Monday, December 22, 2008


xfloggingkylex wrote in a couple of weeks ago about the situation in the seas around the Horn of Africa.

WTF?? Why would you raid and capture an oil tanker knowing what the US will do for oil (and for Saudi Arabia).
Pirates! In Somalia? What the deuce are Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen, Doc Ellis, and Steve Blass doing in Somalia hijacking oil tankers? What's that? Wrong kind of pirates? Boy is my face red! Let me try again.

Pirates! In Somalia? What the deuce? Why are Blackbeard, Bluebeard, RedBeard and all of the other "beards" sailing their cutters from the Caribbean all the way to the Horn of Africa? What's that? Wrong again? Sheesh! Red-faced again. Let me try one more time, but before I do, I have some questions. Why were the famous real and literary pirates of the 18th century referred to by the color of their beards? And does this mean that, were I to become a pirate, I would be hung with the moniker "Graybeard"?

Pirates! In Somalia? You bet.

This isn't some new and obscure problem. Piracy in the area of North Africa goes back to Roman Times. The famous line from the Marine Hymn "to the shores of Tripoli" refers to a US military action ordered by President Thomas Jefferson against Barbary pirates in 1803. Most of the piracy was historically located in the Mediterranean, due to greater shipping activity in that region. But lax antipiracy enforcement around the Horn of Africa has made piracy much more lucrative in that area and with less likelihood of interdiction.

Somali pirates have become more brazen of late, hence xfloggingkylex's perplexed question. I mean, when you've moved from common merchant ships to oil supertankers, you're obviously upping the ante. Pirates took 9 ships in 12 days during one stretch. But no one has done jack to stop this reign of terror.

And who would do it, anyway? The US? Don't make me laugh! Our navy is designed for re-fighting World War II - what're we going to do, send an aircraft carrier or battleship to stop the piracy? Besides, we're broke, our military is overextended, and it really doesn't impact US interests all that much, the oil tanker notwithstanding.

What about England? If any country is known for naval supremacy, it's England. Not happening. England has Iraq war fatigue - they're not going to lift a finger on this one.

Fortunately, one great nation is preparing to take on these pirates - China. While the Chinese may seem like an ideal country to fight this battle, given that country's size and natural belicosity, the fact is that the Chinese navy hasn't done much more than play Coast Guard since the 15th Century. I'm really hoping the Chinese take on this antipiracy action. It could be one of the more entertaining examples of Keystone Kops naval tactics ever witnessed.