Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Pirate Life

So, updating my earlier post on the Somali pirates, it now appears that the pirate life is not as romantic as one might think. Apparently, the pirates who seized the Ukrainian ship filled with tanks are having disagreements about what to do, now that they're surrounded by warships from the US that are threatening to attack them if they attempt to off-load their booty. Moderates among the pirates wanted to give up and avoid being stormed by commandos, while the more radical pirates argued for staying the course and waiting for their demanded $20 million ransom. Sadly, this disagreement ended badly, as three pirates were killed in a gunfight. The pirates are denying any such gun battle...but they're pirates, so I don't know that they can really be trusted.

Pirates fighting among themselves over what to do with their booty...as one of my students said in this morning's Global Security class: "That's just SO pirate!"


Acumensch said...

See what they need is a democratic organization and a democratic structure first, then they can make decisions amongst themselves on consensus. They could be a democratic pirate organization, couldn't they?

Somalia is an example of how US military activism made things worse over time.

Acumensch said...

what do you think about this view?


Seth Weinberger said...


Absurd. Sorry for undiplomatic language, but that's a ridiculous argument. The author claims that as a result of "abolishing" the Somali central government, "the Somali people are now more peaceful and also becoming more prosperous than before." Note that the article was written in April 2000, right as the state was disintegrating. As a result of "abolishing" the central government, the Somali "government" such as it was lacked any credible monopoly of force, which led various clans to declare their territories to be outside of the Somali state.

The slow collapse of the Somali state continued until 2006, when fighting broke out between warlords based in Mogadishu and a militia affiliated with Islamic Courts that sought to establish Islamic law (sharia) throughout Somalia.

The fighting spread until the whole state was in civil war. The Islamic militias seized much of the country, prompting Ethiopia to invade in December 2006. The civil war continues today between the Islamic Courts and the "government" backed by Ethiopia.

A state without a government is nothing more than a recipe for civil war, if not foreign invasion.

Acumensch said...

Civil wars happen when a state or something like it claims control over separatist elements.

It's invariably one group of people claiming authority over another group, and conflict arises should the controlled group not consent.

Is the answer the resurrection of another Somali state government, like a "democracy" that works as a proxy for the consent of a very diverse population? Why should we think that? Is there something wrong with autonomy?

You know better than I do - why does the U.S. give Somalis weapons to fight each other?

Seth Weinberger said...

It's true that civil wars occur when, as you say, "a state or something like it claims control over separatist elements." But it's also true that internal violence -- civil wars, ethnic cleansing, genocide -- occur when the state doesn't have sufficient power to control factions with incompatible definitions of security. The kind of decentralized governance described in the article is similar to the anarchism espoused by Emma Goldman. It's not inconceivable, but it is impossible on a large scale.