Passport

The funny thing about Indonesian pirates

JIMIN LAI/AFP/Getty Images Mike Nizza reports that sea piracy is on the rise again after a brief dip in attacks. Piracy is especially a growing problem off the coasts of Somalia and Nigeria. Here’s one thing Nizza misses, however, in citing an otherwise-interesting piece in National Geographic: The National Geographic article recognizes the sea-crime decline ...

598644_071017_navy_05.jpg

JIMIN LAI/AFP/Getty Images

JIMIN LAI/AFP/Getty Images

Mike Nizza reports that sea piracy is on the rise again after a brief dip in attacks. Piracy is especially a growing problem off the coasts of Somalia and Nigeria. Here’s one thing Nizza misses, however, in citing an otherwise-interesting piece in National Geographic:

The National Geographic article recognizes the sea-crime decline in the Straits of Malacca, but then says “it is unclear how long the cash-strapped Indonesian navy will maintain its current level of vigilance.” Not to mention that navies are built and trained mainly for war, not for policing shipping channels.

We’re not exactly talking about a blue-water navy here. Think dinghies, not destroyers. In any case, keeping shipping channels safe and open is definitely within the purview of sovereign navies. Remember Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary pirates?

As for the formerly pirate-infested Straits of Malacca, part of the problem was that the Indonesian navy was likely complicit in many of the pirate attacks in the first place. As an article in Strategic Comment, the journal of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, put it in 2004, “anecdotal evidence suggested that elements of these same under-funded security forces (the Indonesian Navy and Marine Police) might also at times have been complicit in maritime crime.” That’s carefully hedged, but it’s worth noting that when Indonesia decided to professionalize its navy, the problem declined dramatically—in part because naval personnel no longer needed to depend on piracy to earn a living.

More here in a first-person account by Indonesian journalist Andreas Harsono. 

More from Foreign Policy

The Taliban delegation leaves the hotel after meeting with representatives of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Qatar in Moscow on March 19.

China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

Beijing has its eyes set on using Afghanistan as a strategic corridor once U.S. troops are out of the way.

An Afghan security member pours gasoline over a pile of seized drugs and alcoholic drinks

The Taliban Are Breaking Bad

Meth is even more profitable than heroin—and is turbocharging the insurgency.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the U.N. Security Council from her office in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sept. 4, 2020.

Belarus’s Unlikely New Leader

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya didn’t set out to challenge a brutal dictatorship.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid

What the Taliban Takeover Means for India

Kabul’s swift collapse leaves New Delhi with significant security concerns.