Friday, April 10, 2009

Somalia Pirate Drama Becomes The First Major International Crisis For The Obama Administration To Address

Last week's missile launch by North Korea was hardly as serious of an event as some would think. Once again, North Korea proved that it could not launch a missile into a high orbit or display the range necessary to threaten the mainland United States. Probably, only Iran might be interested in such failed missile technology as it might be able to target Israel with such a short range, if Iran could improve the guidance of these missiles. But, otherwise the North Korean launch was largely a failure on many levels.

But an even lower tech crisis over off the waters from Somalia has many dangers for the Obama Administration. Once again, a low tech group of criminals have proven that they can best the United States. Just like Iraq and Afghanistan, low tech bands of terrorists, criminals and thugs have been able to proven that they can match the U.S. in many ways. the American military is prepared along the lines of fighting high tech wars with unlikely opponents such as China or Russia, neither of whom probably want to really destroy their societies economic gains in a nuclear war. Both nations also have substantial investment in the U.S. as well, so it hardly makes a great deal of sense to destroy so much of their investments here. But the low tech wars with small bands of thugs remains as the most elusive and difficult sort of war to fight for a higher tech military like the U.S.

Somalia has no real government, where warlords, gangs, thugs, criminals and others simply arm themselves and become a government with their own rules unto themselves. Th excellent film BLACKHAWK DOWN was a pretty graphic reminder of the serious situation caused by gangs of fighters loyal to a warlord in Somalia could cause American forces. During the Clinton Administration, it was hoped that a small number of American soldiers could act as peacekeepers in Somalia, but their mission only ended in failure as they were attacked by bands of fighters loyal to a warlord.

The Obama Administration in the short-term needs this hostage drama to work out. But in the longer-term the navies patrolling the Somalia coast need some military plans to sink and destroy the pirate vessels and remove them as a threat. And the UN needs some real action to help to establish some sort of real government in Somalia and set some real laws to end the actions by criminal gangs. But the reality is that perhaps none of these three things may be achieved. The hostage drama may not end well, pirate gangs will continue to threaten international shipping, and the UN will never act to establish some government in Somalia, where anarchy will continue to be the rule of law.

Unfortunately, all of this only presents an opportunity for the U.S. to appear to be weak, although American, British, French, German, Chinese and Russian warships are all involved in the international effort to make shipping safe in the waters near Somalia.

Somalia is one of those frustrating low tech warfare foreign policy messes in which it is very difficult for the U.S. to emerge with a really good solution. It must be highly frustrating for Washington as well as other world governments to fail in efforts to protect their shipping from small bands of criminals. However, this seems to the nature of modern conflicts. Small bands of thugs will likely continue to oppress and humiliate the major nations of the world until the great nations of the world can figure some way to counter this low tech violence.

For now this standoff off the coast pits just four armed pirates vs. the power of the American Navy, proving the power of small bands of low tech thugs to bully large nations. A Shocking modern warfare development indeed.


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