Anyone who learned some Tudor history at school has probably heard of “privateers”. (Licensed pirates,)
Plus ca change etc. According to Voice of America,
Private Contractors May Protect Against Somali Pirates
Pirates have captured 20 ships in and around the Gulf of Aden so far this year.
Naval vessels from about 10 nations will soon be patrolling the waters off the Somali coast, trying to prevent pirates from hijacking cargo ships.
The international efforts may soon be extended to include “private contractors”.
Now, Blackwater, a firm providing thousands of private contractors in Iraq, is offering its services to battle pirates.
VoA (somewhat unaccountably) interviewed a Maryland college professor for a view on this. (Is Maryland twinned with the Yemen?)
“I think it’s important to note first that historically this has been done. In fact, several hundred years ago, when piracy was rampant off the coast of Africa, it brought English trade in that region to a standstill. And the East India Company actually employed private convoys to protect their ships from pirates..
I will try to temporarily ignore the fact that “several hundred years ago,” English trade off the coast of Africa was the Triangle Trade (manufactured goods taken from England to Africa; slaves from Africa to the Americas; and sugar from the American plantations back to England.) All the same, this could hardly be seen as “trade” in any good sense.
I am also a bit confused by this particular historical parallel. The East India Company? My foggy memory of history had me thinking that the East India Company had something to do with India – indeed basically colonised India on a for-private-profit basis, not to mention caused any number of wars in its wake. Indeed, Wikipedia seems to share my delusion.
Maybe protecting the East India Company sounds a more respectable instance of the use of private naval warfare contractors than if you think of privateers in terms of the Pirates-of-the-Caribbean. Indeed, maybe, international co-operation can’t stamp out piracy in the Gulf of Aden. But in that case, what chance would an ad hoc private navy have?
More from VoA:
Cost of the private escort duty may outweigh the risk of sailing unprotected.
Berube says, “That would depend I think on the contracts themselves, but if you are a shipping company, for example, you would have to balance off the cost of providing that extra protection versus the potential loss of revenue… …
Berube says that his research shows most agree private contractors would provide escort duty and not hunt down pirates. “This is really simply just an extension of security that is already provided on some ships. We have armed riders for example. Some shipping companies are providing people on board to protect themselves from pirates,” he says.
He says, however, they must comply with international law, as well as local agreements
Hmm, Somalia has been in a state of complete chaos on and off for a couple of decades. International law doesn’t seem very big there. If it was – there wouldn’t be any pirates…… Or the UN would be able to stamp out the piracy threat, using member states’ existing navies. Without recourse to any private navy. Anyway, what is international law on the high seas? Who enforces it?
Are international governments like cash-strapped Tudor monarchs, forced to pursue their international objectives through fortune-seekers who’ll do the monarchs’ dirty work while enriching themselves?
It’s not just 1984 any more. Welcome to the Realpolitik of the 15th century.