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December 26, 2008

Civilization Means Dealing with Pirates

The pirates released by the German navy with a wrist slap will be back; sooner or later they'll kill someone. The blame for those deaths belongs to the politicians who ordered the pirates released and to the pirates themselves. One of the main reasons we put up with all the expense and nonsense of governments and restrictions on our own freedoms is that we need protection against pirates – on Wall Street and on the high seas. This post is about the latter.

Consider this from CNN:

"The German sailors captured the pirates and disarmed them, destroying the weapons, the ministry said.

"The German government in Berlin later ordered the Somali pirates released because they were not caught while harassing German interests, according to BBC."

The pirates did wound a crewman on the Egyptian ship they attacked; that didn't matter to whomever ordered their release.

The pirate business is a good one: if you capture a ship, you get a multimillion dollar ransom; if you fail and get captured, your weapons are destroyed but will be replaced by your financial backers (pirates have always depended on capital just like any other business).

In the unpolitically correct old days, there was a special provision in maritime law which allowed captains to immediately hang captured pirates since it was too dangerous to keep them aboard until reaching port. Now no nation wants the responsibility for trying and punishing pirates – might get accused of running a Guantanamo Bay. The EU would have to keep them forever if it convicted them since it doesn't allow capital punishment. So they get released. Also, according to a CNN special, many of the pirates are forced into this career by poverty (better-advantaged people commit white collar crimes, according to me).

Huge naval forces are now deployed off the Horn of Africa in the hopes of deterring piracy. But piracy will rapidly spread around the world if we can't deal with it. Here's a plan:

  1. Get the UN to outlaw the payment of ransom. Commercial crews from that point on will know that's the rule. It'll be tested by pirates; some people will die – many less than if ransom payments and piracy are allowed to continue.
  2. Get the UN to set up a special court where captured pirates can be tried. Maybe the US deeds Guantanamo to the UN for incarceration.
  3. Failing #1 & 2 (after defunding the UN), decide that pirates are always to be handed over to the nation who's ship they attacked. In this case these pirates would have gone to Egypt for trial. Yes, Egypt has capital punishment. Yes, Egyptian courts aren't fair. The pirates chose to attack an Egyptian ship.

Piracy is an easy test for world governments; right now they're failing.

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