Pirates and Pictures of Pirates

I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but Monday’s Big Picture about Somali pirates works relatively well to illustrate William Langewiesche’s Vanity Fair article about… Somali pirates.

Two lengthy excerpts from the interesting article:

If you added up the assets already available, or soon to be, the display of French power was impressive indeed. And it was arrayed against what? A band of barefoot natives, Fuzzy Wuzzies in rags, hip-firing their Kalashnikovs with poor aim, and worshipping some filthy G.P.S. as if it had fallen from the sky. They should have surrendered days before, even to the Canadians…They were not particularly bellicose or arrogant, but they refused to be impressed when they should have been. A warship coming at you is supposed to present an intimidating sight…It raised disturbing questions about the relevance of governments and the exercise of power. More specifically, a suspicion crept in that these pirates knew exactly what they were doing, and that they understood the forces at play with more sophistication than had been assumed. Fuzzy Wuzzies they were, but until Paris decided it could accept casualties among the Ponant’s crew, they had stymied the French national will.

Today, almost one year later, Somali pirates continue to ignore the increasingly urgent displays of national power. One of the ironies of the concern being shown is that the shippers being provided with naval protection are the very same people who for years have made a mockery of the nation-state idea. They know that whatever pirate tolls they pay will always pale in comparison with the taxes that would be imposed if global law and order ever actually prevailed. But there is little danger of that. In its place a convoy system has been instituted for crossing the Gulf of Aden. CMA CGM has ordered its cargo ships to use it when practical… Because of an increase in crew pay, insurance, and other piracy-related costs, the company has imposed a $23 surcharge on every standard-size container that it takes through—amounting to a quarter-million dollars for each trip by the largest ships. Given the margins built in, and despite the need for the occasional payout, this means that CMA CGM, its insurers, and its crews are profiting from Somali piracy.

The pirates are professional and don’t typically harm the crews they capture because they know that the ship owners will pay a ransom, covered by insurance companies (AIG in this case) as opposed to allowing the military to mount an attack. This is especially so because everyone is profiting from the current arrangement.

Pirates and Pictures of Pirates

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