Sea Transportation: Waiting For Barak

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December 9,2008: On December 8th, the EU (European Union) activated an anti-piracy patrol off Somalia. The force consists of six warships and three maritime patrol aircraft flying out of Djibouti. The first priority will be escorting relief ships (most of them carrying food for the third of the Somali population that is in danger of starving to death.) The EU warships will escort the relief aid ships into and out of Somali ports. Pirates are particularly keen to steal the aid ships, because the food, and other supplies, can be sold in Somali markets, to those who can afford to pay. Then the ships and crews can be held for ransom. Most cargoes captured cannot be sold locally.

There are about a dozen other warships patrolling for pirates, but few of them are from countries that actually have laws that allow the sailors to arrest pirates. All are allowed to fire back if fired on by pirates, and most can open fire on pirates they actually catch attacking a ship. Since World War II, most countries have repealed their anti-piracy laws (France did so just last year), as a relic of a more barbaric age. No one told the pirates that the age of piracy was no longer with us.

Most countries confronting the Somali pirates at sea agree that the solution to the problem is on land, the Somali mainland, not at sea. But no one wants to go ashore and get stuck in a perpetual peacekeeping operation among the violent, ungovernable and warlike Somalis. Then again, someone may consult a history book and be reminded that peace was maintained off the Somali coast for centuries by fortified towns, that kept the sea lanes free of pirates, and traded with the Somalis who farmed and tended herds in the interior. The trading ports were run by foreigners and Somali warlords, who knew that their prosperity depended on keeping Somali pirates from setting up shop along the coast.

What worries the pirates most is that newly elected American president Barak Obama, who is of Kenyan ancestry, may be prevailed upon, by African states and campaign promises, to launch a peacekeeping operation into Somalia. After all, America was persuaded by Europeans to undertake similar missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, to protect European Moslems. Why not do the same to protect Somali Moslems. Moreover, Obama has kin in Kenya, a country that has long suffered from Somali violence. The problem with Somalia is that it would not be peacekeeping, but peacemaking, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somalia also contains a growing number of Islamic terrorists, who are already using suicide and roadside bombs against those who disagree with establishing an Islamic dictatorship there. Somalia could become Obama's Iraq.

 


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