Sunday, March 8

On fighting pirates

William Langewiesche tells the story of the capture of the French cruise ship Le Ponant by Somali pirates, and the mostly-ineffective, but highly-touted, French military intervention that followed (Vanity Fair):
If you added up the assets already available, or soon to be, the display of French power was impressive indeed. And it was arrayed against what? A band of barefoot natives, Fuzzy Wuzzies in rags, hip-firing their Kalashnikovs with poor aim, and worshipping some filthy G.P.S. as if it had fallen from the sky. They should have surrendered days before, even to the Canadians. But they hadn’t, and that was the problem. They were not particularly bellicose or arrogant, but they refused to be impressed when they should have been. A warship coming at you is supposed to present an intimidating sight. But it was as if the pirates inhabited a different dimension from that of the governments confronting them. With nothing but a group of French nationals as a shield, they were enjoying meals, going back and forth between ship and shore, and negotiating directly with the Saad├ęs in Marseille, as if the French Navy did not even exist. The pattern was unusually frustrating to French authorities, as more recent piracy cases have been to American, Russian, and Chinese authorities. It raised disturbing questions about the relevance of governments and the exercise of power. More specifically, a suspicion crept in that these pirates knew exactly what they were doing, and that they understood the forces at play with more sophistication than had been assumed. Fuzzy Wuzzies they were, but until Paris decided it could accept casualties among the Ponant’s crew, they had stymied the French national will.
Langewiesche mostly tells a good story, facilitated by the fact that ship's captain recently published an account in France on the same. But he also makes some good points about the global shipping industry which, much like Somalia's pirates, profits from an absence of regulation. In fact, he says, the extra security fees for shipping imposed in recent months, have actually increased profits for the shipping companies...Worth a read.

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