already do) special armed teams that should have authorization to use live ammunition when a small boat approaches the ship at a high rate of speed in international waters. The Somalis will not know which vessels have these teams and learn the hard way when they attack a ship that does. Eventually the price paid by the pirates will become sufficiently high that they might decide fishing is not such a bad livelihood. That leads to another important piece of the solution. The international community should begin now to put in place a mechanism that ends illegal fishing off the Somali coast. I can't imagine there are many fishing vessels in the area with the threat of piracy, but this has historically been a terrible problem, especially since the failure of the Somali government in 1991. The international community should also take steps to ensure that toxic waste dumping is ended. Tougher measures against the pirates and a realization that the international community is serious about ending illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping until a Somali government can handle these tasks on its own will send a strong message to the pirates and those Somalis along the coast who are benefiting from the ransom money. Finally, as part of a long-term solution, the international community must increase efforts to help establish a Somali national government that is committed to ending piracy and then has the personnel and equipment resources on land and sea to carry out such a commitment. So no, sinking mother ships is not the answer, only a piece of it.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I was interviewed by James Bone of the Times of London for his story, "Maersk Alabama crew return to US to tell of Somali pirate ordeal." See the article, which includes one of my quotes, here. I am attaching my responses to all of the questions below: