The Maersk Alabama is a Danish owned, US flagged vessel. Now we are hearing about a US-owned, Italian flagged tugboat that has been hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
An American-owned tugboat with Italian citizens among its crew was reportedly hijacked in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia, NATO alliance officials aboard a warship in the vicinity told Reuters.With Somali piracy in the news, every incident will become fuel on the fire regarding the piracy issue. This may not be a good thing. The Obama administration seems to be thinking about Somalia in the correct context, terrorism, which is not the same issue of piracy.
The Italian-flagged vessel with a crew of 16, 10 of them Italians, issued a distress call six minutes before its communications systems fell silent, according to Lt. Sergio Carvalho of the NRB Corte-Real, a Portuguese ship.
NATO officials on the Corte-Real told Reuters their vessel was too far away to help the troubled tugboat, which they said appeared to have been seized. They couldn't confirm that, however.
A maritime organization in Kenya said it had solid information that the boat had, in fact, been hijacked.
Piracy is not a strategic threat to the US, it is a big problem for Europe and Asia but not for us. It wasn't until Asia and Europe realized we weren't going to solve this problem for them that they stepped up themselves.
Terrorism in Somalia has long driven Navy operations off that coast. On one side, we have a high visibility piracy problem that does not threaten the interests of the United States directly, at all, and our only current national interest regarding the piracy issue is one man with 4 guys in an orange boat 200 yards off the bow of the USS Bainbridge (DDG 96). There is a national economic interest, but the impact to date has not risen to a level that has created a serious concern among global leaders to the point they are willing to commit serious resources toward solving the problem.
On the other side of the Somalia problem, we have the terror problem no one else in the world is interested in doing anything about. And in the middle is the reality that while both the pirates and terrorists are operating in the same black market space, the pirates and terror groups don't like each other.
Then there is another problem. What if we support a government strong enough to remove piracy, but too weak to do anything about the terrorism cells? Piracy is what has the international community involved in the problems of Somalia right now, if that goes away, we are left with the bigger threat to our national interests and no one internationally to help.
Somalia is much to complicated for the comparisons some are making to Pakistan and Iraq. At least in those places, we know who we want to work with. The government of Somalia doesn't even have governing control over the regions involved in piracy, and the areas the government does control are where the terror groups have sanctuary.
I got creamed last year in the comments by my readers for suggesting the pirates could possibly be the most desirable group to work with in Somalia, but we should not quickly dismiss that possibility. I'd rather work with a capitalist criminal whose motivation is money than a religious terrorist who is more interested in ideology, but that is just me.
The Somalia issue will very often come down to making the least bad choice among a list of really bad options available.