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Friday, April 25, 2008

Harvard International Review does pirates


Or, at least, Anna Harper surveys sea piracy in a Harvard International Review (HIR) article titled, "Squashing the Skull and Bones" and reaches the conclusion that sea piracy isn't a good thing:
Piracy severely impacts domestic economies, the international economy, and political stability. Disruption of the fishing industry harms local economies and leaves people more susceptible to further impoverishment. As pirate attacks worsen, states that do not effectively combat pirates lose their international reputations—companies are less likely to send their vessels both near these countries’ territorial waters and into their ports, and the lack of government protection decreases prospects for foreign direct investment and trade, which in turn causes the economies of pirate-plagued nations to suffer. Furthermore, pirates often use the money they obtain to arm rebel groups in the region. Recent evidence shows that Somali pirates often operate in league with local warlords or clans. In this way, the activity can become a direct threat to governmental stability.
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Despite the fact that almost every nation in the world utilizes global shipping, few nations actively police the seas. Even when international ships are sent to combat piracy, they do not have the ability under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to fight pirates once they enter territorial waters, leaving the pirates with easy escape routes. The problem is that Article 101 of UNCLOS defines piracy as taking place “on the high seas” and for “private ends.” The former is problematic because it restricts piracy to occurring only in international waters, while the latter fails to acknowledge piracy for political means such as terrorism. Due to concerns over these phrases, the United States has failed to ratify the treaty, decreasing the legitimacy of the agreement. Even though the UN, through the IMO, takes on the task of policing international waters, UNCLOS’ narrow definition prevents the organization from effectively combating piracy.
Taking a page from the U.S. Navy's A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Sea Power (see here), Ms. Harper speaks to a world-wide interest in solving the pirate problem:
Globalization increases every nation’s interest in high-seas security. The international community must step forward to combat piracy with tangible measures. The first and most obvious step that both the UN and individual nations must take to decrease piracy is to increase international patrols of the seas. According to Noel Choong of the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre, the increased presence of international naval ships, even without authority to enter territorial waters, will likely deter some pirates from operating.
She carries it perhaps a step too far, however, when she suggests that the international anti-piracy task force she envisions be allowed, under UN auspices, to ignore concepts of sovereignty to pursue pirates into local waters.

One is tempted to ask "Why stop there? So long as 'international powers' are cleaning up a neighborhood, shouldn't they go all the way? And just take over governing the states who cannot stop pirates from operating from their shores?"

The logical consequences of such an international "sea policing department" are staggering,not to mention the unintended consequences, such as those seen off Somalia, where some war lords seem to be using foreign navies to punish other war lords, among other things.

Of course, the article does appear in an "International Review" so the perhaps sovereign rights are deemed less important to its readers and writers. But, not having read the entirety of HIR works, I don't know if such internationalism includes taking down ruthless dictators whose antics threaten the world's peace (Kim il Jong, anyone?) or just pirates...

I think I prefer the U.S. Navy strategy of cooperation and training the forces of other countries to be able to clean up their own messes.

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