Unless Piracy’s Roots Resolved, Mercenaries Will Emerge

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[The Media Critique]

The all pervasive and competitive nature of U.S. media to secure viewers has resulted in a dangerous quest to secure high ratings for news; my any means necessary.

As a consequence of this, the smallest to the biggest stories are hyped up to hysterical proportion. This trend has existed ever since the Gulf War where the practice of "embedding" journalists in sanitized situations during conflicts led to dull and uninteresting coverage.

The explosion of news over the internet has changed the landscape completely where every Tom Dick & Harry who has a halfway decent digital camera can "scoop" traditional media. In order to maintain their competitiveness the TV Networks plug into all kinds of quasi journalists, bloggers, and so forth to keep one step ahead of the game.

As we well know groups whose interests and agenda are not consistent with the West use this new methodology, firstly as an unrestricted and uncensored electronic platform, and secondly to advance their cause and send messages to their own and to the world.

We have and are seeing that with respect to the issue of piracy and the greater issue of Somalia. In the George W. Bush Administration and certainly in the Obama Administration the Somalia problem –the collapse of the state and all institutions of governance—has been left to languish and fester on its own as the will and resources to fix the fundamentals of the Somali economy, to provide a minimum of social stability, have been conveniently swept under the carpet.

The excuse is that the security situation on the ground does not provide the environment where aid and development can take place in safety. It has been considered too difficult to manage. Therefore leave it alone.

As we know "piracy", which is actually an economic endeavor, has replaced fishing to fill the vacuum and consequently the Chinese have deployed a small Naval force to the area to protect their merchant marine and vital trade routes to Europe under the guise of providing benign security for the African Nations who can’t get it together.

I suspect that the real Chinese Naval presence is to send a strong signal-- with the constant threats of conflict between Israel and her adversaries in mind-- to those who would interfere with the strategic oil route from Port Sudan to Shanghai.

Notwithstanding the above, the U.S. Naval role in the area is not about "piracy" in the main, but rather about having a presence to monitor and keep electronic surveillance in the area as well as an increasing concern about Pakistan, with many analysts expecting an implosion there.

Unfortunately for the Somali Pirates, they tried to hijack a U.S. Merchant vessel. Very big mistake. Every merchantman has a video camera and Internet connection; the story became hugely sexy and obsessive for American viewers as every detail was examined, and every nuance monitored as the U.S. Networks fed off the whole electronic firestorm emanating from a very exotic location.

The clock was ticking and the fear was, would this situation develop into an Iranian-type hostage affair and drag out for months becoming a subject of national debate and national pride? In my mind this would have resulted in a greater disaster. I envisioned US troops landing in Somalia and a botched rescue operation.

It seemed like David was going to have another bash at Goliath and I suspect that the Obama camp feared the worst; that a mediocre Merchant Marine Captain might get the chop. It would have been perceived as a major military and PR disaster.

Let’s step back for a moment and review who are the real players in a "normal" act of piracy. The Pirates for sure; the ship owners; Lloyds of London; and, the so called Specialist Negotiators.

It is the insurers who eventually cough up and deliver the dough--the ransom money— and then it is business as usual. No nation state or group of nation states can or have the appetite or resources to combat this so-called menace full time. The underlying problems will take greater political and financial study to begin to really solve the problem.

Besides who gives a real consideration about poor Somalis; especially the fishermen who over the years have seen their stocks vacuumed away by foreign state-of-the-art fishing vessels? The world has abandoned Somalis.

I foresee Lloyds and other insurers quietly underwriting groups of marine mercenaries to quietly and effectively deal with the piracy problem. It will not solve the underlying problem I have outlined, but certainly the specter of 20 or so bodies of pirates, strung out dead, and swaying in the breeze, in a village square, will certainly act as a serious deterrent.

This is the subject of American movies and we already know that a particular Hollywood producer of Reality TV Shows has been given Defense Department permission to place TV Crews on U.S. Naval Ships operating in the area. Such is instant news.

The affair has worked out well for President Obama this time; lots of Red White and Blue bunting, and a shining Brass Band to welcome home the good Captain Phillips back to U.S. shores.

Most of all, lots and lots of TV Time, devoted to how well the crisis was handled and ended with Kudos for the US Navy. The net result; Obama is indeed a strong and proven commander in chief who can and does win military victories for the USA.

Meanwhile we will be seeing the specter of an 18-year-old Somali youth marched into the great courts of the land.

Astles was once an advisor to Uganda dictator Idi Amin Dada; the movie "The Last King of Scotland," is loosely based on his life.

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