Monday, April 13, 2009

A Response To "Arrgh, Me Mateys"

I responded today in the comments section to my good friend and fellow contributor, Armadillo Joe regarding his post on the Somali pirate situation, but thought it best to also post my comment in a post of its own, with a couple of revisions in the interests of expounding a thought.

Armadillo Joe said: "Because they had no petroleum resources to commandeer, we simply left that country shattered, broken and flat on its back with no government to speak of, just like we did in Afghanistan after the Soviets left in the late 1980's."
You make is sound like Somalia was doing fine before we landed there in 1992 in conjunction with the UN to attempt a peacekeeping and humanitarian operation. Somalia had been in a civil war since 1978.

Wikipedia: "The resulting famine caused the United Nations Security Council in 1992 to authorise the limited peacekeeping operation United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I). UNOSOM's use of force was limited to self-defence and it was soon disregarded by the warring factions. In reaction to the continued violence and the humanitarian disaster, the United States organised a military coalition with the purpose of creating a secure environment in southern Somalia for the conduct of humanitarian operations. This coalition, (Unified Task Force or UNITAF) entered Somalia in December 1992 on Operation Restore Hope and was successful in restoring order and alleviating the famine. In May 1993, most of the United States troops withdrew and UNITAF was replaced by the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II). However, Aidid saw UNOSOM II as a threat to his power and in June 1993 his militia attacked Pakistan Army troops, attached to UNOSOM II, (see Somalia (March 1992 to February 1996)) in Mogadishu inflicting over 80 casualties. Fighting escalated until 18 American troops and more than 1,000 Somalis were killed in a raid in Mogadishu during October 1993. The UN withdrew Operation United Shield in 3 March 1995, having suffered significant casualties, and with the rule of government still not restored. In June 1996, [Somali military leader/warlord] Mohamed Farrah Aidid was killed in Mogadishu.


Armadillo Joe said: "Those pirates aren't just greedy thugs. They are desperate men with sick and starving families hitting back at the only target they can because we have been the greedy thugs."
But with all due respect, Joe, (and I do respect your intelligence and hold your friendship in high esteem) I completely disagree with the premise that they are not necessarily criminals. While you don't claim that they're "Robin Hood," you're using that as the crux of your argument.

Broadway Carl said: Joe, I would argue that [choosing criminal activity] is what they did by becoming pirates. They "actively chose not to be subject to the laws and customs which bind us all." Had their endgame been to point out what you have in your post instead of demanding ransom (which seems to be the case in all their hijackings) then I can see your point. But I feel that justifying piracy because of their incredibly horrible lot in life ("Those pirates aren't just greedy thugs...") is over the top.
The point I'm trying to make is that as far as I have seen, there is no noble cause for these pirates. They're not doing this for political purposes, they're not trying to bring international attention to the dire circumstances in their land and how their seas have been raped and poisoned. They're doing it for profit. They've asked for nothing but money.

Booman: There's a theme running through parts of Left Blogistan that these pirates are acting out of some kind of legitimate desperation or self-defense. That's lunacy. The pirates boarded this ship 240 miles off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean. They made no political demands. They wanted two million dollars in ransom and nothing else.
They're not terrorists. Terrorists have a political objective. They're thieves. The collective "we" may not be completely innocent in the Somalia situation, but neither are the Somali pirates. I think this may be a topic we have to respectfully agree to disagree.


Matt Osborne said...

You're right to say there's no sympathy due the pirates NOW. But we do have to understand how they happened: a vacuum of power, anarchy on the seas, greedy European corporations, and starving native fishermen.Like most things in this world, the Somali pirates started out with the best of intentions, but you're right -- that's not important. What's important is that Obama has the opportunity to fix the situation and start fixing Africa in the process.

And we should be trumpeting the Somali pirates as an example of what happens in a land without government.

Armadillo Hussein Joe said...

Thank you, Matt, for ferreting out my underlying meaning in earlier posts.

I feel like my initial argument was mis-characterized because the idea of piracy on the seas is so frightening and repellent to most people that any attempt on my part to understand or plumb the causes of it is an expression of sympathy for the pirates' actions. It isn't. It is an expression of sympathy for the social and political conditions that drove them to it.

Sun Tzu urged us to know our enemies. The fact that we are complicit in the creation of those enemies doesn't make them any less potent or us any less guilty, but to pretend that they have just mysteriously appeared as some kind of fully-formed menace previously unknown in any way whatsoever is intellectually dishonest. We cannot truly know them if we don't acknowledge our role in their creation and growth.

A crime of inaction is still a crime and we allowed the horrifying conditions in Somalia to fester because to deal with them was politically inconvenient.

Fraulein said...

This is a great discussion of the issues surrounding the whole pirate question--lots to think about here. Can you cross-post this one when you get a chance? Thanks!