Daniel W. Drezner

Piracy: irritating nuisance or broken window?

Piracy: irritating nuisance or broken window?

Rob Farley and I have a bloggingheads exchange about piracy.  Actually, it’s mostly me asking Rob questions and floating ridiculously stupid policy options.  In the end, Rob thinks the cost of any policy response vastly outweighs the actual cost of piracy itself. 

One of the commenters to the diavlog raised an interesting question: 

Pirates are the "squeegee men" of international relations, it seems to me. They don’t do that much economic damage in the grand scheme of things, but they do help to create a sense of uncontrollable lawlessness that may contribute to other, more dangerous problems. If that’s true, the application of some "broken windows" policing may be of value in dealing with them – it could provide a common project for nations to cooperate on, and it would be a concrete step that nations could take in defense of civilization in general. Such a project might not be a bad thing in itself, and more importantly, it might get nations in the habit of considering how to protect civilization itself.

I don’t think this analogy holds up very well, in that a) Somalia appears to be a truly sui generis case; and b) you could pour as many naval resources into the area as you’d like, and it’s still a very, very, very large body of water.  

Still, I’m curious if readers find this analogy persuasive.