Piracy on the High Seas
|22 Nov 2008|
Day’s Q&A follows:
Military analyst’s warnings about piracy prove true with Somalia attacks
[Maj. W. Thomas Smith, Jr. is a military
expert, author and journalist whose work
has appeared in top media around the globe.]
(Columbia, S.C.)—Maj. W. Thomas Smith Jr. (SCSG) — military analyst, counterterrorism/counterpiracy expert, and former U.S. Marine infantry leader — says Islamists may well be “capitalizing” on high-seas piracy.
As a journalist, Smith has reported from battlefields in the Balkans and the Middle East—from the West Bank to Iraq (two tours) to Lebanon—and he covered the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks from “ground zero” in New York.
Smith agreed to an exclusive Q&A with The US Report about piracy.
[As an interesting sidenote, TUSR has obtained a special dispatch supplied by The Middle East Media Research Institute (Jul. 8, 2008). In June, 2008, Islamist websites posted a video message by Al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan Abu Yahya Al-Libi titled ‘Somalia—No Peace without Islam.” Al-Libi urged Somali mujahideen to continue their jihad in Somalia: “Do not settle for less than an independent Islamic state that does not recognize international legitimacy and non-Islamic laws…There is no shorter way than jihad to achieve your goals…”
Chaos reigns in this country with less than 2 percent arable land where droughts, dust storms and contaminated water impact the population [CIA World Factbook]. The country’s major religion is Sunni Muslim (85 percent of the population.) In July, the Somalia chief of the United Nations Development Agency was killed and 3 aid workers were also murdered.
The Boston Globe reported on Friday: “Piracy in the heavily trafficked Gulf of Aden and a widening arc of the Indian Ocean has more than doubled so far this year, with 80 ships attacked and 60 hijacked.”]
Q&A with W. Thomas Smith, Jr.
SMITH: The solution lies within the coordination of effort between the world’s navies and coastal defense forces, all of which have a vested interest in keeping the sea lanes open and safe. The free, coastal nations of the world are increasingly working together toward that aim – better sharing of information, intelligence, and counterpiracy assets; better communication; an international piracy warning network, those kinds of things – but it’s still an enormous challenge when you consider the fact that the oceans cover over 70 percent of the earth, and 60 percent of those oceans are what we might call free-to-roam international waters.
TUSR: Apparently, piracy IS the economy in some parts of Somalia . Are you aware of other countries who are willing to deal with the contraband pirates seize?
SMITH: Let’s just say that grain, oil, and other goods and resources transported in huge quantities on these huge freighters have tremendous black market value.
SMITH: On the surface this has less to do with radical Islam and more to do with big money to be made in ransoms as well as the utter lawlessness of the remote coastal areas and littorals where pirates generally maintain their bases of operation and launching and reentry points.
But there is another variable to consider according to two friends, Defense expert Peter Brookes and Africa expert Dr. J. Peter Pham:
TUSR: Since Somalia has no cohesive government and there’s internal conflict between clans and with neighboring Ethiopia , who exactly can assume responsibility for the waterways?
SMITH: No one. As I’ve said, much of Africa is lawless and ungoverned: Breeding grounds for both pirates and Jihadists.
SMITH: Admiral Mullen was ‘stunned’ by the pirate attack taking place so far from the coast, about 450 miles offshore. The attack in fact was a bit surprising. It was bold, very risky for the attackers, and much farther out into the so-called ‘blue water’ than previous attacks we’ve seen by similar bands in recent history.
Now, I’ve since seen a few bloggers and others criticizing the admiral for his remarks – suggesting that no true fighting admiral would say such – and perhaps ‘stunned’ was a less-than-stellar word choice. But the admiral is a professional Naval officer, not a politician. And so I say, it’s easy for those who have never been to war or to sea—and have no frame of reference for an appreciation of just how vast and unforgiving the sea can be—to criticize.