Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Naval and Merchant Marine Interests: Piracy



Angry Pirate
Image by Petr Kra Tochvil  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=2613&picture=angry-pirate  
EDITOR'S NOTE: 2/13/2015   When we first published this in 2012 we perceived a change for the worst in piracy threats in the Horn of Africa. We proposed a change in approach to the problem from having naval  forces act as maritime law enforcement to acting as military forces opposing unlawful military forces. We noted the best known historical example of this approach. Billions of dollars and millions of man hours have since 2012 been invested in naval patrolling of the high piracy regions. Incidents of piracy have varied from year to year  with the level of international  cooperative anti piracy activity. But piracy is not eradicated. The United States, the E.U., China, India, Australia, and even Japan have provided very expensive war ships to track and engage pirates and escort commercial shipping and still there is no end in sight. Once again 3 years after first proposing the change we revisit our observations and opinions of 2012. We can only conclude that the civilized world has wasted another three years of time and incredible resources on this issue. It is time for the true military solution. Merely using naval forces as commercial shipping escorts and response units is not a "military solution". A "military solution" is as we first proposed, an engagement of the pirates as unlawful combatants with a goal of complete victory which simply means enough dead and long term incarcerated pirates to simply cut off recruitment. It means attacks ashore on the fortified homes of the king pins. The world's navies have other fish to fry. It's time to defeat piracy.  Below is how we found things three years ago. We still think our proposed "solution" would work today.

 Last week our NEWS SERVICE carried reports of some piratical firsts in the ongoing outbreak of piracy in the Horn of Africa region. As described in media accounts linked in our NEWS SERVICE Section pirates in the region shot and killed hostages for the first time because they were dissatisfied with the speed of the delivery of the demanded ransom money. Clearly we are no longer dealing with the original commercial fishermen who thought of themselves as a de facto Somali Coast Guard protecting their fishing rights in a governmental vacuum.  Later we received the first reports of actual exchanges of fire between pirates and marines from NATO participant ships in the counter piracy patrols. Finally last week we received the first reports of pirates firing on military air craft. This is a whole new ball game from the first expansion from taking commercial fishermen and their boats, to capturing and demanding, and receiving ransom for full sized merchant ships. Now it seems the most ruthless element is in charge. History tells us that probably the most successful government program ever run to suppress piracy was that of Captain/Governor Woods Rogers of the Bahamas in the 1700s. The Woods Rogers solution was simply ....lots of dead pirates.

 Rogers treated pirates as enemies of all mankind. British Naval ships he tasked fired upon pirates upon recognition. Pirate survivors were transported in chains to Nassau and promptly publicly hanged. Their bodies in chains were left to the carrion crows from gibbets at the harbor entrance while signs on the bodies proclaimed "Pirate". Harsh? You better believe it. Effective , yes.   But you already know that we aren't going to go to that extreme today. Frankly we don't have to, but the only successful method does involve more dead pirates, enough to take the profit motive out of the profession. The present NATO, U..S., EU "catch and release" programs don't deter anyone from a life of crime at sea. Especially when the pirate lords live it up on shore in safe havens immune for arrest or government interference.

 It is time to recognize the pirates for what they have become "unlawful combatants" for profit and change from "use of force policies" to "rules of engagement" that call for only adherence to the "Laws of Armed Conflict" . Under such Rules of Engagement the use of decoy vessels that open fire upon enemy recognition  (either an approaching boat makes an aggressive move on the decoy or the persons on board are recognized as pirates based on solid intelligence information.)  In short it becomes legal for counter piracy forces to lay in ambush. Under armed conflict rules legitimate forces like NATO, EU, and U.S., Japanese, and Chinese naval forces may pursue "enemy" forces and continue shooting until they are all down, or turn, drop their weapons and surrender. There is no obligation to break contact  when the pirates do. The pirate who finds himself in combat with naval forces is an unlawful combatant and may be taken prisoner and held "until the end of  hostilities" the declaration of which is dependent on the establishment of some real government in the safe haven areas from which piracy is springing. Because the pirates are "unlawful combatants" and naval forces are lawful if the pirates kill or injure any naval personnel in any gun fight the government fielding the legitimate sailors and marines has every legal right to try the responsible individuals for murder.

  Finally the military forces on scene are capable of precision strike. We need to strike ashore and wipe out some of the fancy residences of the  pirate lords. This may require some commando raids to wrest hostages away at some risk to the hostages, and there will be some inevitable "collateral damage" . We should never impose collateral damage deliberately, but we shouldn't avoid well planned precision strike because we can not provide 100% guarantee against injuring non pirates. We have to accept as the community will eventually realize, it is the pirates who put the community at risk. This is an ugly, terrible, and very true thing; in such circumstances collateral damage helps end community support or tolerance for piratical activity, it clears safe havens. The pirates are no longer showing mercy to their hostages or to opposing forces. It is now time to disallow them their safe havens, if it occasionally endangers their families, neighbors, and friends, so be it. Except for the children in the area there really are no "innocents". This ancient plague upon Mankind will not end until the career costs of being a pirate become unacceptable. With modern precision weapons and surveillance equipment we can be much more surgical than Governor Rogers. But the Rogers formula still holds true even in these high tech times, more dead pirates equals fewer acts of piracy. As Governor Rogers proved, there is a critical mass of dead pirates which if you reach in any one region, ends the enterprise.

 We announced just before this last escalation in force by the pirates that we had installed a link to a daily report on pirate activity in the NEWS SERVICE and that we would no longer report on their activity on a daily basis in the blog space unless they did something really new. Almost as if on cue the pirates escalated the violence . So we can not under do our admonitions to professional mariners who use our navigation section "special features" to utilize the links we provide to plan piracy security measures when doing voyage planning. Unless you are not going to leave U.S. or EU coastal waters a voyage plan with no anti piracy provisions is no voyage plan. Now, we will once again try to relegate pirates to the NEWS SERVICE and not give them any more prime postings space.

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