Somali pirates not due to weak government

The growth of Somali piracy is in the autonomous Puntland area of Somalia, which is stable, and not involved in the civil war.

The piracy began when fisherman there started opposing illegal fishing by other countries and the dumping of garbage off their shores. They eventually started boarding ships that were fishing illegally, got a ransom in return, and you can guess the rest… A profitable business was born.

They are not Islamists. In fact Islamists now say they want to drive them out. Oddly though, they announced this in advance, so the pirates moved the captured Saudi tanker. Not sure why Islamists would announce in advance they planned to seize the tanker, unless of course what they really want is a share of the ransom.

The pirates are well-organized, well-armed, and quite wealthy. I’m revising my opinion of them. They will be very difficult to stop.

[The piracy has] become the parent of a business model that could be copied in other lawless regions of the world.


  1. I think there are a number of intellectual errors in play here by the author as well as the major cited source at ComingAnarchy.

    The first is what I think of as the Global War on Terror fallacy, named for the effect witnessed by counterterrorism officials in the immediate wake of 9/11. The error comes about when analyzing a subject that you previously thought was simple but come to discover is actually quite complicated, thus frightening you into larger than necessary conclusions. For example, before 9/11 terrorism was mostly viewed as a small, isolated problem, but upon closer examination, it was discovered that al-Qaeda was actually a full fledged international operation comprising highly complex leadership hierarchies and astonishing levels of communications and capabilities. Surprise! It’s harder than you thought. The same thing happens when you open up a desktop computer for the first time. Look at all the parts! How will you ever understand it? The reality is, in the case of the Somali pirates, is that yes, they are much better organized and much better funded than previously thought. But this doesn’t translate at all to being a more difficult opponent, but rather, exposes them to many more variables and vulnerabilities. In other words, the complexity of a system doesn’t translate to the difficulty of the problem. It’s much more difficult to keep the system running correctly than it is to make it fail. What’s the old saying about the bigger they are?

    The second is what I call Karl Rove syndrome, something like the intellectual version of stockholm syndrome. Karl Rove has been widely hailed as a political genius, Bush’s brain, they called him. But the reality was Karl Rove was not a genius, but merely the only person willing to lie, cheat and steal his way to the top. The same thing is at work with the pirates. Simply because they took advantage of violence and human greed to start ransacking other people’s property doesn’t make them shining examples of “anarchist growth enterprise” it makes them criminals. Time is wasted dazzling ourselves with their exploits instead of discussing pragmatic solutions. Wow! They took control of a really big boat! Do we think this is because the pirates are such powerful badasses, or is it more likely that the Paki migrant worker at the helm didn’t feel like getting shot by pirates that day? Chuck D said it best – don’t believe the hype!

    The problem with piracy on the horn of Africa is not new, not opaque, and certainly not shockingly dangerous. There are countless tomes of history, doctrine, and strategies for dealing with the problem of piracy, with the most obvious two being the ones I laid out previously. Time is wasted, and debates are corrupted, by trying to understand these problems in a vacuum.

  2. “[The piracy has] become the parent of a business model that could be copied in other lawless regions of the world.

    I am certain it is true. Expect it in a neighborhood near you, given the criteria.

  3. Oh, I’m not glamorizing them. Thugs are thugs. But so far at least, they’ve been polite to those they capture and indeed, all they want is the money. That could change.

    What I am suggesting is that, as a business model, it will be adopted by others.

  4. The point is there is no business model, it’s just stealing. What’s to emulate? Is the idea that so far al-Qaeda, Naxals, and others have just been too stupid to try blatant armed robbery? Again I’d point to the Karl Rove parallel – are the pirates really developing a sleek, anarchist business model capable of producing sustainable wealth for non-state actors…or are they just stealing other people’s stuff?

    Don’t get too lost in the details. These aren’t the Black Market Robber-barons of Central Asia or the great Narco-corporate Enterprises of South America and Southeast Asia – these pirates are just crooks and thieves, and for that we have many solutions.

  5. Well, the BFG solution doesn’t always work well against locals fighting on their own land. Too much blowback. But certainly action in the oceans, but that will take serious commitment by multiple nations.

  6. Considering the sacking the Republicans are giving the US Treasury, these pirates are small potatoes.

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