Three recent developments of note:
* The Security Council has green-lit the plan to go ashore to bring the fight to the pirates. This could be a turning point in the conflict, if handled properly; denying pirates bases on land will make them unable to operate out on the waters. Of course, the key phrase is ‘if handled properly’here; if going ashore makes Somalia a worse mess then we could see further action beyond what we have so far. Who was it who said one man’s pirate is another’s revenge tool-cum-blunt instrument…?
* Kenya is starting to hear cases against any pirates picked up, according to WIRED. It’s interesting to see this mag write about pirates and not use “download” in the same sentence… But seriously, they have a number of links to stories they have done on the situation that go beyond trying to tie a failed nation-state’s demise to fleeting references of Jack Sparrow, giving readers a better sense of what is happening there.
* A more troubling development involves the possibility of China expanding its operations into the theater to take on pirates. The last time it showed up with this many ships in the Indian Ocean, Zheng He was gathering tribute from eastern Africa. I’m trying not to sound Sinophobic, but the idea of China trying to exert itself on station many, many miles from any of its bases has lots of scary implications beyond just whether pirates are plying these waters:
– China goes from being primarilly a regional military power to a global one, redefining their role on the world stage; why this is a problem is that it adds too much uncertainty and instability, especially if China feels it needs to settle any disagreements by force (a common rookie mistake for powers that are just getting started on the world stage)
– The Chinese need for oil, already expanding at a fast pace thanks to rising domestic needs, suddenly balloons if they need to keep a far-flung naval presence on station; considering the area of engagement in the Arabian Sea borders both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, it makes their involvement there more crucial for their national policy
– The Chinese potentially become more directly involved in Middle East affairs militarilly following through on the above; consider the Chinese facing a situation similar to the USS Cole incident, and how that could go horribly awry…
For those looking for reasons not to panic, the failed boarding of the Zhehhua 4 could be a bright spot. If all Chinese-owned vessels end up having similar experiences, then the reasons to worry above may not have merit. We could hope, at least.