Fighting Somali Pirates on Land

What is it with the Bush family and late-term U.N. resolutions authorizing use of force in Somalia? All the reporting I’ve read about the Somalia piracy crisis, beginning with David Axe’s WPR feature from way back in October (yes, WPR is that far ahead of the curve), has emphasized the fact that that the piracy crisis is simply a water-based expression of a land-based problem.

But the land-based problem is a lack of governance, and solving it demands a thorough, bottom-to-top stabilization and reconstruction operation — what we used to call nation building under Bush I — of the kind that everyone loves talking about these days but everyone dreads undertaking. Simply sending in commando teams to track down the pirates on shore might have some deterrent value, but is also likely to result in mission creep and resource commitment inflation.

Among the many challenges that make the approach problematic:

There is also the question of where pirates will be tried, giventhat Somalia has no functioning judicial system. In November eightSomali pirates captured by the Royal Navy were delivered to Kenya fortrial.

At the conference in Nairobi today Lord West ofSpithead, under-secretary of state for security and counter-terrorism,signed a formal agreement with Kenya to allow more gunmen to be handedover.

Leaving aside the almost-too-good-to-be-true detail that in the year 2008, the man negotiating a piracy agreement in Africa on Great Britain’s behalf is named “Lord West of Spithead,” this seems like a perfect example of what Bernard Finel discussed yesterday: the need for an “international legal framework for ungoverned spaces.” In his feature article, David Axe reported that the Danish navy had simply releases Somali pirates they’d captured on the nearest beach for the same reasons.

Instead of a UNSC resolution authorizing troops on land, a resolution determining what to do with pirates captured at sea might be a better place to start.

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