In which paradigm are we basing our reasoned response to Somali ‘piracy’?

Does the nature and form of intervention by the amassed International naval forces offer any real solution or evidence, of cessation of Somali maritime criminal activity?

Is it possible that Western responses have created accidental ‘piracy’ out of common opportunistic maritime crime within commonly recognised territorial waters ?

Initial attacks were within the recognised twelve mile territorial limits whether an EEZ was declared or not. This is a common International practice. Is it also possible that current policy based on militaristic responses informed by the default response of the ‘war on terror’ is creating accidental terrorists ashore from amongst the same groups engaged in this maritime activity?
In applying responses framed in terms of traditional state responses to state actors using a realism framework of analysis, are we in fact compounding the present and creating new problems for the future?

Commentators and practitioners have been hamstrung in their choice of mitigation as a result of the existing narrow paradigms with which to define and deal with this activity. We have compounded the situation by even applying the term ‘piracy’ incorrectly. This has resulted in all strategic applications thus far being ineffective. ‘Piracy’ is still a threat. Ships are still taken. In fact all existing means of dealing with the problem have escalated the problem in terms of frequency of attempts, geographic spread, in the use of violence and in capacity.

The reliance on statistics put out by the IMB is unrealistic. The problem of under reporting of attacks is acknowledged but unstudied and this under reporting is because of the material affect this has on a vessel’s insurability and a company’s premiums
If we assume a new paradigm entirely and analyse the problem within the context of Human security and securitisation and simultaneously examine the typology of the crimes then it is possible to see that a new form of terrorism is being presented to the world which needs a completely new definition in order for it to be effectively dealt with. A whole new typology of maritime crime is derived as a result of this different analysis, that of economically driven maritime terrorism or business terrorism.
Any response derived from within the context of this new paradigm might give more effective results. The roots of our inability to deal with this problem are clearly epistemological and only by shifting the context through which we view this phenomenon will we be able to grapple with the problem of maritime business terrorism as it pertains in the Indian Ocean and the waters off Somalia.
In this case, several factors have to be considered before effective action is taken. Such factors include:

• the global reach of security implications of pirate actions,
• the anarchy of the international security framework
• state actors applying traditional military concepts to non military, non state, actors
• the phenomenon of Kilcullen’s (2009) accidental guerrilla

These factors have to be analysed to fully understand why current strategies will only exacerbate and escalate the situation in and off of Somalia. Instead of getting better the situation is evolving dramatically in the sense that it is more violent, significantly more homicidal and now spreading on land and into neighbouring countries. Further, terrorist tactics are now routinely employed.
This increased instability and insecurity is squarely the result of three factors:

• Economic conditions which allowed criminal behaviour to thrive as the only plausible option for sustenance on a community scale
• The absence of an initial international response which clearly signalled this behaviour will not be tolerated.In the absensce of such a stance an economy was created over time.
• The eventual choice of a military response to population centric, law enforcement infringement.

If we examine Somalia as a reference these actions have created, in the first instance, accidental pirates (real legal piracy only began to occur as “pirate” activities were pushed out from littoral crime on to the high seas and non territorial water by naval presence). Our mitigation at sea directly created accidental pirates from petty maritime criminals with the advent of the transit corridor. The second subsequent effect was the onshore development of pockets of ‘accidental’ militia drawn from the ranks of port workers and ex fishermen trained to adopt terrorist methods in order to mitigate against the International military response to protect the assets of hostages and ships and to keep the immediate community safe and to expedite transactions.

An entirely new language and set of skills, especially honed for war, is quickly being learned by the ever adaptable Somali maritime actors. Given the state of instability in most of Somalia the environment easily accommodates this shift .These assembled disparate groups of maritime actors have accidentally found their way to terrorist behaviour as is inevitable when a man with no money or power is given a gun and a dollar for a particular set of behaviour, instead of a job which allows him to use his skill. International military response, now moving onshore will force these criminals to fight. They will inevitably band together along clan lines initially and then, depending on expediency, shift allegiances as necessary to protect their way of life.

The disparate communities of militia groups, jihadists, armed clans and armed pirate brigades, as a result of convergence with clan, community, nationalistic and economic interest, given certain criteria, will eventually become accidental terrorists battling for their economic survival with increasing desperation and continuing to hold the world to ransom. They have quite literally been doing this when one considers the number of nationalities being held for ransom. This behaviour becomes influenced by political action on a community level.

The acceptance of this thinking is highly clan determined. Some villages will reject pirates outright as a result of clan politics while others will embrace the new economy. The communities who benefit are those which are inland where most of the development has occurred as a result of the influx of ransom money. The coast line communities are akin to the battle front and have become the trenches in this unconventional war. It is for this reason that any new definition has to include economics. It is for this reason we have to shift the paradigm in which we operate and see these actions as a form of economically driven terrorism.

Candyce Kelshall

About Candyce Kelshall

Doctoral candidate and BUCSIS Research Fellow. Independent advisor to British Transport police and Metropolitan Police. Candyce is the author of two books on Civil /military relations. "Armed Forces and Government" and "Mutiny and Revolution: Military pressure Groups"
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