Putting Piracy in Perspective

Intriguing observation from Josh Marshall:

I don’t want to draw over-broad interpretations. But historically, therising incidence of piracy has frequently, if not always, been a signof the receding reach of whatever great power has taken onresponsibility for policing the sea lanes.

I’m admittedly a sucker for this kind of over-broad interpretation. But to put things in perspective, a) piracy has become this month’s media cycle, which means that to the same extent that the problem was being ignored last year, it’s being exagerrated now; b) I wonder how the historical comparisons would stack up if you compared the incidence of piracy relative to the scale of global shipping commerce, then and now; c) the recent piracy problem in the Strait of Malacca was actually effectively contained, albeit by a regional response that did not reinforce American naval power, so this not necessarily a metasticizing problem; and d) the problem of Somalian piracy is as much a reflection on the high seas of the lack of effective governance on land (see David Axe’s WPR feature from early October) as it is a reflection on America’s and the West’s (writ large, i.e. India, Russia and China included) inability to control it.

On a final note, as far as media cycles go, WPR was all over the piracy story way ahead of the curve, which is just one more reason you should be getting your foreign policy analysis here.

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