Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Why is Piracy Tolerated?

It's incredible but true that piracy is a major problem at sea, two hundred years after the Royal Navy efficiently eradicated it from most of the earth. The problem appears to be we don't have the necessary guts to take the measures necessary to stop it. These measures are harsh: you catch a pirate, you hang him. Until now, piracy has primarily been a problem for shippers and insurers. But what if al Queda gets into the business?

Just as terrorists learned to be pilots for 9/11, terrorists may now be learning to be pirates. Purposely grounding a crude carrier hauling two million barrels of oil at a place like Batu Berhanti, where the strait is little more than a mile wide, would close the waterway indefinitely. The delay in oil supplies to China, Japan and South Korea could devastate their economies, setting off a global economic crisis.

The tsunami and the resulting heavy presence of naval units in the Indian Ocean seem to have given piracy a temporary pause. But we need to face up that measures must be taken. They must be harsh. The cost of doing nothing, once merely an irritant, may be unbearable.

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