Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not so much a news flash: "America once had pirates, just like Somalia"

I guess somewhere along the way, in his youth, the author of this piece from The New Republic, "We Were Pirates Once, And Young: An American Way To Understand Somali Pirates" must have missed reading about Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Vane, Major Bonnet, or even looked at DeFoe's A General History of the Pyrates. Or any of a rather large number of other materials about the history of piracy off the Americas. And maybe he never got to the part about "walking the plank" and other pirate cruelties until recently. And to find that some of America's early fortunes were made by underwriting pirates, well, yawn, hasn't that been known for some time? Just like their participation in the slave trade made some of them very rich?

In any event, Mr. Moore has now discovered Somali pirates and finds that, to what should be no one's surprise, finds there are similarities between the pirates of olden times and the modern Somali version.

And, here, all the time I have been blogging on the topic (for what, 6-7 years?), I thought that was the point. That and the irony of a modern world trying to learn to control an old, old problem.

The funniest part of the piece to me is this:
Of course, there are crucial differences between early America and modern Somalia beyond where the money ends up. Pirates helped build the American colonies because the colonists belonged to a well-organized system of trade; the stolen money oiled a working—if rudimentary—infrastructure, which Somalia lacks. Twenty years of civil war have left the nation without proper schools, institutions, and in some cases functioning roads. Khat also leaves people listless, and constant warfare leaves them traumatized. Piracy—so far—tends to fuel the chaos, not alleviate it. American colonists also had ambitions to build a stable new country, and it’s not clear that Somalis have the same unified will. Still, with peace, and infrastructure, some Somali pirate treasure might not go to waste.
Gee, with peace and infrastructure most of Somalia and its people might not go to waste. It's a failed state, for goodness sake, which kind of implies lack of peace and infrastructure, doesn't it? And the pirate "treasure" is ransom extorted by holding humans hostage in terrible conditions. I'm sure if Somalia were a peaceable kingdom, they would have many more millions in foreign aid than the pirates have "earned" in total.

Of course, it also is true that if I had a few million dollars, the efforts of many Porsche workers would not be wasted.

It's all in the "if," isn't it? Meanwhile, the pirates are part of criminal enterprises that are exploiting poor Somalis and screwing up a few major sea lanes.

Too bad they can't get their act together enough to allow the world to help them help themselves. Remember that Somalia was one of the first big "humanitarian interventions" and that didn't end well for anyone.

So, Mr. Moore, what's the plan to solve the problem?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this E1. I hate to think what Mr. Moore's book will be like, based on this piece. Pirates and sea robbers never "helped build the American colonies" in any appreciable manner. In fact, the cost of dealing with foreign pirates far outweighed any income generated by North American-based brigands in the early years of the republic, almost bankrupting the government (and creating the first overseas combat mission for the USN and USMC). Attempts to align what was happening in the seas off the eastern seaboard of the US two hundred years ago with what is currently occurring off the HoA today are misguided, and do a great disservice to those affected by things today. And I never met a pirate who ever said they were doing what they did to help their people, or better things on shore. Crissakes...