A last-ditch attempt to kick pirate booty

As a world conference on curtailing Somali piracy gets underway in Nairobi, the Bush administration announced today that it will push for international action — a last-ditch attempt to stabilize the East African nation. Good luck matey, you’ll need it. As Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper tells FP in this week’s Seven Questions, it will ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
570735_081210_pirate_watch2.jpg
570735_081210_pirate_watch2.jpg

As a world conference on curtailing Somali piracy gets underway in Nairobi, the Bush administration announced today that it will push for international action -- a last-ditch attempt to stabilize the East African nation.

Good luck matey, you'll need it. As Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper tells FP in this week's Seven Questions, it will take weeks -- maybe months -- even to get coastal surveillance under control.

And then there is the problem of instability on land that drives the trade in ransom. The administration tried and failed in 2006 to bring a government of "good guys" to power. Halting piracy (a symptom of the same disease) won't be any easier. Back then, the United States funneled money to the right people to set things in motion. Too late this time -- ransom payments already keep the pirates rolling in the millions.

As a world conference on curtailing Somali piracy gets underway in Nairobi, the Bush administration announced today that it will push for international action — a last-ditch attempt to stabilize the East African nation.

Good luck matey, you’ll need it. As Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper tells FP in this week’s Seven Questions, it will take weeks — maybe months — even to get coastal surveillance under control.

And then there is the problem of instability on land that drives the trade in ransom. The administration tried and failed in 2006 to bring a government of “good guys” to power. Halting piracy (a symptom of the same disease) won’t be any easier. Back then, the United States funneled money to the right people to set things in motion. Too late this time — ransom payments already keep the pirates rolling in the millions.

In short, this is no easy problem, and there are no modern fixes for the most medieval of scourges. Despite the 1,400 German soldiers pledged for the $1.4 million proposed project of anti-piracy, you just can’t buy time.

Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper has the goods.

Photo: KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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