I’d Rather Be A Ninja Than A Pirate

The death of four Americans thanks to Somali pirates has made the problem of piracy in the Indian Ocean a more recognizable problem than it was before for many Americans, though it is an issue discussed numerous times here [1] [2] [3].  Given the restrictions of the arms embargo, what options remain for the United States to take regarding the threat that Somali pirates demonstrate to peaceful American citizens who may now demand pirate blood in lex talionis for their attacks on Americans.  Let us discuss these options in the knowledge that numerous options are possible to take, including no action at all.

1. No Action

Under this option the United States does nothing to avenge its barbarously slain citizens, except maybe to increase warnings to citizens to avoid the dangerous waters of the West Indian Ocean.  While this option is possible, the fact that the United States had a destroyer to negotiate with the pirates and that ultimately stormed the boat and captured pirates to bring them to justice in the United States, and the fact that the people the pirates killed were peace-loving missionaries on their way to Djibouti and then Crete [4] shows that the United States probably does not consider doing nothing an option now that peaceful unarmed civilians have been killed.

2. Direct Military Action

Option B is the polar opposite of Option A.  There is precedent for the United States taking decisive military action against pirates.  America’s first foreign war was a nasty little war against Muslim pirates in Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli conducted by the Navy and Marines (the source of the line “to the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps Anthem) during the early 1800’s that set a precedent for ferocious warfare to protect American trading interests against pirates demanding blackmail and tribute.   The odds are pretty high that a pirate hunting expedition could find support from American citizens who may see the treats of pirates as a threat like terrorism to peace, love, and the American way.

3. The Indirect Approach

Option C is the indirect approach of seeking to recognize Somaliland’s regime and then supporting their existing anti-piracy naval efforts based out of the port of Berbera.  Doing so would require that the United States ramp up its diplomacy efforts with the Republic of Somaliland and would require that the arms embargo be revised so as not to include it, and would allow for anti-piracy efforts to proceed without the direct involvement of American troops, or in coordination with American troops (a combination of options B and C is possible) that would allow both for the strengthening of Somaliland’s military (especially its naval facilities) along with the elimination of Somali piracy bases.  Strengthening a stable and democratic regime and attacking piracy sounds like a win-win solution here.

4. The Scandinavian Option

Option D, which is possible in addition to options B and C, is for the United States to use this tragedy to help step up the legal infrastructure of anti-piracy that Denmark [2] and Norway [1] have already helped in Somaliland against piracy.  Building the legal infrastructure within Somaliland offers the chance for anti-piracy efforts to not only be military efforts against armed criminals, but also part of the framework of law and order that allows anti-piracy efforts to be done with a concern for legitimacy and obedience to legal norms of behavior, along with the development of such legal norms in an area (Somalia) that has long lacked the regular rule of law.  Developing an internationally recognized legal infrastructure in an area that has known anarchy and unjustly ignored de facto regimes for decades also sounds like a win-win here, and a way for the United States to protect its citizens and its interests in a way that avoids unilateral force without concern for legal norms.


In conclusion, the tragic death of four peaceful tourists from Somali pirates offers the United States an opportunity to take care of some unpleasant but necessary unfinished business with regards to the longstanding problem of Somali pirates.  If the United States chooses to take action, it can either act unilaterally with deadly force against the symptom (the Somali pirates) or it can take steps to improve the legal infrastructure, military capabilities and international standing of legitimate regimes (like Somaliland) which have been ignored for two decades.  Using a multilateral approach allows the Horn of Africa region the opportunity to gain legitimacy and to increase the rule of law within this troubled and anarchic region in a way that saves the United States blood and treasure and protects its interests while increasing stability and furthering our search for reliably democratic friends abroad.  This seems like a no-brainer all around.  We shall see what course the United States takes, if it chooses any, though.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/somaliland-update-norway-aids-somaliland-anti-piracy-efforts/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/somaliland-update-student-ambassadors-and-pirate-prisons/

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/somaliland-puntland-and-the-arms-embargo/

[4] http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110223/wl_afp/somaliapiracyshippingus_20110223013624

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in International Relations, Military History, Musings, Somaliland and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to I’d Rather Be A Ninja Than A Pirate

  1. Pingback: Blogginlägg « kimbladicus

  2. Pingback: Non-Book Review: Aboard The Pirate | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: A Modest Proposal For A Plebiscite To Resolve The Status Of The Republic Of Somaliland | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Help Wanted: Ninjas | Edge Induced Cohesion

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