There are many instances of sad and failed States in the world. Somalia is one of them. While I certainly do not condone piracy and the hijacking of ships the Arab countries and the West (particularly Britain, Italy and the USA) have to look at their records in the area and remember the old adage, “You reap what you sow”. Much of the poverty and lawlessness in Somalia is because of previous injustice. I know that the Italians (before the Second World War) treated the Somalis in an appalling manner; Britain’s treatment of ‘their’ subjects (until 1960) would have been more humane – but still typically colonialist. The Arabs generally have ignored a major humanitarian crisis on the doorstep, as it were.
So now a desperately poor nation has some of its citizens resorting to piracy to live. Not a good idea as this will bring the wrath of the wealthier countries down upon their heads in no uncertain fashion.
But what can the West and the affected Arab nations (i.e. Saudi Arabia) do about the pirates (seems strange to be writing about pirates in the 21st century)? In my view it needs a four pronged approach:
1. Immediately set up a joint naval task force to seek out and attack any pirate vessels in the area. Not an easy task but necessary to protect ships using the trade route, unsettle the pirates and keep them guessing.
2. Use ‘Q’ ships as bait. ‘Q’ ships were used with some success by the Royal Navy in the past. These are seemingly innocent merchant ships travelling lawfully on the ocean, but in actual fact are heavily armed converted ships. Once the pirates appear the ‘Q’ship pretends to panic so as to entice the pirate's ship (or ships) closer, then specially designed deck cargo containers etc, are hydraulically dismantled to expose sophisticated weaponry, which are then used to destroy the pirate vessel now at point blank range.
3. Use unmanned, armed drone surveillance aircraft to monitor the ships in the area. These would report any suspicious vessels and attack them if necessary.
4. Use diplomacy to encourage trade, education, literacy, modern health facilities and law and order in Somalia. This would have to come under the United Nations as I do not believe the Somalis would welcome ‘interference’ by any individual Western country.
It will take many years and a lot of money to restore Somalia to some sort of normality but it is the only way piracy will be reduced. It will never be eliminated entirely as there are always criminal elements involved somewhere down the line.
Unless we do something the problem will only get worse and we will all suffer because of higher shipping prices (which is all the world needs at this time!). But it requires a unified approach – individual nations doing their own thing in a piece-meal manner is not going to solve the problem.