Bloggers Search for Solutions to Somali Piracy
Until last week's dramatic hostage standoff and rescue of American ship captain Richard, that resulted in the killing of
three Somali pirates, the regular seizure of ships in the Indian Ocean had not exactly front-page news in the US. In fact, last November, Blogher community member Happyhoursue had a laugh imagining how small bands of men in speedboats were able
to comandeer supertankers:
So as far as I can surmise, it went down like this:
Tanker Captain (looking down into water)
Hey! What are you doing?
Pirate: We're hijacking your ship!
Captain: Seriously? How many of you are there?
Pirate: (looks around dinghy) ...Four.
Pirate: We had five, but Tswahibi fell overboard...
Obviously, no one's laughing now. With Pres. Obama's pledge to stop piracy, and the pirates' declaration that the will exact revenge after US Navy Seals killed
three of their comrades who were holding Phillips, the issue has became the focus of international attention. It's attention that bloggers such as Global Voices' Juliana Rincón Parra have been trying to attract
for some time. Last October, she introduced several videos about pirates hijacking ships engaged in humanitarian missions by noting:
Some may tend to consider piracy something related to copying copyrighted media or perhaps a long-gone lifestyle to be celebrated in Talk Like a Pirate day. In some countries, however, piracy and protection out on sea is a serious and current matter.
But while bloggers such as Ann Althouse are hailing Pres. Obama's decision
to use military force to end the hostage crisis, others argue that the incident underscores the need for the US and other Western nations to address the conditions that, they say, have driven
thousands of young Somali men to a life of hijacking for profit.
In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
Americans still recall the Clinton administration's tragic misadventure in Somalia 15 years ago, where American troops lost 18 soldiers in a raid of the Somalian capital of Mogadishu that was supposed to bring stability and humanitarian relief. Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mark Bowden detailed
the incident in his 1997 series Blackhawk Down, which became a popular book and movie.
But Spelman College professor William Jelani Cobb is among those who argue that there is more to the story:
Somalia is like Afghanistan in that we had a great deal of interest in the place during the Cold War and more or less ignored it afterward. The US also supported the tyrannical government of Siad Biarre during the 1980s as he pushed the country to the brink of disaster because he was an anticommunist, just as we supported the anticommunist factions in Afghanistan. And like Afghanistan, we continue to deal with the consequences of our abrupt exit two decades later.
Sokari at Black Looks argues that the Obama administration needs to realize that this problem can't be solved by military force:
Since Black Hawk & the Battle for Mogadishu the US and the rest of the West hasn’t cared a damn what happens in Somalia. Now it’s back on their agenda they resort to their tried and failed tactics of guns and bombs.
One US politician who is seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis is Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), who was meeting with officials of Somalia's newly-installed government in Mogadishu at the time of the hostage crisis. Despite the fact that
mortars were fired at Payne's plane as it took off for Kenya, the Congressman's statement on the visit was upbeat. (Payne and his party were not hurt by the rockets, but there were casualties on the ground.)
I feel very strongly that despite the increased piracy that is occurring off the coast, this two month-old government is making significant progress. It is pivotal that we focus on the important progress the people of Somalia have made over the past several months.
Since Sunday, pirates have seized four more vessels.
Related: PRI's The World devoted several segments of its April 13 program to an exploration of Somali views of the crisis (they're hoping that the US and other countries will help bring stability) as well as a review of long-term policy options for the Obama administration.