Monday, April 20, 2009

Horns of Africa


I think Somali-coast piracy is self-limiting because Somalis have essentially zero blue-water capacity, with "blue water" being defined as the ability to stay afloat out of sight of land for weeks at a time.

In trying to knock over that Maersk ship a couple weeks ago, the pirates verified that their effectiveness diminishes directly with distance from the nearest friendly port--and at 200 miles out, that effectiveness clearly drops to zero. They can't run back to shore fast enough, they can't be resupplied, and they can't outgun even the smallest nation-state naval vessel.

For the U.S. and other shipping nations, the trick becomes a simple matter of containment and a shrinking of the containment zone, not one of having to aggressively, endlessly patrol all the "millions" of square miles of water off Somalia's coast. (However, I'll paraphrase Robert Kaplan's recent point and accept that the Indian Ocean is, essentially, the new Atlantic in terms of being a potential great-power arena.)

Unfortunately, there are secondary consequences of the U.S. and French navies' recent killing and capturing of Somali pirates: They have relatives in places like the U.S.

Thanks to Tom Barnett for making the lightbulb go off in my head that Somali-heavy Minneapolis could potentially be a Hamburg for the plotters of some future domestic terrorist attack.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Does this mean Mary Tyler Moore is the next Patty Hearst?

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