Fred C. Iklé: Kill The Pirates

Short, sweet and to the point. The title says it all. Kill the pirates. That is the best way to stop them. It worked down in the Carribean 300 years ago and it will work again today.

Writing for the Washington Post, Fred C. Iklé (a distinguished scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of Annihilation From Within and Every War Must End) makes clear that anything other than meeting this threat head-on will be counterproductive.

From his column:

It is naive to assume that the millions paid annually in ransom to pirates merely enables them to purchase villas and fancy automobiles. Somalia is a country without government, where anarchy is being exploited by terrorist organizations. Although the threat that pirates pose to commercial ships is increasingly known, little is being done to combat it. And we must consider the bigger picture: Terrorists are far more brutal than pirates and can easily force pirates — petty thieves in comparison — to share their ransom money.

Who among you believes that paying $1 million in ransom money will actually end piracy? You would have to be incredibly gullible to believe so. The pirates will think about it this way: if taking a ship is worth $1 million in ransoms, then taking a ship twice as big should be worth $2 million in ransoms.

Paying the ransom only encourages the pirates to attempt more hijackings in order to get more money.

Mr. Iklé goes on:

So why do we keep rewarding Somali pirates? How is this march of folly possible?

Start by blaming the timorous lawyers who advise the governments attempting to cope with the pirates such as those who had been engaged in a standoff with U.S. hostage negotiators in recent days. These lawyers misinterpret the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Geneva Conventions and fail to apply the powerful international laws that exist against piracy. The right of self-defense — a principle of international law — justifies killing pirates as they try to board a ship.

So, what should we have been doing all along? We should have been putting armed personnel aboard those ships. A pirate would think twice about going out on such a venture if he knew that the last three times someone from his group went out to attack a vessel that armed crewmen killed the attackers. There is not much profit in death.

More:

Nonetheless, entire crews are unarmed on the ships that sail through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Shipowners pretend that they cannot trust their crews with weapons, but the facts don’t add up. For one thing, in the United States most adults except felons are allowed to have guns, and the laws of many other nations also permit such ownership. Even if owners don’t want everyone aboard their ships to be carrying weapons, don’t they trust the senior members of their crews? Why couldn’t they at least arm the captain and place two experienced and reliable police officers on board?

When these pitifully unarmed crews watch pirates climb aboard their vessels, they can do little to fight back. And while the United States and many other naval powers keep warships in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean — deployments that cost millions of dollars — these ships cannot keep pirates from boarding commercial ships that have unarmed crews.

The international right of self-defense would also justify an inspection and quarantine regime off the coast of Somalia to seize and destroy all vessels that are found to be engaged in piracy. These inspections could reduce the likelihood that any government will find itself engaged in a hostage situation such as the one that played out in recent days. Furthermore, the U.N. Security Council should prohibit all ransom payments. If the crew of an attacked ship were held hostage, the Security Council could authorize a military blockade of Somalia until the hostages were released.

Cowardice will not defeat terrorism, nor will it stop the Somali pirates. If anything, continuing to meet the pirates’ demands only acts as an incentive for more piracy.

Absolutely.

You can access the complete column on-line here:

Kill The Pirates
Fred C. Iklé
Washington Post
April 13, 2009

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