I got up early today and had an eye exam (still have two functional ones). They were dilated in the process, so it will be a while before I spend much time on the computer. Meanwhile, here’s an interesting discussion on arming ships against pirates in modern times. We seem to have managed to deal with this a lot better in the past. I think that we should bring back letters of marque, for not just pirates, but lawless terrorists in general.
[Early afternoon update]
A related question: why don’t we hang pirates any more?
…the number of attacks keeps rising.
Why? The view of senior U.S. military officials seems to be, in effect, that there is no controlling legal authority. Title 18, Chapter 81 of the United States Code establishes a sentence of life in prison for foreigners captured in the act of piracy. But, crucially, the law is only enforceable against pirates who attack U.S.-flagged vessels, of which today there are few.
What about international law? Article 110 of the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Convention — ratified by most nations, but not by the U.S. — enjoins naval ships from simply firing on suspected pirates. Instead, they are required first to send over a boarding party to inquire of the pirates whether they are, in fact, pirates. A recent U.N. Security Council resolution allows foreign navies to pursue pirates into Somali waters — provided Somalia’s tottering government agrees — but the resolution expires next week. As for the idea of laying waste, Stephen Decatur-like, to the pirate’s prospering capital port city of Eyl, this too would require U.N. authorization. Yesterday, a shippers’ organization asked NATO to blockade the Somali coast. NATO promptly declined.
As I noted, there seems to be a problem with the modern approach.